In Long Beach, a place for startups to make waves

Bridgeworks co-founder Graham Beck.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Graham Beck is flexible.

Like his father, Planet Payment founder Phillip Beck, the young entrepreneur has an innate ability to go with the flow. This at least partially explains an unlikely career path that’s led from Syracuse University (BS, biology, 2014) to the mobile-app business to his current venture, an enterprise that both capitalizes on and caters to Long Island’s burgeoning startup ecosystem.

But startups are only part of the story at Bridgeworks, a Long Beach co-working space that, unlike some business centers, stays true to the “co-working” mantra. Less an incubator than a home for transient professionals, Bridgeworks – which began interviewing tenants last fall and finally opened its doors this month – welcomes early-stage entrepreneurs, but isn’t limited to them.

“We’re in a digital era,” Beck noted. “Some companies just don’t need space. Some are looking for networking opportunities. Startups have unique needs, just like all businesses have unique needs, and sometimes you just need to access space like this and resources like this.”

The Bridgeworks model – including office and general-space availability by the day, week or month – reflects the flexibility that took Beck from the pre-med track to the co-working circuit.

His first change of plans came during biology-focused internships, where the Syracuse student’s curiosity was piqued by the ever-evolving world of mobile apps. Instead of medical school, he went into the app-making business with his tech-minded brother, Asher, launching Beck and Beck LLC in late 2014.

The software startup, which incorporated in Delaware but operates out of Long Beach, has made its mark. Primarily producing B2B solutions, Beck and Beck is also responsible for Minecam, a popular photo themes editor that’s recorded 1.3 million Android downloads.

Following in his father’s entrepreneurial footsteps educated Beck about the challenges facing startup enterprises, particularly the need for resources that bend to a firm’s particular needs. In 1999, Philip Beck launched what would become the first publicly traded credit card-processing company, and his son was certain similar success waited in the co-working market.

So the son and father – now retired from the day-to-day but still a Planet Payment shareholder – officially incorporated Bridgeworks LLC in May 2015. Step one: acquiring an abandoned rehabilitation center near Planet Payment’s Long Beach headquarters.

A “few million” in renovations later, according to Beck, the one-story, 8,000-square-foot building is now divided into two primary zones, including a 2,000-square-foot lounge stocked with handcrafted tables, industrial coffee machines, working beer taps and even a 600-gallon fish tank.

“Weighs a ton,” Beck noted.

The main zone is 6,000 square feet of dedicated workspace tables, glass-enclosed conference rooms and offices of various shapes and sizes, brimming with high-tech amenities including WiFi and top-level security systems.

Although the Becks began showing the space to potential tenants last fall, only a few signed up, based purely on the space’s potential.

“People really want to see a finished product, especially when it comes to real estate,” Beck noted. “They want to see the quality of the space. We had a long list of interested people, and now that we’re open and they can actually see the space, we’re having success signing members.”

Opening in Long Beach was a no brainer, Beck said, though he foresees a different path than the one followed by Planet Payment, which has grown into a leading provider of international payment processing and multi-currency processing services. His father launched the business in New York City and relocated to Long Beach because “he loves it here,” Beck noted, and for a company that deals primarily in digital services, the move had virtually no business effect.

In Bridgeworks’ case, the Long Island locale is part of the plan.

“It’s hard to find resources like this outside the city,” Beck said. “Long Beach’s population triples in the summer. Everybody wants to be near the beach. People will reverse commute from Manhattan. This is the perfect location for professionals who want to be in a nice environment, instead of stuck in the city when it’s 115 degrees.”

While Bridgeworks only recently began actively marketing the space, it’s already at 35 percent capacity office-wise, Beck said, with a “fluctuating” roster of general-space members. Offices can be rented month-to-month, and Bridgeworks also offers day and week passes to accommodate everyone from the entrepreneur trying to impress a client to the big-city big shot logging a few hours during a beachfront holiday.

Membership packages are all-inclusive – no à la carte charges for WiFi or printing or the mobile scheduling app (designed, of course, by Bridgeworks tenant Beck and Beck) – and there are even “virtual memberships” that give startups and solopreneurs a professional mailing address and other benefits.

“You come in, pick up your mail, grab some coffee and head out,” Beck said. “And as a value added, you get recurring hours of conference room time and inclusion in our social network, so you can come to our events and network with other members.”

The cofounder stressed that while the co-working model is on the rise, Bridgeworks is not competing with regional incubators or with LaunchPad Long Island, the popular chain of business-incubation co-working spaces.

LaunchPad cut the ribbon this week on its 10,000-square-foot Great Neck facility – the sixth LaunchPad Long Island facility, including offices on the Stony Brook University and NYIT-Old Westbury campuses – but according to Beck, there’s plenty of elbow room left for the likes of Bridgeworks.

“We’re more of an open space,” he added. “We’re less selective. Anybody can come in here and do business, as long as they get along with our community.”

In fact, the Becks are already planning a Bridgeworks expansion. Beck wouldn’t say much, only that a plan was afoot to triple the startup’s Long Beach footprint and details were coming “very soon.”

For now, he noted, the focus is on marketing the shiny new Bridgeworks facility.

“This is Long Island, and we weren’t expecting a blowout in the first week,” Beck said. “But with summer coming, we believe this is going to explode.”

Bridgeworks

What’s It? Flexible co-working space in Long Beach

Brought To You By: Son-and-father entrepreneurs Graham and Philip Beck (of Planet Payment fame)

All In: “A few million,” Graham says, mostly to renovate an 8,000-square-foot eyesore

Status: Membership has its privileges