Unspace’s Office May Have Burned Down, But Unspace is Still Burning Bright

unspace mapOne of the gems in Toronto’s local indie/startup tech outfits is Unspace, whom I’ve often referred to as “local Ruby heroes”. They’re a small company that’s had such a disproportionately big effect on the world of software development, from producing people who’ve gone on to 37signals and Microsoft, to putting together some of the best developer gatherings ever held — RubyFringe, FutureRuby, Technologic, Throne of JS, and Embergarten — to generally buoying the local tech scene with events like Ruby Job Fairs, Rails Pub Nite and gatherings on their rooftop patio above the heart of the Queen/Spadina district. And yes, they also write great software for their clients.

In the most recent post on the Unspace blog, Unspace CEO Meghann Millard (pictured above) wrote about how an electrical fire broke out at Unspace last week, reducing their wonderful workspace from this:

Software developers gather at one of Unspace’s rooftop parties.

Make a note of the pinball machine.

Yes, I know these are all party pics, but they were taken at Unspace, and they know that programming is a social activity.

The crowd gathering at “Technologic” (one of their events), just before the presentations.

to this:

unspace fire 1

unspace fire 2

unspace fire 3

Luckily, no one was hurt. Eric, who helps keep the office in working order, was on the rooftop and trapped as a result of the fire breaking out. He managed to escape into a neighbouring apartment, evacuate its occupants and call 911.

While a burned-out office is a setback, Unspace is unbowed. After a quick gathering for lunch, the team set off to continue working from home, and Meghann’s working on securing some new space. She writes:

Oftentimes, I think people believe the byproduct of a great company culture is just what work can be produced when you provide great incentives, developer autonomy and personal flexibility. By contrast, I think I’ve finally identified where Unspace differentiates itself in this space — the sense of family inherent to a very carefully curated team – who cares for one another as much as their respective craft — is what ensures the gears keep turning through any crisis.

Of all things that have happened in the history of Unspace, I think this is what I’m most proud of. All we lost in the end was some stuff and a pile of bricks, and I’m very much looking forward to building “Newspace” with the team over the forthcoming weeks.

I can think of more than a few businesses that can learn from Unspace, who understand the importance of building a good company culture. It flows into everything, from the great work that they do for their customers, to the way that the people there feel a sense of family, ownership, and responsibility, to the positive effects they’ve had not just on Toronto’s technology community, but the world’s (seriously). They pulled together, and I have no doubt that they’ll pull through this situation.

Go and read their blog entry about the fire and the aftermath, and if you run into them in person or online, give ’em your love and support. They’ve earned it, and they have mine.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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