Many in the Kansas City startup community often call upon corporations to better engage with earlier stage entrepreneurs.
Virgin Mobile USA wants to flip that script, said Justin Scott, Virgin Mobile director of communications.
Despite being a subsidiary of Sprint Corporation and backed by billionaire investor Richard Branson, the firm — which selected Kansas City for its new headquarters in 2016 — considers itself “very much a startup.”
“We have plans to continue infiltrating the startup community,” Scott said. “When we started in July in 2016, there were only three people (in Virgin Mobile’s office). The team has since grown from 3 to 65, so we truly are a startup ourselves.”
The firm regularly collaborates with the Sprint Accelerator, Pinsight+ Media, Kansas City Women in Technology, the KC Tech Council and the Downtown Council. No matter how you define “startup”, Virgin Mobile is intentional about creating a culture of collaboration and disruption, Scott said, which will benefit the Kansas City community.
“We’re very scrappy,” he said. “We put stuff on the walls and write on the windows. We allow jeans and relaxed dress. Even though we have Sprint behind us, we didn’t want to be Sprint culturally, so in essence, we are a startup.”
This summer, Virgin Mobile moved into its newly renovated, swanky office downtown at One Kansas City Place. The 11,000 square feet office takes over about half of the 24th floor, Scott said.
The walls have been painted bright red to spur creativity and the layout was designed to promote an open and accessible workflow, Scott said.
“We’re really happy with it,” he said. “As you can see, everyone is situated on the outside perimeter of the office, so everybody has nice views. There’s no individual offices, even our CEO, CMO and COO all sit right over there.”
Collaboration and proximity are the two biggest benefits of an open floor plan, he said.
“You can shout over the room and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’” Scott said. “In our case, CEO Dow Draper is a very personable, approachable guy anyway, so the floor plan makes him even more accessible. He is able to pick up on the office chatter, jokes and banter, so it works well for him and for the team to have access to his leadership.”
In January, the State of Missouri agreed to grant up to $1.87 million in incentives to the firm if it would create 84 new jobs over the next five years, via the Missouri Works program. With 65 employees and five spots currently available, Virgin Mobile is “well ahead” of that goal, Scott said.
“It’s not been hard to hire Kansas City talent at all,” he said. “We’ve also attracted folks from Toronto, Portland, Denver, Seattle and others, which I think speaks very highly of Kansas City and is amazing. We didn’t have to fly people and move, but the fact that we could is a testament to Kansas City. It has put itself on the map as an attractive city to live, work and play.”
To check out photos of the new Virgin Mobile office space, see below.