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Chapel Hill Innovation District News – Aaron Keck Show, August 5, 2019

Gregg Gerdau and David Hait

Aaron Keck:  We are going to begin this hour by Talking Carolina Coworking, which is a really cool Carolina Coworking space right downtown on West Franklin Street.  206 West Franklin Street, founded by Gregg Gerdau and Gregg Gerdau joins us here in the studio today to talk about Carolina Coworking and also has a special guest alongside him.  David Hait, who is the CEO and founder of Option Metrics, founded 20 years ago now using the Carolina Coworking space downtown.  Gregg, David, thank you so much for being with us today.  So Gregg, let me start with you.  Tell us about Carolina Coworking for people who don’t know what is it and what people do there.

Gregg Gerdau:  Carolina Coworking is a new space right downtown in the Innovation District, and we define the innovation district as the TIBCO building, the Google building and our building.  And, of course, the UNC innovation vice chancellor’s office, which is the building right next to us.  That’s a little square of town, but there’s a lot going on down there.  We were very thrilled to get the space to develop.  We’ve got about 8,000 square feet of private offices, coworking desks, a conference center and kitchen.  And we’ve been holding events all last year and we’ve had some interesting people come to use it, including the entire Daily Tar Heel staff.  Nice. When they were temporarily put out of their offices.  Was that a more exciting day than usual or it was because they’re just exciting people.  That’s all there is to it.  And we’ve also hosted meetings for the Chamber of Commerce.  We have done events from telling people how to do startup law to how to put products on Amazon and all of this as a community service because we’re looking to build a larger community of creatives and professionals right here in downtown Chapel Hill.

Aaron Keck:  And Carolina Coworking is right downtown and its part of this kind of larger coworking space movement or I’m hearing more and more about this.

Gregg Gerdau:  Yes, it is.  A lot of landlords have found it very profitable in deal flow.  If you can take in 10 companies and one of them does well and wants to rent more space, well that’s a good deal.  That’s almost the same model as venture capitalists have. And we know when one out of 10 does well the other nine might not do as well.  But that one is going to grow and they’re increasingly more interested in having companies come in at an earlier stage.  Even if it’s just a guy with an idea or a gal with a PowerPoint, we can accommodate them.  How long has it been around?  We’ve been down there since October of last year.  So we’re new. It’s all beautifully furnished. I hope you’ll come and visit us.

Aaron Keck: That definitely is a matter for action.

Gregg Gerdau: We think you should move your studios down there, but that’s another story.

Aaron Keck:  We may consider it.  Yeah. We’ll have to share space with the DTH but I think we can make that work, right?  We’re speaking with Gregg Gerdau.  We’ve also got David Hait, which I’m just now realizing, I don’t know if I’m pronouncing your last name right.  Hayte or height, height, height, sorry. David Hait is joining us here in the studio, CEO and founder of Option Metrics, which did not start in Chapel Hill right but has moved here.

David Hait: Yes.  Actually we’ve expanded here. Okay. Our main offices are in New York City in Manhattan and we are looking to expand our engineering software engineering staff.  Chapel Hill seemed like the perfect place for it.  So tell us the story of Option Metrics.

Aaron Keck:  How did they get it started?

David Hait:  Well, 20 years ago it was a one person firm that one person was me.  I came from an engineering background and a finance background.  And our particular area of expertise is data to help investors specifically in the options market do research in the markets and figure out how best to invest.  We have about 300 or so clients, mostly financial institutions. We also have a very significant number of academic institutions that use our data for pure research, usually in their business schools.  After the firm started, we had some pretty steady growth over the last 20 years and we are now at the point where we have a sort of gotten to the point where we need extra help, extra developers, extra programmers, and extra software engineers.

Aaron Keck: Has it been steady growth for 20 years?  Because the markets have been very up and down in those two decades.

David Hait:  Thankfully it has, interestingly enough, because we deal with options, options actually do very well in choppy markets.  So the more volatility the happier we are. Awesome.  So speaking with David Hait at Option Metrics, one of many companies that use Carolina Coworking, which is right downtown, by the way, this conversation sponsored by Carolina Coworking and we’ll let you know in a minute how you can get more information on that space, which is located at 206 West Franklin Street.  So David, what is it that brought you to Chapel Hill generally into Carolina Coworking in particular?

David Hait:  You know, I was actually a summer intern down here 35 years ago with IBM in Research Triangle Park and I fell in love with Chapel Hill.  I think it’s a great town and it’s still a great place.

Aaron Keck:  That is my story too, like everyone you talk to, it’s like, oh yeah, and I spent five minutes in Chapel Hill and never left.

David Hait:  Exactly the story.

Aaron Keck:  That’s your story too, right?

Gregg Gerdau:  Yeah, exactly.

David Hait:  When the time came, we realized that the job market for new hires in New York is getting very, very tight.  It’s very difficult to find qualified technical people who will stay around and be there for a while.  Also, the economic situation in New York has gotten very difficult as well. Prices keep going up and taxes keep going up because everyone’s got to live in New Jersey or Connecticut or two hour long commutes and things like that.  And when we started looking and thinking about places to expand to or to diversify into, North Carolina was, was very high on the list.  And of course my connection to Chapel Hill, that was where I wanted to be.

Aaron Keck:  Cool.  So what does a coworking space get you in general?

David Hait:  So we’re starting here completely from scratch.  It’s not like I’m moving anybody down from New York.  We are hiring people and having them work right here.  Right now we have two employees.  It’s very difficult to come down and say, okay, I need office space for two people or for four people and there’s a lot obviously involved in getting new office space put together.  This was just a very easy solution.  We can put our people there and they can start from day one, they can get ready and work, they have internet, they have nice desks, a nice facility, free coffee, perfectly located and there’s not a 10 year commitment like I would have on an office lease.

Aaron Keck:  That’s terrific.  Again, speaking with David Hait, also Gregg Gerdau, talking about Carolina Coworking.  So back over to you Gregg.  What do people need to know about a Carolina Coworking?  If people are listening to this and think, oh, that’s exactly the space that I’m looking for or that might be the space I’m looking for.  I want to know more.  Where can people go?

Gregg Gerdau:  Well, you can go to www.carolinacoworking.com everything is explained there.  There are great shots of our interior and all of our rates are there.  So we have rates that go from a $25 day pass, to private offices that have beautiful furniture.  Brand new electric sit-stand desks, very private.  It’s very professional. It’s not clubby.  I think that the people that David hired and the people that have been using this space so far really appreciate the fact that it’s centrally located as well as the fact that it’s very sophisticated and nice to work in.

Aaron Keck:  Awesome.  www.CarolinaCoworking.com right.  The website and anything else that people need to know about the space that we haven’t had a chance to touch on here?

Gregg Gerdau:  I think the main thing is that it is new.  It’s right downtown, right across the street from Target.  We’ve got plenty of parking downtown.

Aaron Keck:  You’re buried the lead there.  You have plenty of parking. All right.

Gregg Gerdau:  And everybody that that has come to see it so far, whether for a meeting, or for an event like our mayor who was one of our first guests, has really enjoyed the space and we’re enjoying having Option Metrics new employees there.  They seem to be thriving, drinking lots of coffee and getting all of David’s work done.

Aaron Keck:  Sounds good.  And David Hait, I’ll give you the last word.  People want to know more about Option Metrics.  Where can they go?

David Hait:  Absolutely.  www.optionmetrics.com.

Aaron Keck:  Go there and find out more about them.  And again, www.CarolinaCoworking.com for more about Carolina Coworking at 206 West Franklin Street right downtown and recently opened and opened for you.  David, Gregg, thank you so much for being with us today.

Gregg Gerdau:  Thank you very much.