Everett innovation hub wants to spark big, homegrown ideas
EVERETT — First things first, there is coffee. Also, Play Dough, but more about that later.
TheLab@everett is all about getting creativity and collaboration flowing and helping entrepreneurs clear away the roadblocks to success. But while the concept and tools are sophisticated, there’s also plenty of joe and the ability to purchase 24/7 access to facilitate brainstorms.
The shared work space includes traditional office amenities such as Wi-Fi, mail service and conference rooms, but the center also hooks entrepreneurs up with mentors and with each other.
It caters specifically to entrepreneurs who, if all goes well, outgrow the space and move on.
TheLab’s concept centers partly around a philosophy of engaging numerous stakeholders early in the process of inventing a product or service, interim executive director Diane Kamionka explained. That early engagement by many minds results in a more successful product.
An inventor “may already have a patent” for a product “that is not quite right,” and it’s a “sad and painful, and sometimes expensive process,” to rework, she said.
TheLab aims to help innovators avoid those missteps.
It serves product and service inventors. One current client is working on agricultural technology that might determine the perfect time for a farmer to harvest carrots by analyzing their tops, Kamionka said.
TheLab is operated by the NW Innovation Resource Center. The agency plans to open two more centers, one in Arlington, the other in Sedro-Woolley, later this year.
For Kamionka, the need for TheLab was evident just looking at a map.
“If you’re in King County, there are over 50 different places to go,” she said. In Snohomish County, none.
The 5,500-square-foot space offers a mix of communal and private work options. There is a set of tables and a front counter that resembles nothing more than the long tall bar of a Starbucks. Known as “the think tank,” it invites in those needing inspiration or a quiet, communal workspace.
Flanking a communal area are private offices, called “the frontier,” where ideas generated up front can be defined and tested.
The offices open to a wide-open casual space called “the commons” with chairs arranged in a circle and a big-screen TV for presentations. Members can put their heads together there. TheLab also has a “workshop” and a “maker space” complete with a 3-D printer, soldering iron and laser cutter for working on prototypes. There are tactile materials too, from cartons of Play Dough to popsicle sticks.
Members also have the option to settle in at a shared or dedicated desk in the private “study” area.
A mainstream membership of $300 a month includes use of the co-working space and four hours of conference room time. Other options range from $150 to $1,100. And limited memberships are available for students at $25 a month or off-site associates at $50.
Membership includes use of the space, event invites, a private members message board for collaborations, and the ability to tap into the Resource Center’s network of experts. For those who like to burn the midnight oil, memberships that include use of a private office grant clients an office key for 24/7 access.
The Everett location, private and collaborative spaces and networking with other business owners all helped sell TheLab to Tab Pierce, a client and president of Caliber Security Partners. The company uses TheLab for overflow office space, collaborations and a distraction-free retreat from their main facility.
In addition to benefitting entrepreneurs, college students gain college credit through internships at TheLab.
Like Kamionka, WSU professor Nella Ludlow, who is a liaison to TheLab, also saw the need for an innovation center locally.
“If I were to build a new start-up I would likely choose Snohomish County as the cost-of-living is more advantageous than the Greater Seattle area, and having TheLab@everett col-located with WSU-Everett is definitely a situation of being ‘in the right place at the right time’,” she said in an email.
TheLab@everett is a privately funded venture with partnerships from government entities. Starting this month, members can attend events at the North Broadway site in addition to using the facilities. The center has been operating about six hours a day over the holidays, but Kamionka says the ultimate goal is 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
TheLab@arlington at 404 N. Olympic Ave. in Arlington and at TheLab@swiftcenter at 25625 Helmick Road, Sedro-Woolley are slated to open later this year. The agency’s website is www.nwinnovationlab.com
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