By Paul Miller November 11, 2014

Finding our space

Karma's new office

A little while back I wrote about how everybody in NY moves in September. Well, we're moving too! Karma just relocated a few blocks south from a co-working space in SoHo to our own office in Little Italy.

When I joined Karma, I occupied the 8th and final officially-allocated desk we had at our co-working space. In the ensuing months, we've grown to 15-ish full timers in New York, in addition to regular visits from contractors and Netherlands-based employees. We spilled over to tables, couches, chairs, and coffee shops. We swapped desks and huddled in conference rooms and made it work.

In one sense, Karma is perfectly suited to diaspora. We've always been an international company, with some employees in Europe and some in the United States. The central hub of office activity is our GIF-filled Slack chat, which includes rooms like #hack, #marketing, and #beards. Slack not only (mostly) fulfills its promise of eliminating internal email at our company, but it also operates as an excellent archive of our corporate culture. One of the Americans will ask an innocent question about "stroopwafels," Dutch nationals will bombard them with imagery and glowing reviews, and then the next time an Oranje visits the office they bring some of the genuine article to share... and so the cycle repeats.

And then, of course, there's the fact that we can all work from wherever we can fit a laptop and a cup of coffee — Karma lets us bring the WiFi with us, naturally.

But life at the co-working space became a dance between stepping on each other's toes and shouting out into the Slack void to figure out where everybody was for a meeting or a coffee run or lunch. The more crowded it got, the more I felt like I was trying to hide from my fellow employees. Or at least protect my turf: my charger, my chair, my officially-allocated desk. Maybe I'm just a little sensitive, or maybe we outgrew the hell out of that old office.

The workstationThe workstation

Because being together as people is how business gets done, and being alone as people is how work gets done. Something like that. And so we can neither afford to grow sick of each other's company, or make communion too scarce.

Real, actual people being together and talking is a hallmark of Karma the company. It all starts with the family style lunches we have every day, which are usually followed by a smaller group outing for coffee. We don't always, or even usually, talk about work. We just get to know one another.

When a new employee joins, we make a point of asking them questions. Every new hire brings something wild and different. Peter Sunna, Director of Brand Experience, grew up in northern Sweden, where his grandfather herded reindeer. Arneice Hart, Product Designer, was an Army brat and lived in Germany growing up. Matt O'Connor, Director of Growth & Customer Acquisition, spent some time in Brazil and wrote trivia for a living. I don't know where we find these people, but they're great, and I love doing lunch and coffee with them, and, you know, our jobs.

I don't know where we find these people, but they're great.

It's wonderful seeing someone new join the company, with a passion for what we're doing and ideas to make it even better. Alan Dickinson, Senior Product Designer, is working on the interface for our next-generation apps. Peter Borrelli, Graphic Designer, took our brand spanking new identity and generated an amazing flurry of ads — refining our look and message along the way. Menno de Gier, Back-End Developer, and Marcel de Graaf, Ops Engineer, live in the Netherlands, but Slack lets me watch them deploy code into production and debate best practices in real time.

I'm so excited to work with all these people, in both the virtual and the real, from Karma's new office. We're still getting situated, but it already feels like home. It's a mostly open floor plan, with a couple meeting rooms and a kitchen. There's no slide or ball pit or nap pods, but all we really needed was desks and a little privacy.

The New York teamThe New York team

I talked about net neutrality today with Stefan Borsje, our CTO and Co-Founder, while he sat on the floor stripping and sorting wires to terminate the Cat 6 cables for our local network. Yesterday morning, while we waited for our chairs to arrive, some people sat on tables, with a half dozen personal Karmas turned on to serve their connection needs. Stroopwafels were available for snacking, of course. After lunch, COO Robert Schouwenburg and I walked to his favorite Starbucks (where he enjoys well-known-regular status) and talked about anachronistic American architecture and World War II.

When I got back, nobody had stolen my desk.

Throughout this "behind the scenes" series I've been writing, leading up to the launch of Karma Go, I've worked to explore the ideas behind the product. But it's the people, not the ideas, that make Karma. Now we have a little more space to work in, which will only serve to bring us closer together.


About Paul Miller

That guy who left the internet for a year