You've probably heard of co-working spaces, and maybe you've heard of co-living spaces, but John Whatley believes in getting the best of both worlds — so with DreamHouse, his team has combined the two into one concept he calls "co-existing."
DreamHouse is the first of a planned network of locations where entrepreneurs can not only live affordably while sharing common expenses, but also work side-by-side either from the home itself or at one of the many co-working spaces DreamHouse has access to.
"We wanted to move towards WeWork and WeLive combined together. Many locations do just living, not work," says John, the founder and CEO of DreamHouse. "Most co-living spaces don't offer the co-working component that we do, and in turn many co-working spaces lack the feeling of community and connectivity that we hope our residents will experience."
The idea first came to John when he was doing an internship in real estate, and he was sleeping on the floor overnight at his co-working space to get projects completed. He met others doing the same, and said it was "just not comfortable." Then he moved overseas and worked in other countries for awhile, noting how they each did housing and roommates differently.
"It's really a European idea to take multiple people and make living together comfortable," notes John, "and it doesn't happen much in the U.S. like that — maybe places like San Francisco or D.C., where people just can't afford to stay in the city and live alone."
He began to envision bringing back a new concept to "pay it forward" when he returned to the States. And so, with support from his family (and some inspiration from Walt Disney), DreamHouse was born.
"We want to give people the option to stay in the city affordably, with amenities, as a package deal. So you don't have to pay, for example, electricity on top of monthly rent," John explains.
DreamHouse works on nine- to 12-month leases, which establishes security for the residents and predictable revenue for the DreamHouse team.
The first "demo" location has three artist residents now, with a second house on the way. The locations are fully furnished, including items like dishes, and provide services like monthly mentorships, occasional chef-cooked dinners, grocery delivery, laundry facilities, and utilities included up to a certain cap. They also work with companies like Partnr, so residents can post projects and freelance ideas and talk back and forth to each other. (The team is planning a proprietary member platform as well.)
The original approach has changed a little from John's first vision, moving to owning the properties versus renting. "We're finding it is more to our benefit to own property than rent or partner with landlords, and conducting our growth that way," says John.
From the Founder: What was the hardest part of launching, and what was the best part?
"The hardest part was figuring out a system that works for both us and our partners; the best part was meeting the startups and artists in Atlanta!"
What was the hardest part of launching, and what was the best part?
"Wheat is wheat even if everyone sees it as only grass right now. Keep growing."
DreamHouse leverages co-working spaces in town, and though each space negotiates whatever terms work, the end result is access to many locations for the DreamHouse residents.
They also offer a referral program, as a discount on a month's rent for every new resident recommended to them.
There are three DreamHouse locations now lined up, including one going entirely to another local startup's cohort, and one to concentrate entirely on entrepreneurs. The team is focused on building buzz, as John says that getting the word out has been one of the hardest things for them so far: "Good ideas can get lost in the chatter of the internet."
The DreamHouse team hopes to expand beyond Atlanta, not just nationally but internationally, and provide resident access to any DreamHouse during travel. With part of the team already in Denver, London and Sacramento, those locations may be high on the next target list.
John says what the DreamHouse team typically looks for in residents are young adults (in their late twenties to early thirties) who are looking to downsize their living space, concentrate on their career, grow and meet new people, learn the landscape, and who have an interest in the sharing community. While a strong tech background isn't paramount, an interest in startups, entrepreneurs and a connection to community are.
"You have to be friendly and willing to share space and time with others," John says. "We've had some applicants who are moving into town for a coding school like Iron Yard, for example, and we've been talking to Tech Talent South about hackathons and overnight events."
So if you think you're the perfect fit for the next DreamHouse cohort, apply online and use #StayDreamHouse to tag them on social.
They're looking forward to meeting their new roommates!