The idea behind the incubator known as Gangplank was that young professionals would gather to share ideas for new products and business models that will launch all kinds of new firms.
But perhaps Gangplank’s first new concept to go big is Gangplank itself.
The nonprofit organization is expanding to Tucson and an undisclosed West Valley city, and it’s in talks with businesses and economic development offices in other states and nations.
While small-business incubators are common, co-founder Jade Meskill said he hasn’t found another place like Gangplank. It offers free rent to individuals or groups as long as they collaborate on a wide range of creative high-tech ideas that could include web development, design, marketing or photography.
“We haven’t seen anything that is exactly like Gangplank,” Meskill said. “There are a lot of people trying to create similar spaces. The thing that I think we have that’s a little bit different is we focus on developing our community. It’s not about the space.”
Gangplank has a deal to locate inside a building that Bookmans recently bought in Tucson and has already completed the 2,500-square-foot space. Meskill is still working to get the right anchor tenants to launch the concept there and expects to open it soon. He’s working on a West Valley locale, too, saying the unnamed city is eager to replicate what Gangplank has done in Chandler. Gangplank’s influence goes beyond technology by helping many downtown businesses improve their social media and websites, said Teri Killgore, the downtown redevelopment manager. While Chandler is known for its tech industry with companies like Intel, Gangplank is making downtown attractive to tech-savvy entrepreneurs who want to collaborate with similar professionals.
“When you talk Intel, you’re talking large manufacturing technology,” she said. “Gangplank focuses more on software and small to medium scale technology.”
Several of Gangplank’s tenants are working with the city on potential downtown locations, Killgore said.
Gangplank is in its third location since its founding in 2008. Its requirements grew from 2,000 square feet at first. Soon Gangplank will grow to 15,000 square feet, up from 6,600 today. “We’re bursting at the seams already,” Meskill said. “We have a lot more people that would love to move in but we’re severely constrained on space right now.”
Up to 50 people a day come to Gangplank, at 260 S. Arizona Ave. The building houses 14 “anchor” entities, and some have expanded to the point they can move out on their own. One of the most successful is HeatSync Labs, a tech-based workshop that plans to move soon and is being courted by Mesa and other Valley cities.
Gangplank’s interest from out of state is welcome, but Meskill said he’s focusing on Arizona expansion for now to make sure the model can be replicated elsewhere with the same approach.
“We think that competition and collaboration are really great,” he said. “They only thing is we wish people would collaborate with us. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and have had to learn the hard way and we’re more than willing to share our experiences.”
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