Loopio’s move to 310 Spadina Avenue demonstrates how the right office space can be a key factor in a business’ sustainable growth.
Strewn across the Loopio offices in 310 Spadina Avenue are various references to mountain climbing. It’s a purposeful detail that reflects a shared interest among many Loopers (the company jargon for team members), but it also signifies Loopio’s incredible journey to the top – an ascent fueled by hard work, diligence and unity.
Loopio, an RFP response software firm, was founded in 2015 by Zak Hemraj, Matt York, and Jafar Owainati. At the very foundation of Loopio is the notion of knowledge; the company name is derived from the idea of loops of knowledge found in every organization. The three co-founders played around with the word loop until finally landing on a name that reverberated the energetic and fun vibe they were after. Thus, Loopio was born.
The Toronto-based company’s first home was a Liberty Village co-working space that housed 13 Loopers. Soon, Loopio found itself taking over six smaller offices in the vicinity to support its rapidly growing team. It was an exciting time for operations, but the setup left employees feeling siloed and fragmented. As a result, Loopio made the move to a 2,500-square-foot office at Queen and Niagara. The company soon outgrew this space, and another move was necessary, this time to an 8,600-square-foot space at King West and Bathurst. The King West office was an improvement over the previous spaces; it included four meeting rooms and a dedicated kitchen. Still, it didn’t satisfy the team’s need for collaboration space. Loopio would soon have an opportunity to upgrade its office. By mid-2018, Loopio had grown to a team of 40 Loopers and had over $9 million in financing – It was time to make the move.
The co-founders recognized that this move would be more than just a real estate transaction. This move would be a significant point in the company’s history, laying out the foundation for the sustainable growth of the business. This was an opportunity to incorporate vital architectural and interior design elements that would establish the culture the co-founders had always envisioned for the company. This was Loopio’s moment to firmly embed its brand into the booming Toronto tech landscape.
With the enormity of this decision upon them, the co-founders turned to Colliers International advisor Chris Fyvie to help them find the perfect space.
Chris had helped Loopio secure office space in the past, but this new search would be more challenging. Loopio needed a space large enough to accommodate its growth and suitable for hosting internal and external events. The co-founders wanted to find a blank canvas, one they could customize and align with their brand. It needed to be in an easily accessible location, with numerous food and entertainment options nearby to maintain the upbeat culture they had cultivated in Loopio.
After considering various neighbourhoods in the city, Loopio decided to make the move to Chinatown. The location was perhaps not an obvious choice, but it would allow Loopio to stand out as most tech firms in Toronto were clustered in the intersection of King and Spadina. The six-floor building the co-founders chose was near numerous amenities, including Kensington Market. The eclectic neighbourhood would also provide unique working opportunities for Loopers, particularly one-on-one walks between manager and team member that would allow them to get some air while discussing business.
Loopio took over the top three floors of 310 Spadina Avenue in August 2018. Chris had negotiated with the landlord on Loopio’s behalf, so the company could customize the space to reflect its needs and brand. The rustic brick-and-beam space was the perfect base to build upon. “The space was empty – we had the opportunity to design it to represent Loopio from scratch. We harvested input from everyone in the company on what was essential for them to have, what the flow of the space would be, and how we could make it more fun,” says Zak Hemraj, CEO. “We have a principle at Loopio – work seriously but do not take yourself too seriously – and we wanted our space to reflect that sometimes we like to let loose, have fun, and be social.”
The new office was designed to accommodate the various ways employees work – and play: There are open areas to foster collaboration, as well as smaller rooms where Loopers can focus and have privacy. Loopers also enjoy access to a meditation room, a wide array of games (including foosball, ping pong, pool, and basketball), scooters for intra-office transportation, and a rooftop patio. “The collaborative focus of this space allows us to be comfortable when working together, while also having room to recognize and celebrate people,” says Jafar Owainati. He also offers hindsight into the process: “Although we were initially looking for a 20,000-square-foot office, we realized we had to account for eventual and inevitable growth. We moved in with 70 people, and just a year later, we are at 140+ and we anticipate being close to 200 by the end of next year. We didn’t want to keep on moving at this point. We wanted a one-site space in Toronto that we could call home, and we found it.”
Employee experience and growth are at the core of Loopio’s culture. The new space and amenities were thoughtfully curated to offer a rich environment for hosting events to keep Loopers engaged and empowered. Learning and development initiatives and annual retreats for strategizing are complemented by smaller-scale events such as: Loopio Eats Together, a company-wide luncheon with an emphasis on getting to know new colleagues; SMASH, a weekly update meeting attended by various departments; the weekly Get Loopi Friday evening event; and the quarterly Ask Me Anything, where Loopers can ask any of the senior leadership team members questions.
Zak offers insight into the importance of these culture-building events. “We understand our business perspective as such: Big goals can’t happen if everyone is not engaged. Therefore, in our move, we set out on empowering our people to focus on what matters the most. First, it’s customers; we focus on helping them access knowledge and collaborate to drive business outcomes. Secondly, it’s our people – empowering them with access to learning and developing their skills and knowledge.”
The Loopio brand is strong because it is integrated into every element of the company and its people’s lives. Upon starting a new role with Loopio, employees are provided a Mac desktop, a Magic Mouse, a Loopio-branded water bottle, branded clothing (socks, shirt, and hoodie), and a $200 budget to improve their personal space. The last item on the list is a direct expression of the co-founders’ belief that the physical space, as an extension of the brand, should reflect excellence in all aspects. “We have a very simple message to our Loopers – bring your whole self to work. We don’t just want people’s work brains; we truly value their character and personality and we love seeing them come out. When we celebrate at Loopio, we encourage everyone to bring out their family, their kids, significant others – whether it’s our weekly socials or our milestone events,” says Zak.
Armed with foresight and consideration of both short- and long-term goals, Zak, Matt, and Jafar are on track to bring Loopio to new heights. Their hard work is exemplified by the awards the company has reaped in recent years: Loopio was ranked as the 13th fastest growing company on the 2019 Deloitte Technology Fast 50™ list; it was selected twice as one of LinkedIn’s Top Startups in Canada; it's been recognized by the Stevie Awards for outstanding sales service and customer support; and the company has also been ranked as a leader in the proposal software market by G2 Crowd. The co-founders foresee Loopio growing into new locations around the world and becoming one of the world’s giant tech firms. With three strategic minds at the helm, Loopio is sure to continue scaling new peaks.