Best Offices 2017: Space Odyssey

How One Portland Software Company Scaled Up

Video streaming company Elemental went from two rooms in 2006 to 100,000 square feet today. How'd they do it?

By Marty Patail May 15, 2017 Published in the June 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Come fall 2017, Elemental will move from these headquarters at SW Broadway and Oak to the former Oregonian building about 10 blocks north, also on SW Broadway.

CEO Sam Blackman of video streaming company Elemental explains how his company grew out of the proverbial garage.

2006 Blackman and two other engineers at Tualatin-based Pixelworks quit their jobs and found video encoding company in a two-room, 600-square-foot space of the Harrison Square building at the southern end of downtown. “We were just very focused on being out of the suburbs,” Blackman says. 

2007 After struggling to squeeze even a couple more employees into the space, Elemental moves one floor down to a 900-square-foot office. The fledgling company grows by five people.

2008 Elemental expands to the 1,500-square-foot basement of a residential building near Portland State at SW Fourth and Hall. While larger, the underground space has issues: “It was the lowest-brow space we’ve had,” remembers Blackman. “When there were toilet flushes above, sometimes water would come into our office.”

2009 Elemental escapes the ceiling leaks to the fourth floor of the Failing Office Building on SW Fifth Avenue, which, at 5,800 square feet, comfortably fits a workforce expanded to 20. “This was our first nicer space. It was the first professional-feeling space.”

2012 Change comes hard and fast now. Elemental moves into the top two floors of 225 SW Broadway, above what was then the sports bar Silver Dollar II.

2015 Elemental expands to the top four floors, eventually growing to 37,700 square feet. Still, by 2017, the firm is bursting at the seams. According to Blackman, lack of space is a frequent complaint in employee surveys. “There’s ample opportunity for collaborations,” he says with a laugh, “positive and negative.”

2015 Amazon Web Services acquires Elemental for a reported $330 million.

Fall 2017 Elemental’s 300-some employees will move into a newly renovated 100,000-square-foot office in the former Oregonian building on SW Broadway. The new space will allow elbow room but stick to the company’s strict luxury-lite, no-kegerator policy.

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