UPDATE: Wouldn’t you know it, but some smart people ARE thinking about the problem. Six Hour Startup is going to tackle this problem at their April meeting with a project tentatively called SiteFinder. Yay for great minds thinking alike, etc. etc.
And no, I’m not talking about coworking, although that has some interesting possibilities. What I’m talking about is the traditional task of finding long-term office space. Right now the industry operates much like the auto industry traditionally has: brokers/dealers have their (mostly exclusive) inventory that they try to sell; there’s a lot of negotiating involved, deals cut, and lack of good cost/commission data available to consumers.
About 10 years ago that started to change in the auto industry with things like Edmunds.com, AutoWeb, etc. It’s time for that same revolution to hit the office space industry.
I went looking for a mapping mashup of Seattle office space, and expected I’d get a Zillow. First mistake. Right now the state of the art is more 1980’s than ’00s. Let me tell you, if I’m interested in six properties, I want to hover my mouse over them and do instant comparisons – I don’t want to have to fill out a form six times “requesting a price quote”. Give me a break!
I’ll bet that somewhere in Seattle someone smart is working on this problem, and I’ll bet someone is also tackling the related problem of subletting excess office space. I have a friend whose company sublets a single office from a slightly larger company. There should be an open, online market for that sort of transaction. Open up the WiFi, make a duplicate set of keys, and do the transaction with PayPal, and you’re off and running.
It is actually a little painful to think about all the frictions and inefficiencies in quote-unquote “traditional ways of doing business.” Lots of money to be made for the right technology, applied at the right time, at the right price.