Humble Bundle and Sitecore are striking a design balance between start-up vibe and global success, where each employee can thrive among tech companies.
Many start-up technology companies are known for high-energy environments—places where innovation, market growth, and success come fast and furious. Yet the challenge is to retain that start-up vibe as they grow or merge with larger companies and move to more central locations.
Two such technology companies are striking a balance between start-up energy and Class A real estate prestige. Humble Bundle and Sitecore, both long-term clients with HGA’s Melissa Pesci, recently moved into new design-forward workplaces in downtown San Francisco to accommodate their growth—while still retaining the culture that led to their success.
Humble Aesthetics at Humble Bundle
Experiencing extensive growth since its founding in 2010, Humble Bundle today offers a full on-line store of games and bundles, subscription service, game publishing, and other services since merging with Ziff Davis subsidiary IGN Entertainment as a separate subsidiary in 2017.
With this growth, Humble Bundle sought an expanded workplace that expressed their business success in a Class A location with added amenities that would increase visibility and recruitment for their growing 60-person team—yet still express a “humble” aesthetic in keeping with their charitable outreach.
Their previous workplace at 201 Post Street, a block from Union Square, offered historic industrial charm with high ceilings and exposed structural systems, but it also had a small floorplate that limited growth potential and a less-than-central location.
The company enlisted Pesci and HGA to help transition into a larger space where they could achieve business goals while continuing to recruit talent. Pesci brought a wealth of real estate and design knowledge to the program. With more than 15 years assisting clients in site selection and workplace design services in San Francisco, she knows the ins-and-out of the local market, buildings codes, and individual buildings themselves.
Pesci and Humble Bundle leadership toured several properties closer to the Financial District—assessing a host of factors, from floor plate size to building amenities, public transportation access, codes and standards, and general aesthetic image.
They finally identified 160 Spear Street, a 19-story refurbished, sustainably operated building with a variety of compatible tech and public tenants in the Rincon Hill District. Offering such on-site amenities as two restaurants, bike racks, fitness center, valet parking, and 24-hour security within walking distance to the bustling Embarcadero and public transportation, the building answered their need for high-end amenities in a central location—plus views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
“In the planning process, Melissa and the HGA team truly listened to understand and meet our needs and aspirations for our new space,” said John Graham, co-founder of Humble Bundle. “Diligent in their efforts to find the perfect fit, we could not be happier about the approach and execution of this process. Combing through information generated from the focus and user groups, HGA was methodical and creative in creating solutions for our growth.”
As such, HGA employed a variety of adjustable-height open workstations that flex for different work styles and staff roles. In addition, a series of various-scaled nooks, seating areas, and conference rooms allow individual concentration, small-group collaboration, or large-group meetings.
Finishes reflect the Humble Bundle gaming products, with images of different characters along the walls, and bright-red trimming contrasting against a neutral background. High ceilings, exposed ductwork, and polished concrete floors recall their original location in an historic masonry building. Plus, downtown views remind them that they are now at the center of the business community.
Cultural Shifts at Sitecore
In another instance, Sitecore, a digital consultancy company founded in Demark, has undergone several mergers over the years, eventually opening a U.S. office in 2015 behind warehouses and industrial buildings in Marina Plaza Harbor in Sausalito, California.
In 2018, leadership sought to consolidate their Sausalito office with their San Mateo office in a new space in downtown San Francisco to increase visibility.
Recognizing the potential cultural shift combining two offices, Pesci assisted on change management and formed an internal design committee to gather staff feedback on shared visions. Their original workplace in a mid-rise office building was somewhat hidden and difficult to find for clients and potential new employees as they navigated the harbor front roads.
Pesci again assisted in site selection to weigh Sitecore’s business needs, cultural expectations, and growth potential with the right property—eventually landing at 101 California Street in the heart of the Financial District.
One of San Francisco’s landmark buildings, the 48-story, sustainably designed 101 California by internationally renowned architect Philip Johnson offers a host of on-site amenities surrounded by the energy of one of the nation’s most vibrant business districts.
“Staff wanted something that clearly reflected their individual identity but communicated that they are part of a global company,” Pesci said. “101 California clearly answered that need with great potential for growth—but also with a design sensibility that still recalled their start on the harbor front.”
Inside, the new workplace projects an energizing aesthetic, in which overlapping design elements simultaneously reflect the high-tech California culture and brand of the founding Danish company.
Pops of color—red, blue, purple, orange—offset a neutral backdrop. Vibrant wall graphics mimic the digital analytics reports that they deliver to clients. Clustered seating, high-back banquettes, open workstations, and a communal kitchen define spaces within the open-office concept. Various-sized glass-front conferences rooms support individual heads-down work and group meetings. Acrylic panels and felt curtains modulate visual and noise privacy. And finally, expansive windows offer sweeping views of the downtown skyline, reinforcing the central location for employees and clients.
“Clean and simple has always been our base, and we build from there,” said Rich Etheredge, Vice President of Global Workplace at Sitecore. “HGA not only took time to deeply understand our aesthetic, but also our business offerings, our culture and our approach. They then translated this into our new office design—creating a multilayer concept that is both engaging and dynamic.”
By working closely with the companies’ leadership and team members, HGA helped with change management and designed solutions that supported the existing culture and enabled growth.
“Both Humble Bundle and Sitecore strive for a team environment where all can contribute,” Pesci said. “When companies grow, there is always a chance that individual input can get lost. But here, the companies wanted to ensure there is always a platform for everyone to contribute. Maintaining that individual voice drove the site selection and design vision—and will continue to drive future growth.”