With a new logo, new leaders and new plans for campus renovations, it looks like the recently appointed co-CEOs of 1776 are settling into their new roles with ease.
“We’re saying farewell to the brand that served our Philadelphia-based members so well over the past six years,” said 1776 co-CEO Jennifer Maher in a statement. “With a refreshed mission and focus, we’re excited about the impact our growing team will make on communities and entrepreneurs throughout the Northeast Corridor.”
As of today, the Benjamin’s Desk brand has officially been absorbed into 1776, with the Benjamin’s Desk co-founders Anthony Maher and Jennifer Maher at the helm of the newly combined 1776 as co-CEOs. The announcement of the completed deal came at an event on Wednesday celebrating the launch of 1776’s newest location in Philly’s University City neighborhood.
Back in October, 1776 and Benjamin’s Desk announced a merger deal after weeks of anticipation. The Mahers would stay on as chief executives of the newly combined company, and 1776 co-founder and former CEO Evan Burfield would be executive chairman, stepping down from a day-to-day role to run UNION, a SaaS platform that spun out of 1776.
The merger expands Benjamin’s Desk and 1776’s reach to include Washington, D.C., Wilmington, Delaware; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and New York City. And Jennifer Maher says they’re eyeing new locations along the Northeast Corridor, including possible campuses in the D.C. metro area, North Jersey and Baltimore. Under the arrangement, 1776 Dubai was spun out to join Area 2071, a new government-sponsored incubator and hub for innovation in the United Arab Emirates. All 30 of 1776’s Dubai campus members are now members of Area 2071.
Shortly after the deal was announced, 1776 lost its temporary Brooklyn location in November. The company they were leasing space from needed to take it back as they expanded, and ever since, 1776NY hasn’t had a physical location. Jennifer Maher says it should re-open by the end of the year.
Most of 1776’s pre-deal staff joined UNION with Burfield, including Morgan Gress Johnson (UNION’s SVP of communications and marketing), Dominique Taylor (the SVP of talent & operations who recently left to join Axios) and the 1776 tech team that built UNION. However, much of the on-site campus staff has remained, with the exception of a few campus managers including the D.C. manager position, which remains vacant.
And a handful of existing Benjamin’s Desk staffers bounce between Philadelphia and the D.C. metro area, including Tamra Thompson, who has assumed the role of senior director of programming. Jennifer Maher, a George Washington University alumna, also found a house with her husband in the District, and now they live in both Philadelphia and D.C.
But despite the shakeups that come with any merger and acquisition deal, both Anthony Maher and Jennifer Maher, who are in-laws, have found time to sit down with members from all entities to find out what they really need and want from 1776 moving forward.
Members struggle with scaling their companies, building their platforms and finding and recruiting talents. Jennifer Maher also said members are thinking a lot about how diversity impacts their businesses.
To meet these needs, they’re resetting the D.C. campuses a bit. In the future, they’re looking to add rentable office spaces in the D.C. location, isolating the events space to allow them to host daytime events with minimal disruptions to members and adding a hot desk rate to the membership offerings. All other membership rates will stay the same as of now, and more events will be added to focus on these needs.
“I love building stuff up from the ground up, too,” Jennifer Maher said in an interview. “The good thing about coming into 1776, which is already established, is that we get to put our own stamp on it. Getting connected with people in D.C. and the entrepreneurial ecosystem, figuring out what they need is exciting to me so I can build our own stamp on it with a great infrastructure.”
What might be the most influential change to come is the expansion model. As 1776 look to new cities and campus locations, they plan on tossing the lease out the window. Instead of signing a traditional lease, the Mahers will partner with landlords of office buildings in a different agreement. Other tenants and the landlord can look to 1776 for event space, overflow needs and arrangements for entrepreneurs who want to work in the building but can’t afford their own space yet. In exchange, 1776 gets more flexibility — a model that’s worked out for them at the Philadelphia-area locations.
“We are creating a new kind of amenity space that provides a flexible and collaborative environment for businesses and startups to grow,” said 1776 co-CEO Anthony Maher in a statement. “We’re partnering with landlords and developers to curate and manage square footage in their buildings. These landlords and developers are critically important to growing ecosystems and shaping cities in this new economy.”
1776 now serves more than 1,500 companies across the Northeast U.S.
“You’re going to see a little bit more of the ‘back to the basics,'” Jennifer Maher told DC Inno. “We’re going to stick to the original mission of 1776, really focus on supporting entrepreneurs and really supporting growth entrepreneurs.”