With Co-Working Space Failing, Owner Blasts Tech Community

Venturef0rth owner Marvin Weinberger needs $100,000 to keep the place afloat.

A Philly co-working space is in serious trouble. (gpointstudio/Shutterstock)

A Philly co-working space is in serious trouble. (gpointstudio/Shutterstock)

Marvin Weinberger is not happy with the Philly tech community. The owner of the Venturef0rth co-working space on 8th and Callowhill Streets wrote a scathing letter announcing that the facility will close without $100,000 in donations.

He got right to the point in the letter’s salutation: “Dear colleagues (and I’ll know pretty soon who among you are also ‘friends’).” Ouch.

Although Weinberger admits that the plan all along was to run the space at a deficit, he rants about investing “a small fortune” to acquire and renovate it. He hasn’t been at it very long — he acquired the space in October 2014. It offers perks like a collaborative, dog-friendly workspace with unlimited free coffee and beer.

Now he’s asking the tech community to step up to help save the space.

I’m now turning to you – the broader tech community. Many of you are among the thousands who have attended events (provided at no charge) at Venturef0rth, or used our space for free or low cost to support your own worthy initiatives. I don’t regret showing this generosity. That’s why undertook to initially rescue Venturef0rth. [sic] Only that I’m hoping that now some of you may come to our aid.

We need an immediate infusion of $50,000 and access to an additional $50,000 to subsidize our shortfall until we can reach breakeven. I am open to any and all proposals and am willing to revert to operating Venturef0rth as a conventional shareholder owned corporation (as versus a non-profit, which status has never been formalized). So I would welcome direct investors who share my values as well as the desire to make a profit.

Weinberger did not immediately return a call for comment.

Weinberger’s letter — found on the Philly Startup Leaders listserv — said his startup, American Certified, “failed in its initial focus” costing him more than $500,000. The business since pivoted to a new plan that “requires more cash.” (It’s based at Venturef0rth.)

Perhaps the most intriguing piece of the letter is when Weinberger singles out startup accelerator DreamIt Ventures.

And though we probably have the lowest vacancy of any co-working space in Philadelphia, we’re still not full and consequently continuing to lose a few thousand dollars a month. This problem was exacerbated by my decision to offer space on a deferred-cost basis to many graduates of DreamIt in order to keep these companies from leaving Philadelphia. This generosity was notably never reciprocated by DreamIt (though I was glad for the chance to help some of their great companies).

He goes on to say:

I’ve quietly turned to some pillars of the community for assistance, but have been rebuffed (often rudely). But I don’t intend to name names (other than DreamIt – whose founders reacted callously and have been a huge disappointment).

DreamIt Co-Founder David Bookspan said he’s “saddened” by Venturef0rth’s troubles and is “reaching out to all DreamIt companies that might be affected to offer help and a temporary home if needed.”

He went on to say that DreamIt has a “strong commitment” to Philadelphia.

“We have brought 104 companies and over 400 entrepreneurs from around the globe to Philly to launch their businesses. Startups from places as distant as Singapore, Israel, Australia, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and Hong Kong, as well as many Philadelphia founders have chosen to launch their companies in Philadelphia through DreamIt.

“As much as we are sympathetic to Venturef0rth’s plight, we are a business.  We have a duty to our investors and stakeholders to invest their money and energy where it will maximize the return realized through DreamIt companies. This mission also allows us to do what everyone at DreamIt and in our extended network loves doing most — helping great people build great companies. We would like to see VentureF0rth succeed, and we wish Marvin the very best.”

In a later email, Weingberger walked back his comments about DreamIt, saying he doesn’t blame them for Venturef0rth’s situation.

They’ve simply grown too successful to limit themselves to concerns about where their companies reside. It’s damn hard to raise capital in Philadelphia which is why many of their graduates have no choice but to leave Philadelphia.

Apparently, the tech community is offering support, because Venturef0rth tweeted out the following: