When Brex co-founders Pedro Franceschi and Henrique Dubugras were fundraising for their idea of creating a corporate credit card specifically for startups, they had no office. Instead, they met with venture capitalists at coffee shops and nearby, San Francisco city parks.
“You don’t know exactly who’s there. It could be anyone that’s around,” Dubugras told Business Insider in a recent interview, describing the duo’s experience of fundraising from local coffee shops. “We really wanted a more private space.”
Dubugras said that many other founders they met through Y Combinator — the renowned startup accelerator, which Brex participated in during the winter of 2017 — faced a similar dilemma of having important meetings with nowhere to host them.
Almost two years and a $1.1 billion valuation later, the credit card startup has opened a lounge space in San Francisco’s South Park district to give Brex cardholders a place to gather — whether that be to work, hold meetings, or socialize.
“Brex is about empowering entrepreneurship,” Dubugras said. “For us, this is just a manifestation of that. It’s hard to be an entrepreneur. [The lounge] is a place where you can go and meet other people who are going through the same struggle as you are. Like, ‘Hey, I also don’t have a place to take meetings.”
Dubbed the “Oval Room” — named after both the Oval Office (where big decisions are made) and the shape of the nearby park (South Park) — the space feels like a homier version of a WeWork, with sectional couches instead of communal work tables. It’s also far smaller than a typical co-working space — the lounge is perched above what used to be a neighborhood cafe.
The members-only space will be open from 9am to 5pm Tuesday-Friday, not including after hour community events. The board meeting room and a private lounge room are also be available for cardholders to book for free throughout the week.
Already, one startup founder we spoke to, Deon Nicholas, is excited to start using the space for networking. He also says the lounge would have come in handy for candidate interviews before his company —Forethought— moved into its new office.
“We had a candidate come by our co-working space, who in the end, we didn’t get,” Nicholas said. “We asked what were some things we could have done better and he said, ‘You know, having an actual space would have been great.'”
Even with the potential upsides for startups, as Fyre Festival documentaries linger in the popular zeitgeist, comparison’s between Brex’s Oval Room and Billy McFarland’s Magnises Townhouse in New York City are hard to ignore. Dubugras stressed the difference.
“It’s not about exclusivity,” Dubugras said. “But rather its the ability to deliver on the promise of combining a meeting space with the services and support entrepreneurs actually need to run their business.”
Today, only startup founders and their employees can hold a Brex credit card. In February, the also company allowed e-commerce business owners to join.
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