Mike Kovarik/Gangplank

Mike Kovarik is the responsible person and manager for the Chandler chapter of Gangplank, which celebrated its grand reopening on Dec. 7.

A newly revamped co-working space in downtown Chandler is giving entrepreneurs more opportunities to train teams, create products and use technological tools.

But the real magic of Gangplank is in the community it builds.

So say members of the nonprofit organization, as well as its responsible person and manager for the Chandler chapter of Gangplank, Mike Kovarik.

The organization, which opened its Chandler space several years ago on 250 S. Arizona Ave., celebrated a grand reopening on Dec. 7 after renovating about 3,000 square feet in its building.

The coworking space – where businesses and individuals can come to grow their companies, work and collaborate with other entrepreneurs – takes up about 6,000 square feet in the building space it leases. Gangplank closed for a few months while phone booths/webinar rooms and a training room were added, Kovarik said. Some conference rooms were consolidated to provide more room for desks, and a media room for photographers and artists to do photo shoots was set up.

“Gangplank is a coworking space where businesses can come and work with other individuals and creatives to grow their business and use this as a place to work and innovate, have collisions,” Kovarik said.

“Gangplank is really the original coworking space,” he added. “It started all on social capital. One of the biggest differences from Galvanize or CO+HOOTS is you can come in and utilize the space at no cost. You can try (it) out, get coaching and mentoring. Since we’re a nonprofit, we’re not focused on getting membership dues out of every individual.”

Gangplank has two other locations, in Queen Creek and Avondale. The one in Chandler gets some financial help from the City of Chandler and about 33 companies use the facility.

Some businesses pay membership fees to use the Gangplank space, but others can contribute through “social capital” – meaning they clean up, take out the trash and offer advice and coaching to people, among other tasks, in exchange for utilizing the space, Kovarik said.

Kovarik is also CEO of Attribytes, a software service company focused on the food service industry; he has been working out of Gangplank in Chandler for about two years. Attribytes began more than three years ago and the majority of its employees work out of Gangplank in Chandler, though some employees work in other states.

The mentoring and collaboration he received when coming to Gangplank inspired Kovarik to stay involved in the coworking space.

Kovarik said Shon Burton, CEO and co-founder of HiringSolved, “provided great advice to help us get through tough times.”

He added that Burton also provided some technological assistance to get through roadblocks and offered tips on seeking venture capital support.

Burton, as well as many other start-up founders, attended the grand reopening, and said Gangplank has also helped their companies.

Dozens of people mingled, worked on computers at several stations, talked in a conference room, worked in a workshop area with a laser-cutting machine and toured the center, while others ate tacos at the gathering.

Using space at Gangplank for his company has saved Burton a lot of rent. He started his company in 2011 and said his rent dropped from about $250,000 a month to $4,400 a month. Besides saving money, he also met HiringSolved’s co-founder Trevor Olson, now his company’s chief technology officer, at Gangplank.

“For me, what was important here … was being able to sit next to someone,” Burton said. “You get to kind of know somebody really well. It’s a talent pool for us. We got business advice. You could say, ‘What do you think of this design?’”

Collaboration at Gangplank is “huge,” he added.

“We stay here because when we move out, we get sad,” Burton said. “We miss the people, energy.”

Gregg Lahti, CEO and co-founder of Cerebrum, a company he said sells software for anatomic pathology labs, has also worked out of Gangplank in Chandler since his start-up’s inception.

“Gangplank’s one of those places where you also contribute as much as you get,” Lahti said. “I get space for my team. Different businesses all go through the same problem. I’ve been through five start-ups. Gangplank, it attracts a lot of everyone. I’m an engineer.”

Daniel Graham, CFO and founder of a digital advertising company called Subliminal Group, also likes the Chandler space.

He spent the grand reopening making an electric skateboard using the laser-cutting machine to build the fender. That device is part of a personal project, but Graham said he and Subliminal Group’s co-founder also do work for that ad business out of Chandler Gangplank.

Graham worked in a room with several shelves, tools, the laser-cutting machine and pieces of wood to create his electric skateboard.

“This was one of the first places I stumbled into,” he said. “I wouldn’t have found the success as quickly … without Gangplank. Gangplank allows us to bring in clients and look more professional.”

Graham said he learned a lot from another advertising company that worked out of Gangplank.

“I’m just grateful,” he said. “I put in a lot of time here trying to help out other people, answer questions about video work and live streaming. It’s a great space.”

During a presentation in front of the crowd at Gangplank during the grand reopening, Kovarik introduced Burton of HiringSolved and Lahti of Cerebrum. Lahti said Kovarik had given him “great advice.” Kovarik said Gangplank is a place to get advice and mentoring.

“It’s difficult to start your own business,” he said, and praised the opportunity Gangplank gives him and other entrepreneurs.

“It’s amazing to bring that connective tissue to the Valley,” he said.

Chandler Mayor-elect Kevin Hartke praised Gangplank as well, stating:

“We’re excited about Gangplank and what you continue to do. We continue to be committed to downtown. Gangplank has been a staple here … and you guys have continued to perform. You’ve continued to incite and inspire our kids for technology … and you’ve been successful.”

People who had previously used TechShop, a maker space which closed abruptly in Chandler, have found a place to work in Gangplank.

Dave Kerr, an IT consultant who had been doing some prototyping at TechShop, was on a computer doing work at the Gangplank grand reopening.

“I got into crypto currencies,” Kerr said. “I was just a member there. I helped people in the community from TechShop. I love Gangplank.”

Terri Kimble, president/CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, is also pleased with Gangplank.

“This is great,” Kimble said. “Obviously this is a huge component of our community – celebrating entrepreneurs. There are bumps in the road and you need that support system.”

Membership in Gangplank, other than those who are contributing the “social capital,” is $500 a year for solo entrepreneurs; $5,000 a year for companies with a “couple more people” and $20,000 a year for larger businesses, Kovarik said.

Cash prizes of $10,000, $3,500 and $1,500 were given to business owners for the first, second and third place winners after they pitched their companies to Gangplank as part of the grand reopening event.

Members can access the building whenever they want to, but the regular business hours for non-members is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Non-members can also access the building anytime a member is in there. Information: gangplankhq.com.

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