It’s an issue which plagues all startups. In fact, it vexes all companies, large and small. It is the subject of frequent humor in pop culture, from Dilbert to Office Space. But it’s a serious question, worthy of debate.
Zillow has grown from 7 employees when I joined 21 months ago to about 135 people today. We started out all in one large conference room and now we’re on almost two full floors of a highrise in downtown Seattle. Until recently, we were all in offices. But we decided to house some product teams in large open areas to encourage better collaboration.
I’ve seen it work both ways — at my last startup we had 2 floors with a completely open floorplan: no offices at all. Expedia and Microsoft mostly have offices, while Google and Yahoo! have a combination of offices, bullpens (which are larger offices shared by several people) and open space.
The jury is still out at Zillow. I’ll let you know how it goes.