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Office Owner Sees Tech, Start-Up Future for Arlington

by ARLnow.com August 30, 2012 at 4:35 pm 6,958 21 Comments

Arlington is attracting a growing number of start-up and tech companies, and the co-owner of a new coworking space in Rosslyn is placing a big bet on that trend continuing.

Raymond Rahbar, a Courthouse resident, is a founder of UberOffices, a shared office space located on one floor of a high-rise at 1400 Key Boulevard. The office opened in July and already a number of young companies now call home.

Rahbar says he was able to attract a number of companies from other parts of the D.C. area thanks to a number of factors, including: Rosslyn’s central location relative to federal offices in D.C. and Northern Virginia; an abundance of nearby transportation options; proximity to the homes of potential employees; and relatively low taxes in Virginia.

“Arlington makes the most amount of sense for start-ups,” he said, before rattling off some additional advantages of Arlington in general and Rosslyn in particular. “The educated workforce… major highways all around us… the high average salary, so that means people have a savings and can take risks.”

Unsaid in that list is the fact that rent is generally lower outside the District, a key consideration for start-ups looking to conserve cash. The rent for a desk at UberOffices starts at $300 per month, compared to $700+ per month in many D.C. coworking spaces. Private offices range from $1,000 to $3,600 per month, and are large enough to host 2 to 8 employees respectively.

Among the companies that have set up shop at UberOffices are Votifi, which moved from Bethesda, and Lemur IMS, which moved from D.C. Votifi seeks to provide a “platform for modern political exchange,” while Lemur IMS promises to save the retail industry money and increases its profits via a “revolutionary inventory management system.”

Even though one might think of the District as more of a tech hub — it’s home to Living Social, perhaps the most high-profile local tech firm — Rahbar says Northern Virginia offers distinct advantages that large companies already are well aware of, but which the start-up community is beginning to recognize.

“Our taxes are lower, our crime is lower, our government is more stable,” he said. “They’re completely different environments. I’m sure D.C. has a couple of its own advantages, but I would bet on this area before I would bet on D.C.”

All that might explain why Northern Virginia has four times as many Fortune 500 headquarters as the District, he said.

Rahbar says he thinks the entire D.C. region is going to continue to continue to experience economic growth, even if the federal budget is cut. Among the factors contributing to that growth is the increasing amount of money flowing into politics.

“The size of government might be shrinking, but the size of politics is also increasing at the same time — campaigns and committees and all sorts of things,” he said. “So now we have more media firms, more PR firms, more lobbyists, more lawyers. Everything is just growing, even if government contracting ends up slowing down.”

Arlington and Arlington-based start-ups will continue to be a beneficiary of the strong local economy, he added.

“The whole Rosslyn to Ballston corridor is just going to continue to grow and grow,” Rahbar said. “The average person here is pretty young, the salaries are pretty high and the companies are doing really, really well.”

As for why companies should choose to locate in UberOffices as opposed to a more traditional office, Rahbar said UberOffices seeks to not only provide a place for employees to work (for less rent), but also networking opportunities for its tenants. UberOffices hosts business plan competitions, educational seminars, cocktail parties, “hackathons,” and meetings with angel investors. It also encourages its members to network and feed off each other’s creative energy.

And if that’s not enough, there are also the creature comforts typical of start-ups and tech firms. Amenities include a kitchen, a refrigerator stocked with beer, conference rooms, a lounge, flat screen TVs, video games, a Foosball table, and artwork from a local graffiti artist.

  • nerf

    I don’t know. I have to think any business I can run from a desk I hotel at for $300/month could also be run out of a booth at IHOP for a few cups of coffee and a lunch order.

  • CW

    How can they afford it?

    • The price they pay

      I work in an adjoining building that is exactly the same. They can afford it because Monday property management is lousy and does not take good care of the place. A roach will fall out of the ceiling tiles and land on a desk once a month.
      That…and its probably a meth lab at night.

  • But!

    But they have a foosball table and and couple of xbox consoles in the $300/month office setting!! (that was sarcasm)

  • Scott
  • JimPB

    Tech small office rental site offers:

    business address

    a designated work space

    proximity of others potentially facilitates networking

    • JohnB

      Short term lease.

  • Arlington has something else that will attract start-ups, and that’s big-time scientific institutions: National Science Foundation, DARPA, and most recently, Virginia Tech. Look at all the biotechnology companies formed around NIH and FDA in Montgomery County, for example.

    • JimPB

      NSF and DARPA operations in ARLCo are for grant/contract funding. Virginina Tech is a small higher education operation.
      I am may be missing something, but I don’t see them, individually or collectively, as attracting scientific/technological enterprises.

      In Montgomery County, the FDA operation is primarily an office operation for review of drugs and medical devices. NIH also has a large office operation for reviewing grant applications and awarding grants and contracts, but also — of most significance for attracting biotech entities, a very large intramural bio-medical research operation.

      • drax

        Where do you think the grants and contracts go?

        • JohnB

          To people who built that.

      • Jim PB: Good points,thanks. You partially answered the question with your previous comment, “proximity of others potentially facilitates networking”. In this case, those ‘others’ include program officers in NSF and DARPA, many of whom are accomplished scientists, as well as contractors and consultants. In addition, Virginia Tech’s site in Arlington is made up of math and engineering graduate departments, including labs, that often spin-off start-up companies.

  • nom de guerre

    Arlington has something else that will attract shart-ups, and that’s big-time food institutions: pizza places, burger joints and froyo concepts. One every other block.

    • CW

      Oh good lord please tell me you meant to write that.

      • nom de guerre

        No spelling error-shart-ups was on purpose.

  • Ted

    Stop the yupscale urbanization. Make Arlington livable for everyone. So everyone can start a business from their truly affordable homes, condos, apartments, offices,

    • Joan Fountain

      And how is this to be done?

      • Ted

        Stop redeveloping Arlington. Fix up what’s already here. Redevelop Annandale and McLean. Redevelop Route 1 south of Alexandria. That’s where the affordable housing is being constructed. Stop the insane competition among Arlington Fairfax County, Alexandria, Falls Church, DC to pack crowded suburbs and urban areas with more density.

  • JohnB

    Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that someone was telling us about how the high prices of Arlington commercial real estate was going to lead to vacant offices and a tax increase?


    “Unsaid in that list is the fact that rent is generally lower outside the District, a key consideration for start-ups looking to conserve cash.”

    Next time you see Ms. Sundburg making an argument here or in the Gazette, I’d suggest taking it with a grain of salt.

    • Regis

      Do you disagree with the numerous articles she linked to?

      • JohnB

        Read the comment below the one I linked to and you’ll see my opinion of her argument. Basically I think she starts at a conclusion and then seeks evidence to support it.


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