Inside the offices of photo community site 500px
The last time I visited the 500px office it consisted of a few desks in the Ryerson DMZ. There were no staff per se. The founders did pretty much everything at that early stage of the the Toronto-based company's development, from coding to social media to photo curation. Fast forward four years and the former startup has made it, now occupying a sweeping space in a heritage building at 20 Duncan Street, the former home of Syncapse.
The company's office now houses approximately 75 employees, but also a photo studio and and downstairs event space that can be tailored to host film screenings, conferences, art shows, and parties. With exposed brick walls, an indoor bike rack, pod-style spaces, and giant bean bag chairs, this is the type of office you'd expect from a company that's rethinking the way share and use photos.
"I had walked by the building numerous times," co-founder Evgeny Tchebotarev tells me as we chat in a quiet corner on the lower level of the office space. "When I saw that it had become available, I had my heart set on it. I moved on it very quickly."
There's an obvious youthful energy that exudes from this place, part of which comes from Tchebotarev's desire to create a casual office space that puts creativity and collaboration at the forefront. "I wanted to create an office where people would want to work," he explains.
Case in point, you might see a few dogs running around at 500px. Making the workplace dog-friendly was a decision that came easily as part of the overall philosophy to avoid the pitfalls related to a work environment that's overly strict and corporate in nature. Ping pong tables also help in this regard, as do the events that regularly occur in the downstairs space.
These little touches are likely important to a company whose identity has been in flux since multiple rounds of venture capital have lead to major growth and internal restructuring. As the company has grown, a more formal management structure has been put in place, which is a necessity for the long term health of 500px, but also a possible dampener on some of the free flowing energy that has helped shaped the company to date.
It might be an overstatement to suggest that an office space alone can foster the creative will required to sustain the growth of a company, but it sure doesn't hurt. In that regard, 500px is ahead of the game.
Photos by Tom Ryaboi
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