Ask Anik Singal why he chose Montgomery County, Maryland, as the first place for his new entrepreneurship center, and his answer is simple: “It’s that MoCo pride.”
Singal is from the Maryland county bordering the District, but his new center in Rockville will be about more than just Montgomery County. Back in 2004, Singal launched an online community, called Lurn, for both entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs, including courses, a newsletter and in-person events. So far, they have more than 10,000 members and over 64,000 email newsletter subscribers. People from all over the world come to Lurn’s annual events.
That’s why Singal decided to open a physical space for his members to congregate. Opening on Saturday, the Lurn Center is 26,000 sq. ft. of co-working space, event spaces, kitchen and hangout spots and more. It cost $3.5 million to build, and Singal said all of that money came from his business.
“It’s a very unique type of facility for this area, and by this area, I don’t just mean Montgomery County, Maryland,” Singal said. “I’m talking up and down the East Coast. I don’t think there’s any facility like this.”
In all, the Lurn Center has a 140-seat lecture hall, classrooms, streaming audio studios and a video studio (so courses can be livestreamed to Lurn’s online community). It also has 100 “hot desk” co-working memberships, 15 rentable office spaces and an arcade. As a spokesperson told me in an email, “It’s like WeWork on steroids.”
Singal said memberships start at $200 a month for a desk, $400 for a one-to-two-person office and $700 for a three-to-four person office.
But only a third of the facility is dedicated to co-working, Singal said, meaning their entire business isn’t dependent on it — a change from the plethora of co-working spaces that have expanded into the region. Instead, the real moneymaker will be the group’s events, which typically are sold out and draw crowds from around the world.
In 2017, Lurn hosted six events in various hotels up and down the East Coast. Now, with a new space of their own, Singal said they plan to host nine events per month, most of them being free or low-cost. Entrepreneurial trainings will be on the schedule, alongside possible movie nights and sport viewing events.
Singal says the idea for a physical location came to him about five years ago, but he wanted to make sure he could fund the development on his own. No outside funders were going to interfere with his vision.
That’s when he realized that all the money he was spending on hotels and conference centers for his events could just be put into the buildout of the physical learning center.
“Hotels are expensive, and it was so crazy,” Singal said. “We got to a place where the amount of money I spent on hotels and co-work space for the company, I could put that money together and pay for a year’s worth of rent and utilities together for my own facility.”
And chances are, as they continue to build out the space and make plans to expand in the future, co-working might not even be in that expansion equation.
“Where we add tremendous value is in our specialization, our education and our teaching. For us, that’s where we are focused. We may not even add more co-working space, we may add more classrooms and collaboration space.”