Wilbur Labs is on a mission to turn bold ideas into industry-leading companies. Since 2016, our startup studio has been devoted to building companies in industries where customers are being underserved.
Our studio is named after Wilbur Wright, who joined forces with his brother Orville Wright to build and fly the world’s first successful airplane. “Build the plane as we fly it” is a core principle of how we operate, and serves as a major source of inspiration for the team. As the studio continues to grow, we decided it was time to take it to the next level, moving to a space that will evolve with us over the next few years.
Beyond the continued growth of our current portfolio, we plan to build dozens of companies in the years to follow. Given our unique approach to building and scaling businesses, we wanted to design a new HQ that supports our mission. Most standard office spaces are not amenable to our unique structure. With this in mind, we set out to build a new office around three main themes:
1. Multi-company support
2. Consideration of both onsite and distributed teams
3. Optimized for employee health and wellness
After running a startup studio with multiple companies under one roof, we uncovered a few technical and structural limitations in our old office. For example, booking conference rooms across multiple domains became a pain point. As companies grew, we also needed modular workstations that could be flexed based on headcount. Finally, we needed enough dashboard displays so each company could customize the KPIs and metrics that are important for each business.
With these limitations in mind, our new office features a calendar system, allowing all of our conference rooms to be booked across our various domains, or on-demand from the iPad scheduler in front of each room.
Throughout the office we installed dashboard displays in different sections, showcasing live metrics and performance data for every company in the portfolio. Each dashboard can be customized and updated as companies move around.
Built for Both Onsite & Distributed Teams
Wilbur Labs has been focused on building and empowering world class management teams to lead our portfolio companies. We believe that in order to best serve our customers, we must have passionate management teams with deep industry expertise. Not surprisingly, these experts are not always San Francisco local. Starting with our first company in 2016, we built a distributed team of experts from around the globe. Four years later, this is a model we believe in even more today, after experiencing firsthand the increase in execution and employee satisfaction. With over half a billion in gross bookings in two years, VacationRenter upholds a record for having one of the fastest growth rates of any travel company, ever. This achievement would not have been possible if we limited the team to a single city.
Given this approach, we wanted to build a headquarters that equally serves our onsite and distributed team members. For example, it’s fairly easy to build a conference room that works for people onsite, but designing a conference room optimized for people on the other side of the screen is much more challenging. From considering webcam placement — hint: putting the webcams at eye level, so those dialing in remotely have a seat at the table — to installing the dynamic microphone system, and the building material that can absorb echos. All this is easier said than done.
Outside the conference rooms, we wanted this HQ to become a great office to visit when our remote teams come onsite for all-hands or other meetings. This means plenty of hotel desks and a cloud-based office entry system, so employees have physical access to the office using their phone even before their first visit.
Optimized for Employee Health & Wellness
Even though we are solving big, cross-industry problems through technology, our team members are still the most important aspect of our startup studio. We wanted every part of our new HQ optimized towards employee health and wellness. Below are items from our wishlist that we included in our build out:
Accessible Location 101 Mission Street was the perfect location for a team spread out across San Francisco, Oakland, and the South Bay. In addition to being two hundred feet from the ferry terminals, one block from BART, and half a mile from Caltrain, this location also provides a variety of options for employees to get out and enjoy the city.
Natural Light Many studies prove that lighting can boost productivity. Keeping this in mind, we wanted to find a space surrounded by natural light from all sides of the office, and the sweeping views are an added bonus.
Near Perfect Air Quality Our employees breathe fresh, clean air thanks to our eight commercial grade air filters, which use HEPA and VOC canisters to clean and recirculate air in the entire office every 1.5 hours.
Ergonomics in Action Where you work for eight or more hours a day matters. We wanted to provide an optimized workstation after testing different set ups over the years. With motorized sit and stand desks, comfortable ergonomic chairs, standing mats, multiple mouse and keyboard options, dual 4K 27-inch monitors and noise cancelling headphones — everyone can work comfortably and efficiently.
Healthy Food In numerous reports, there has been a show of decline in productivity based on sugar intake that is constantly available in snacks. We want to support a healthy and positive lifestyle by providing more health conscious food options. To support the well-being of our team, we prioritize providing delicious but health-forward snacks in our new café-style kitchen.
Walk Through Our New HQ
Take a virtual tour of our new office, with insights from the team that brought this vision to life.
Our reception area was designed for guests to lounge, enjoy the view, and be comfortable enough to work in.
With four soundproof phone booths, a private place for quick calls is always at hand.
Our main conference room, Wright Flyer overlooks the San Francisco Bay.
Everyone can enjoy the great views, but if privacy is needed during any meeting, we still have the option to activate the smart film on the glass with one simple click.
All the meeting room names were chosen by our team to honor historical planes.
As you walk through the office, you’ll find Wright Flyer, Voyager, X-1, Falcon, Spirit of St. Louis, and Blackbird. In each conference room and all throughout the office, we installed sound masking systems to reduce distractions, increase office comfort, and protect privacy.
Because our team’s health and wellness is important to us, the Spirit of St. Louis conference room has the flexibility of turning into a wellness room, where employees can tend to their personal health needs. It’s particularly beneficial to new mothers who return from maternity leave and need a private space.
In the center of the action is our all-hands space, dedicated to team gatherings and community events. The AV system is tucked out of sight, coming alive with a drop-down projector and wireless mics, all controlled through a custom built touch panel.
We also wanted to celebrate the Wright Brothers with decorative wallpaper showcasing the blueprint of the Wright Flyer, as a daily reminder to “build the plane as we fly it.”
As we transition into the dining and kitchen area, we installed a multi-purpose divider displaying company accolades and Wilbur Labs swag.
We created a dining area where our team can enjoy each other’s company, share celebrations like birthdays or work anniversaries, and host happy hours. A Frame TV was mounted on the wall to exhibit a rotating art collection during office hours; and then during break time, we can watch everything from funny animal videos to sports. Plus, the dining space doubles as an informal meeting area, where the backside of the shelf can be used as a whiteboard.
A notable upgrade from the eating nook of our previous office, the new kitchen features café-style seating. We look forward to having many more catered lunches and team bonding events in this space in the future.
As our portfolio continues to expand, we’re always looking for creative and passionate self-starters to join our team. Please visit our careers page to apply for a role at Wilbur Labs or one of our portfolio companies.
Thank you to everyone on our team who helped put this office together, the Huntsman Architectural Group, and our partners who helped make this big move possible. Like everything at Wilbur Labs, it was a team effort to bring this office to life and we’re excited to keep moving forward with our new HQ.
Wilbur Labs is a San Francisco-based startup studio. We turn bold ideas into market-leading companies.