Alex is the first person I’ve connected with in Philadelphia! He co-founded the co-working space Indy Hall and works in a strategic role on a number of projects. 

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Sarah: Alex, can you tell us a little about what you do for a living?

Alex: I’ve made a weird transition from developer into a pretty cool strategic role. Because I’ve been working in tech for almost 15 years, I tend to work with companies that are utilizing technology as a primary component of their business, but the companies are very different. In the last year I’ve worked with a top-tier advertising agency (helping develop their interactive department and strategy), a multi-million dollar t-shirt company (leading the in-housing of their entire technology stack), a few software product companies and teams, including Wildbit – the makers of popular products like Beanstalk and Postmark.

Exactly what I do for these companies varies a bit, but the consistent element is that I’m focused on helping them grow. Usually, it means assessing the company’s strengths and assets and looking for ways to reassemble them to help the company grow. This means I’m looking for sustainable, exponential growth patterns that don’t require excessive outside resources or intensive spending. The fun part is that because I’ve got a tech and development background, I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and write some code if it helps. 

I tend to operate best as a hired gun: though most of the teams I work with now are long-term arrangements, none of them are full time. This lets me get all sorts of dirt under my fingernails, and if I’m doing a particularly good job…I’m making myself obsolete. 

Sarah: In addition to that, you co-founded that co-working space, Indy Hall. How did that come about?

 Alex: When I struck out on my own as a freelance web dev in 2006, I was working from home. I quickly realized that wasn’t going to last long. I didn’t miss going into work, but I did miss having coworkers. I met some folks that were doing the earliest experimentation with coworking in San Francisco, and figured, hey, that sounds pretty rad. I’ll move out there!

When I failed an attempt to move to SF, it was an inflection point. Why was I leaving Philly again? It wasn’t for the job, or the money, or even the weather. It was for likeminded culture and a “place” where I felt I belonged. Well…if I could find that in Philly, I wouldn’t need to leave!

So I started going to every event I could find. User groups. Meetups. Happy hours. You name it. I was looking for anyone in Philly who was doing cool, interesting, creative things because that’s what I wanted to do! What I found wasn’t just people doing cool, interesting, creative things…but I found that they were looking for other people too! So Indy Hall started like more of a club than a coworking space. Over time, we started working together, even if we weren’t working on the same things. Just being in proximity to one another once a week or so was great. 

When we got to enough people, I said, “hey…we could do this every day if this club had a clubhouse!” and we started working together towards opening our first office. Inside of 18 months that office was completely full and we had a waiting list. This drove us to expand into a ~4500 square foot location where we are today, which is home to over 100 members on our active monthly roster and many more friends who visit and drop in when they can.   

Sarah: What do you think is the most important thing about finding a good co-working space?

Alex: It’s ALL about the people. A good coworking community is going to be your tribe. People should be interacting with one another. It should feel warm and fun. You should be able to feel productive, but not constrained. You should feel at home. 

I’ve become convinced that people don’t really want a better place to work…they just want better coworkers. Coworking provides that far better than it provides the amenities you think you need.

Sarah: You must get to interact with plenty of companies in Philadelphia. What’s hot there right now?

Alex: Mobile Games. Holy moly, everybody’s making games. It’s awesome. 

Sarah: As with most cities near larger cities, Philadelphia must get compared to its neighbours often. What sets it apart?

Alex: I feel bad for anyone who feels the need to compare Philly to its neighbors. A few friends decided we should throw a party for people who love Philly, and give them a reason to talk about the things they love about Philly rather than compare it to other cities. We’re doing that party every other month now. You can check out the video from the first party and see for yourself why people love Philly: 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vrB1O6ipXs]

Sarah: Finally, what are you working on next that has you excited?

Alex: There’s a couple of projects that I have to keep under my hat right now, which is totally not my style…but I can promise they’ll be worth the wait. The next couple of teams I’m working with though have me really pumped. I recently started working with Philly design and development shop P’unk Ave to help take their open source CMS Apostrophe and make it a SAAS hosted product, I’m going to start working with friends of mine Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs on their product http://letsfreckle.com/, and I’ve got a new product that I spun out of my work with that T-Shirt company that should be launching in the next month or so. 

Bottom line is, I’m continually working to achieve my goal of working on great things with great people. Nothing is more gratifying than that.

Alex, thanks for taking the time to answer all of these questions! If you’d like to keep up with everything Alex has going on, check him out on Twitter, or on his blog

Photo by Chris Sembrot