WE Labs is officially a Long Beach staple: the city’s first co-work space. It has been through thick and thin having to raise funds for an impromptu move to the Pacific Southwest Building at Broadway and Long Beach Blvd. after its all-too-short residency at the Dr. Rowan Building.
But it has survived.
And even more, WE Labs is looking to make Long Beach survive (and more importantly, go into an altogether different direction in regard to) its much-too-long drought in bringing technological innovation toward the city. Instead of trying to draw business and capital investment in, WE Labs founders Markus Manley and Robbie Brown are attempting to draw up the local creative economy through its PitchLab.
“Long Beach isn’t the type of city big business should just move into,” Manley said. “We need to build our own creative industries so that, in the future, profitable and sustainable businesses come from Long Beach.”
“We want to keep Long Beach weird and creative by growing our own sustainable culture of innovators. And have big business come for the quality of expertise local innovators offer.”
It began as a every-other-Friday casual gathering for $5 to use the WE Labs space freely in order to generate ideas—and its popularity has caused WE Labs co-founder Markus Manley to something larger: a once a month evening with a guaranteed panel featuring a venture capitalist, a vetted tech industry person, a marketing guru, and a lawyer. Manley even plans on having Google hangouts so that those unable to make it to the actual space can still join in on the discussion.
“My motivation behind PitchLab is the same as to why I started WE Labs, “Manley said. “To give members and guests the opportunity to share their ideas, get perspective, and form alliances with other active innovators all within a comfortable and productive space.”
The broader hope for the inaugural event—set for the month of April—is to have guests freely pitch ideas unfiltered in order to hear criticism or praise in return that will help them bolster and hone their ideas.
“Since most of our members and guests are start-ups or freelancers on a bootstrap budget, this is invaluable,” Manley said. “People walk in with their idea and walk out with advice from the variety of skilled attendees, a network of active local entrepreneurs, a team to help realize the project to completion, and sometimes new business partners.”
Thus far, Manley and WE Labbers have helped others in the community connect—with some pitches even being significantly revised after hearing commentary after their PitchLab premiere.
And should one be scared that your idea is going to be stolen from you?
“This may come off blunt,” Manley said, “but nobody else cares nearly as much about your idea as you do. Creative and innovative minds not only enjoy, but need to discuss ideas. Discussing ideas is our favorite cerebral workout. Most of us are already committed to one, if not thirteen ideas.”
For Manley, if the idea is susceptible to theft, it isn’t creative: he wittily pointed out that PitchLabs isn’t looking to hear about “potato chips with ridges.” PitchLab is looking for quality change on a broad scale: social change, technological awareness and advancement, urban farming on a global scale, business networking, connecting the vast fitness network spreading across Long Beach, alternative currencies…
“With a city so diverse and already brewing with creative talent, our mission is making Long Beach a place where unique ideas aren’t just for discussion, but are taken to action,” Manley said. “We want to keep Long Beach weird and creative by growing our own sustainable culture of innovators. And have big business come for the quality of expertise local innovators offer.”
PitchLab currently happens every 1st and 3rd Friday of the month (that means tomorrow is the next). It is free for WE Lab members, $5 for guests, and $10 for those wishing to pitch. A free day pass to WE Labs is included for both guests and pitchers.
All photos courtesy of Lisa Beth Anderson.