New Co-working Space In Chinatown

Mainland-based Real Office Centers (ROC) opened a new facility in Chinatown March 19, marking its first venue outside Southern California, where it currently operates six centers, including one that opened in Orange County last week.

Located on the corner of Nuuanu Avenue and Hotel Street, ROC Honolulu features private offices as well as shared co-working space, with the goal of providing a comfortable environment that is conducive to collaboration and supporting companies as they grow.

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ROC founder Ron McElroy

ROC targeted Honolulu partly because of the potential that founder and CEO Ron McElroy sees in the Islands — particularly in the clean tech, alternative energy and agriculture industries. McElroy hopes ROC can help bolster innovation in these fields.

“I think there are a lot of good reasons for startup businesses and technology to develop companies in Hawaii,” he says. “No. 1, there are so many natural resources that exist in the Islands to create alternative energy and clean tech.

“We want to help companies to be able to expand — and basically, at the end of the day, create jobs,” continues McElroy, asserting that Hawaii needs high-level jobs in industries that aren’t subject to the fluctuations of tourism.

McElroy also selected Honolulu as the first ROC location outside of California because of his own local ties: His mother is native Hawaiian, and he has family throughout the Islands. He also has lived on Maui off and on for years.

An avid surfer growing up, McElroy got his start selling surf products before launching a regional shared office company in California in 1992. He sold it in 2007. But a few years later, with the tech industry booming, the market looked ripe for another, similar model. This time McElroy sought to be more than just a shared space: He wanted ROC to provide a nurturing environment for its member businesses.

“It’s a shared workspace environment — but with all of the components to help companies scale,” he says.

To achieve that goal, each ROC location offers educational and mentorship opportunities, including classes on topics such as writing code and marketing. Locally, ROC has begun talks with University of Hawaii to start collaborating on class offerings. ROC also hosts events and industry mixers and develops relationships with business incubators and accelerators in each region.

So far, ROC Honolulu tenants run the gamut, representing industries that range from fine art to mortgage. That’s exactly the kind of mix that McElroy hopes for in order to create an environment where dynamic exchange is possible.

“That is something that is necessary for the (member companies),” he says. “Imagine a film production company that is struggling with a question, and someone from a digital media company could be sitting next to them at lunch and they talk about this issue. We get instances where (tenants) solve each other’s potential problems.”

With common work areas, a community cafe and an outdoor courtyard, ROC is structured for that type of engagement.

“The basic concept behind ROC is to evolve the workspace,” he says. “In my era, you’d basically spend all day in the office: You’d work 10-12 hours a day and grind yourself into a heart attack and that was reality.

“Today, we think the world is different. We think Millennials, especially, look at life a lot differently. Sure, everybody wants to succeed. But we feel like you can succeed and still be socially engaged and have more of a fulfilling work environment.”

For more information, visit realofficecenters.com.

coconnor@midweek.com