Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 11, 2013


Host: Ted Simons

Gangplank


  • Gangplank is a collaborative space where start-ups can work on a variety of needs, such as mentoring, hiring employees and meeting investors. It’s free, and also works to give back to the community. Gangplank has event, meeting and work space for innovators. Jade Meskill of Gangplank will discuss the unique work space.
Guests:
  • Jade Meskill - Co-founder, Gangplank
Category: community   |   Keywords: innovation, mentoring,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on Arizona technology and innovation looks at a unique work space for creative minds called Gangplank, designed to be a place where a variety of start-ups can collaborate on a variety of things. Jade Meskill: is here to tell us more. Thank you so much for joining us.

Jade Meskill:Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: Trying to wrap my head around this thing. Now, what exactly is Gangplank?

Jade Meskill:Gangplank is a community of collaborative work spaces where we're trying to attract really a cross-section of creators. We get a lot of people who are in high-tech because it naturally fits with them. Also musicians, artists, photographers, just a whole cross-section of people doing creative and interesting things but also want to give back to their community.

Ted Simons: Doing creative and interesting things together, on your own? Are there individual spaces? Is everyone riding skateboards around one big room like in Silicon Valley?

Jade Meskill:We have had that happen. People riding skateboards around. It's up to the people participating to figure out how to work together, what they want to create. Our idea is that most creative solutions and ideas happen at the edges. With people who maybe aren't experts in their field but are in another field but are experts in their field colliding with somebody who knows something totally different. They can come up with really exciting brand new fresh ideas by using their expertise in a place they are very unfamiliar with.

Ted Simons: So are specific issues addressed at specific times or do you just show up and -- what?

Jade Meskill: There's no structure to how people have to participate in Gangplank. It's free for people to participate. But the idea is that you're giving back to the community in some way. Some way that you feel good about that you might have a strength in. So say I'm really great at web design. Maybe I'll offer some classes to people in the community for free to come in and learn more about web design. Maybe I might give back to some other nonprofit organization in the area that could benefit from that expertise.

Ted Simons: But at Gangplank there really are no seminars or meetings or classes, or are there?

Jade Meskill: There are. We have a thing called Gangplank Academy where we'll offer structured classes for people who want to come in. Tonight there's a photography class that has been going on for quite a few weeks now where there's an instructor teaching people the benefits of digital photography and how to use it, how to take low-light photographs, things like that. It's a structured environment. But he took the initiative to create that class on his own. Gangplank is providing the framework, the building, the things that he needs to successfully pull off that class.

Ted Simons: The idea would be if I were starting a small business in some tech firm and I thought I may need to use digital photography, I go to his class, I learn, I benefit.

Jade Meskill: Sure.

Ted Simons: That kind of collaboration.

Jade Meskill: I might meet other people who could help me with that business.

Ted Simons: I read you're trading in what you call social capital.

Jade Meskill: Yes.

Ted Simons: Explain.

Jade Meskill: So the idea behind social capital is that it works like regular capital in that you can have a net positive or be in debt. So if I do something that benefits the Gangplank community, I have earned some social capital. Now there may be a time in my business or in my personal life where I might need to spend some of that social capital. That gives me influence within the community. So it's not a thing where we're keeping track of it in a bank account. It's much more free-flowing than that, but if I'm doing things that benefit people I'm gaining in social capital.

Ted Simons: Let's get back to the bank account. Cost is free. You have different locations. Obviously there's bricks and mortar involved. How was this stuff paid for?

Jade Meskill: People like to ask that question. For the first few years we bootstrapped. I run a consulting company. We thought it was a really crazy idea and wanted to try it out so we paid for it ourselves. We had some extra space in our building and we invited some other companies to work with us. Nowadays we partner with local municipalities and work with them on a services basis to provide them some economic development services. So they are benefiting from Gangplank's involvement in their city and we use that money to pay for the bricks and mortar side of things.

Ted Simons: If I do start my small company that benefited from taking that digital photography class I will base it in Chandler or in the valley somewhere and thus the city benefits from their donation or their cooperation with Gangplank.

Jade Meskill: Correct. We want to build really great local businesses that will stick around and continue to invest locally.

Ted Simons: Was this modeled after any other group or organization?

Jade Meskill: Not necessarily. There's an idea of co-working where you may come and you don't want to sign a lease for a desk or office you could purchase it on a per day or per month basis as a subscription. We were aware of that model. We wanted to do something very different because when we talked about social capital, real capital has a way of messing that up. Once we start talking about real dollars and cents, it becomes a landlord-tenant relationship and that's not what we wanted. We wanted to free people up to be able to do whatever it was that they thought to give back.

Ted Simons: What if by freeing people up someone designs the next great mouse trap. Are there intellectual property concerns? I say, wait a minute, I was part of that thing there your now initial public offerings of how much per share. Intellectual property: How is that mixed in here?

Jade Meskill: So it's not a direct -- we don’t have any sort of agreements with anybody that we own any of their intellectual property or anything like that. We have a saying around Gangplank: stop worrying about people stealing your ideas. They are busy building better ones.

Ted Simons: But are people taking to that particular slogan? When people get success, altruism can sometimes take a hike.

Jade Meskill: That's true. We encourage people if you're entering into a business arrangement, make it a business arrangement. Gangplank is not going to protect you from those intellectual property issues you may have.

Ted Simons: And there have been business arrangements?

Jade Meskill: Sure, we’ve had lots of successful partnerships formed, people create new products together. A lot of really great stuff has happened.

Ted Simons: How many locations for Gangplank now in Arizona?

Jade Meskill: There's three in Arizona. Chandler is where we originally started, Avondale and Tucson.

Ted Simons: Any chances of growing here, any plans for growing or is it just play it as it lays?

Jade Meskill: We're open to new locations. What we look for is a city who is looking to try something different, who knows they need to do something different in the economic development world. We're looking for those great partners. We don't go out and plant locations. We work with people to help them grow new locations where they are at.

Ted Simons: Building relationships and not transactions. Sounds fascinating. Good luck to you.

Jade Meskill: Thank you.

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