Ron McElroy wears many hats: author, real estate professional and surfer. While it might be hard to weave a common thread between the three, each roles has helped mold him into one entrepreneurial success story.
McElroy began his real estate career after college in the 1980s, launching the Real Estate Management Corporation (REMC) which sold office space. He later sold 14 of the sites he owned that housed more than 1,000 companies to Synergy Workplaces and retired in Hawaii and Mexico in 2007. McElroy filled his new schedule with surfing and wrote his memoir Wrong Side of the Tracks: A Memoir about growing up in an environment with drugs, alcohol and violence as a child in California and becoming a successful realtor.
But his retirement didn’t last long. Just three years later he jumped back into the real estate game and developed Real Office Centers (ROC), which provides open-source work spaces in Southern California to businesses just getting off the ground. Since launching in 2010, the McElroy says the company has seen near 400% growth.
“Real estate had become boring to me,” McElroy says. “My expertise was in the office sector of real estate. I wanted to reincarnate what my previous business, and I felt like office space had not evolved. It was still four walls, a door and some glass.”
The environment ROC provides businesses and entrepreneurs goes beyond four walls and a door. Turning the coworking space on its head, ROC has five locations across SoCo with more than 500 using the spaces, including Silicon Valley startups and businesses coming out of the accelerator phase of growth.
The sites offer events and education to their businesses several times a week, as well as opportunities for the companies to access investments through ROC Ventures’ platform, which connects them to venture capitalists, investors and universities. Tech-Coast Angels plans will make all investments in ROC companies in 2013, with bi-monthly screenings.
In addition, business schools including UCLA Santa Monica have started teaching courses at ROC, allowing companies to collaborate with university students and professors.
“We want to house your company from the cradle to young adulthood,” he says. “We are getting the company from point A to point B, helping them get that next round of funding and acting as a big ball of energy to help these companies.”
ROC also promotes sustainable technologies within its environments, making it more desirable to energy-conscious startups.
And for companies starting out, their environment makes all the difference, McElroy says.
“These small companies, they are no different than they were during the dotcom era,” he says. “They are creating wealth from the bottom up, and what is important is that these companies place themselves and maintain their company in a positive, nurturing environment for as long as possible.”
The companies at ROC can rent space for as low as $300 monthly, inclduing access to its venture capital platform and weekly events, including a recent Hackathon and a “Founder Friday” event for women entrepreneurs to network.
“No one is pulling all of these aspects into the office space,” he says. “We have achieved everything we hoped and thought we could have achieved in two years, when I would have thought it would take between four and five years. The best advice I can give to a startup company is to really focus on everything that is important—a lot of things can keep your company from getting to the next level.”