Twitter, Square, Slack, and Shopify have announced a permanent transition to remote work. Pinterest broke their $90M lease on office space, and Facebook has a 10-year trajectory for a remote-first approach. With 42% of the labor force in the United States now working remotely full-time, traditional office life is becoming a thing of the past.
For business school students, remote work and study is an especially relevant concern: With most campuses closed, they have less opportunity to organically grow their personal and professional network. While ditching in-person lectures may grant greater flexibility and freedom, the isolated nature of at-home study inhibits human connection, collaboration, and the ability to maintain university culture.
Enter Gable, a platform that transforms residential and commercial spaces into distributed workspaces — right in your neighborhood. Targeted to remote workers, companies, and students, Gable, founded by Stanford GSB graduate Liza Mash Levin, helps students and workers find the space to collaborate on projects, meet new people, expand their socially distanced connections — even earn additional income by becoming a host.
FROM ISOLATION TO COLLABORATION
“For most people, it doesn’t matter how many things you invest in the home office. Still, working and studying from home doesn’t provide the outlet most people crave,” says Levin, CEO of Gable.
Born in Moldova and raised in Israel, Levin moved to the U.S. when she was hired as a software engineer for Microsoft. Before she began the accelerated MSx program at Stanford in 2019, she took a one-month leave of absence and worked remotely.
“I invited two of my friends to come to my house and work with me,” she says. “I realized that there are so many people that are working remotely, and that are geographically close, but don’t know each other. I thought, why not work or study with like-minded people who share your interests to increase your personal and business network? That was how Gable started.”
Co-founded with Israel-based CTO Omri Haviv, Gable has 25 spaces in San Francisco and 10 more elsewhere in the Bay Area. Levin’s goal: growing to 50 by the end of 2020.
“We’ve had a lot of requests from around the world, in countries like Israel, Germany, Sweden, and India,” she says. “There’s such a huge amount of un-utilized space. We don’t own any real estate, and that’s one of the greatest things about our business model.”
CO-WORKING IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD
When Levin began her studies at Stanford, she discovered that she was an introvert. “It wasn’t a very straightforward thing for me to come and meet new people. When I first moved to the U.S., I was very lonely.”
Gable became her outlet. Seeking to solve the problem of isolation as a remote worker and student, Levin and Haviv began working on Gable to make co-working more accessible.
“Most remote workers go to co-working spaces, which are big complexes with the majority in major hubs,” she says. “If someone lives in a residential neighborhood, why would they commute? That’s why Gable is focused on residential locations to make sure that people have easier access to coworking.”
Gable offers different subscription tiers based on how much a worker or student plans on using the spaces. The point is to provide a place for people to connect, collaborate, and thrive.
“Think of Gable as the Airbnb of co-working,” Levin says. “We have two types of hosts. One is a person that already operates the space for their business. This person has a great setup and Gable helps to maximize the usage of their space, such as in the evenings and on weekends. Another type is a remote worker that stays at home, wants company, and wants to leverage their space to get additional income.”
GABLE FOR B-SCHOOL STUDENTS
While quarantine has inevitably turned many homes into impromptu offices, Levin describes the increasing need for a third space — for remote workers and students alike.
“A third space isn’t your home, your office, or your school, but a place close to home where you can be productive and work throughout the day with your colleagues, classmates, or a small group of people.”
Gable not only provides workers and students with a third place, it helps to connect them with like-minded people. “A lot of student-led startups require meeting the right people. So one of the draws to this platform is the social aspect.”
How it works: Users create a profile on the Gable app describing their interests, work, or area of study. The platform then filters the spaces available by location and similar user profiles. Each guest knows who the other people are and their interests prior to booking on the app.
Levin says they’re doing everything according to federal guidelines to make the spaces as safe as possible, such as maintaining 6 feet between guests, wearing masks, completing a health questionnaire prior to entering the space, and sanitizing everything after each use.
“There are so many team projects required in business school,” Levin says. “Gable makes meeting up as a team easy — they can get together in a location close to where students live in order to collaborate and work together.”
Gable also provides business students with a simple way to connect with individuals from other schools. “At Stanford, people from the business school often collaborate with people from the medicine or engineering school. This platform makes cross-school collaboration simple by providing a safe space to meet.”
STANFORD & THE STARTUP PROCESS
Levin and Haviv did their research prior to seeking funding on remote workers’ biggest pain points. They spoke to hundreds of remote workers and companies who hire remote CEOs.
“The vast majority of people said that they would use Gable because they understand the need for a third space; a place that people can still collaborate, even in small pods, and maintain the flexibility of not going to the office while still having a change of scenery.”
After graduating from Stanford, Liza worked on Gable full-time. She approached the MBA Fund, a VC-focused on helping early-stage student and alumni founders. They introduced her to more VCs and, with overwhelmingly positive feedback, gained interest from several Stanford-affiliated VCs and angel investors.
“It became like a rollercoaster of Stanford people that loved the idea and wanted to invest.”
With a few hundred thousand dollars invested by January Ventures, Unpopular VC, the MBA Fund, Yasmin Lukatz, Olga Maslikhova, and other angel investors, Levin and Haviv are building a team to scale their company, including front-end developers, UX designers, marketing experts, and operational support.
“COVID forced companies to transition to remote work, but the silver lining is that companies now understand the great benefits of a distributed and remote workforce: The ability to access global and diverse talent and save costs on physical offices. I believe that with this new reality, companies that want to stay competitive must offer a remote solution for their employees.”
A DREAM COME TRUE
Levin dreamed about getting a master’s degree from Stanford since she was 18. She chose to do the accelerated master’s program instead of the traditional two-year MBA, graduating in June 2020.
It was a wild year: Not only was she juggling school and work, but she was also starting a family. “I never thought I would be able to do what I did in one year: I immigrated to the U.S., got my master’s degree, started a company, and gave birth to my daughter, Emma, one day after classes ended,” she says.
Levin laughs as she recounts doing an investor pitch five days after her daughter was born. “The female CEO is a tough hat to wear. I’m used to being the only woman in the room because I worked in engineering, which is a very male-dominated environment. But I see being a woman as an advantage.”
Expecting to climb the corporate ladder her whole life rather than start her own company, Levin says Stanford shifted her mindset and goals.
“You hear incredible stories of people that had a thought of something and started their own company; people that had huge amounts of grit and resilience,” she says. “Some failed, some succeeded, but either way they learned a lot. I decided that I loved building things; that’s my profession. And there is no reason that I can’t focus on what makes me happy every day.”
Her advice for B-school students looking to get into start-ups: “If you want something, just do it. What’s the worst thing that could happen? See everything as an incredible learning experience.”