Week of August 7, 2000
  Snapshot from the Field

Online Real Estate's Evolution:
Findaspace Contest Giving Away Office Space

Not so many years ago, you couldn't give away stock in companies that were taking real estate online. Now, though, an online real estate company is giving away space.

The space giveaway is part of a clever promo from findaspace.com (www.findaspace.com), a commercial real estate Web site for leasing or buying space. A specialist in small spaces of less than 5,000 sq. ft. (450 sq. m.), findaspace.com is the midst of what it calls its "best business plan competition" for aspiring entrepreneurs. (The business plan form, natch, is online.)

Underway since July, the contest will conclude on Sept. 15. A judging panel composed of findaspace employees will later announce the winner -- who won't need findaspace.com's online "calculator suite" to figure the rent. There isn't any. The winner receives six months of free space in findaspace's office in Falls Church, Va.

The free-space race, says findaspace President Tony Mayo, is designed to focus attention on the benefits of office-space sharing, particularly for startup firms.

Wanted: Jedi Master of Brevity

Before you start feverishly penning your own plan, though, there are a few "ifs." Most significantly, findaspace competitors must "live within 75 miles (127.5 km.) of Falls Church," according to contest rules. In addition, participants must be 18 years old or older, and "top finalists" must supply "a bank reference and submit to a criminal background check" (the latter requirement, of course, eliminates a number of onetime government employees who worked in nearby Washington, D.C.).

The winner must also be a Jedi Master of brevity.

Contest rules specify that participants must in "100 to 500 words [describe] the business he or she intends to run from the free office, focusing on why he or she thinks sharing an office with findaspace will benefit his or her business." (Come to think of it, if all business plans - and political speeches - had similar limits, many of us would save tons of time.)

Coming Soon?
'My Escape from Cubicle Hell'

Considering how many businesses have begun in garages and closet-size hovels, the findaspace winner will likely enjoy a huge upgrade.

The victor "will have a one- or two-person office, furnished with desks, chairs, a filing cabinet, high-speed Internet connection and a phone with free local service," plus free kitchen and conference room use, according to the rules.

As for this corner, we're hoping that the winner will be some beleaguered "Dilbert" type, who could then use the space to pen a page-turning business potboiler -- "My Escape from Cubicle Hell."

After which, of course, he or she would probably return to Cubicle Hell.



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