Starting up with Coworking! – Meet Arjun from Nextility
Meet Arjun from Nextility!
Today we sat down with Arjun Sudhir, Business Development Manager of Nextility’s Northern Californian team – continuing our series focused on startups operating out of coworking spaces. Although Nextility was founded in 2009 and headquartered in Washington DC, its Northern California, 4-person team was only established in January 2015. As Arjun explains, “we’re on our own, so it’s a true startup feel, because we’re in a new region that Nextility has not been in, and none of us have met each other before.”
1. Meet Arjun
Arjun grew up on the east coast and attended Boston College. After working for a year after graduation, he quit his job to drive across the country in order to interview with solar companies in California. He ended up working for Borrego Solar in their Business Development sector for a year before transitioning to Nextility – a risky choice – given that Borrego Solar is the number two ranked commercial engineering procurement construction solar company in the US.
2. Nextility – What is it?
Nextility is a solar company that provides energy services (solar electricity, solar thermal, and energy brokerage) to small and medium commercial entities. Energy brokerage is essentially competitive shopping for energy, since small businesses are typically unaware that they can save money by switching where they purchase their energy.
Nextility learns its client’s business in order to determine how much energy they consume, and advise the client on what solar energy systems would suit their need. “If they engage Nextility, they can save up to 50% of what they are paying for energy.” Nextility designs, builds, maintains, and pays for the solar systems that it installs for its clients, and after a 10-year contract, the ownership of the solar system is transferred to the client – thus the client pays nothing upfront, yet enjoys savings immediately. Instead of paying $1 per joule to their existing supplier, they pay $0.50 to Nextility with no change in energy usage, and Arjun’s job is to communicate that value to potential clients. Arjun stresses: “For everything that we do, we don’t charge anything. We’ve worked for the last 5 years to get to the point we are now where we can offer very substantial savings on companies energy rates.” Tough to believe, I know.
The Nextility Northern Californian team is making great strides due to the progressive environment of the Bay Area for alternative energy; and despite being new to the local scene, Nextility has already built projects in San Jose. However, since this team is only one month old, we had to ask – what early hurdles did you have to overcome? “Understanding each person’s strengths, weaknesses, roles in the team, the value they brought to the table, as well as how to communicate their identity with people outside of Northern California,” were the biggest challenges, stated Arjun.
3. Coworking at WeWork – Berkeley
For Arjun and his team, the decision between coworking and a private office was simple. “Since our team was so small, we knew that trying to find our own space would be a lot more work than it’s worth.” The benefits of coworking – lease flexibility and networking opportunities – struck a cord with the Nextility team, and they focused solely on a location that suited their needs. “Ultimately the most important thing is the people you are surrounded with, and we didn’t want to just be by ourselves or with one other company – we wanted to have the potential to mix with a wider group of people because we wanted a free flowing interchange of ideas.”
So what was Arjun and his teams’ shopping criteria for an office? The office space had to be of high quality, contained a great community, and near a major public transit location. Given Nextility was not sensitive to price, I asked Arjun why they chose an office space in Berkeley, to which he replied, “We originally looked at San Francisco, but most of the coworking spaces were full…like waitlist full!” Eventually, the team settled with WeWork because they had multiple properties in Northern California, making it easier for Nextility to expand their office space, or operate in various offices in the future. “WeWork provided us with the most flexibility – it is a month-to- month agreement, and we could be in another location in the next month, who knows?”
However, Arjun admits there are some downsides to coworking – less privacy and the need to be more mindful of noise levels. Although a lot of Arjun’s work is on email, he often needs to be on the phone, so he either uses the phone booths, or chooses to work from home for a few hours to make calls prior to entering the office. Since the WeWork Berkeley location opened a short 3 weeks ago, the space is rather quiet, and “not so exciting, but it is also good for us because we do have a lot of work to do,” he chuckled.
Arjun was full of suggestions to make coworking a more cohesive environment. He suggested organizing casual mixing events in coworking spaces – where startups present their business and take questions from the community – because he really wants to meet the people working in the same space, but doesn’t want to disturb them during office hours. Coworking spaces could connect people together who have complementary businesses, roles, or industries – something WeWork provides through its App that acts as a Facebook for the WeWork community. Another recommendation: having large communal lounge spaces on every floor instead of only one main lounge area for the entire office.
4. Goals and Visions for Nextility in Northern California
From a business perspective, Arjun’s goal for Nextility is to become well known on the west coast, to the point where they receive referrals from clients in San Jose or LA. From an organization perspective, Arjun would love for his team to grow into a 10-person team where it feels like a family, as well as maintain the culture and relationships that the Washington DC office has shared with other companies nationwide.
5. Advice for Startups
Arjun points out – definitely work together as a team in an office space, because “you always get answers to questions you are not asking,” as Arjun reflects on the benefits his team reaped from transitioning from working remotely to coworking. Also, the importance of passion for your work, as “in the end of the day, if you’re not having fun, then you’d better try to because not everything in life is fun, but you should be able to have some fun in your day-to-day. If you don’t, then you’re missing out on a big part of life.” Well said, Arjun! If you’d like to find out more about Nextility you can find their website here, or follow them on twitter!