Editor’s note: This "Factory Tour" segment offers a look inside the workplace of Roost, a real estate technology company that offers a real estate search site for consumers. Watch for more Factory Tour features at Inman News.
SAN FRANCISCO — On the first floor of the six-story Regus building, nestled in San Francisco’s tech-savvy Folsom Street district, a hallway lined by an assortment of contemporary furniture in vivid hues of bright green, yellow and orange leads to double silver doors.
Chatter and laughter fill the air as small groups of workers congregate around computers and a table full of food. It’s "Breakfast Thursday" — the day when a chosen employee brings food for the entire staff of about 17 at Roost, a company that offers a real estate search engine for consumers powered by multiple listing service data that is shared by participating real estate brokers.
Alex Lange and Alex Chang, Roost co-founders, worked together at TotalMove Inc., another real estate search engine company, prior to launching Roost. Lange says he and Chang were both senior members of startups and had common ideas that led them to join forces and build Roost in 2007.
Earlier this month, Roost announced the launching of its service in San Francisco and Seattle expanding Roosts’ network to more than 5,000 U.S. cities and market areas. In June, Roost also expanded its MLS listings to the Denver area, offering information for about 1.5 million for-sale property listings in about 11,000 cities. Roost recently redesigned the real estate search results page on the Roost.com Web site.
The 1-year-old company has a staff of recruits who previously worked for companies such as TotalMove Inc., Walmart.com, Reel.com and Ancestry.com, among others.
"We hand-picked all of our team members. I use the army analogy for our team: We are a big army of young people with lots of experience," says Lange, chief technology officer and co-founder of Roost.
Roost won the "Most Innovative Technology" award at Real Estate Connect San Francisco this year. The founders promote a "three-P" philosophy: "product, passion and pace."
"There is room to make everything better, from launching a new product or even if it’s just making a cup of coffee," says Lange.
As the co-founder of Roost, Lange said he stresses the "three P’s" to the staff. The whole staff pitches in when it comes to launching new products and developing marketing strategies.
The pace at Roost is "fast, very fast," says Lange. "Every product is aimed to deploy in one to two weeks."
There is room for fun, too, in the Roost workplace. Adam Cross, online creative director at Roost, doubles as staff guitarist — he keeps his guitar on the side of his desk at the office and strums his tunes for the staff every now and then while his co-workers chuckle in enjoyment.
Across the room from Cross, his colleague, Derek Overbey, senior director of partnership strategy, keeps his desk adorned with trinkets that he says he collected from previous jobs at failed startups.
"I just keep these around to keep my desk lively so that when people come over to my desk, they can see some interesting things," says Overbey as he picks up the colorful items and explains which is which.
There is a mini fluorescent green "Magna Doodle Etch" that he received from a marketing company, a "Bop It" game that he bought in New York and a "Star Wars" spaceship collectible that he received from a colleague while working at eHome.
Company soirees, such as dinners or happy hours after a long day of work, serve to boost employee morale.
Individual offices and the main office space have open doors, which is intended to create a family ambiance.
"The office itself is the hub. There are no walls or barriers in here," says Lange.
There are four single office rooms on one side of the space that are occupied by the CEO, chief technology officer, vice president of business development and chief marketing officer. Most of the activity occurs in the large open area, where groups of desks of about three to four are joined together with computers parked on top of them. This area is the core of where the production happens.
Since there is no separate server room, Lange notes that the main office doubles as the server room and a data center, with cages of servers stacked atop one another. The company relies on the Dell brand for its computing power.
The most common job description at the company is senior programmer and analyst who work to keep the information, hardware and software operational and updated. Every employee plays a role in product developments.
Meetings between all personnel and brainstorming sessions, which typically occur on Mondays, take place in the main open space.
Conversation persists throughout the day amongst the Roost crew. Two colleagues look at the computer screen, discussing technological issues while a few in close vicinity joke around about Cross’ injured thumb.
"There is always someone hanging around in the office, seven days a week. It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is or what day of the week it is," Lange says.
Matthew Cullen, vice president of business development, was working on his third cup of coffee at 10 a.m. — he said his work at Roost occupies "every waking hour."
Drew Izzo, chief marketing officer, flies from Utah to work 12-hour days at Roost from Monday through Thursday, and flies back to spend the weekends with his family.
Prior to working at Roost, Izzo served as a vice president of marketing for the Americas at Ancestry.com, an online source of family history information. He has more than 15 years of experience in the Web 2.0 and consumer technology field.
Izzo is considering moving his family to San Francisco. "The energy here is amazing. There’s so much talent here and you can build so many networks. It’s a great place to help inspire ideas in the ‘webosphere,’ " he said.
And effort is rewarded at the company — every staff member nominates another staff member each week for a prize, with winners getting a dinner or the chance to display the coveted "Rudy" plush doll atop their desks. Rudy is a petite stuffed rooster that serves as a mascot for Roost.
As the work day ensues, some colleagues mosey into the open doors of the office to their coworkers’ desks while Lange and two others have a meeting in his office — with the door wide open. Not a moment of silence, as workers exchange words from across the room.
"No one can get any privacy in here," laughs Lange. "We are like a big family here."
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