I couldn’t help but be captured by Arun Nijhawan during my initial meeting at the site of his visionary Flatiron City. Perhaps it was the way he realistically dives into and manages plans or his humble approach to running successful projects or his instinct for “customer service.” I was impressed and captured by his style and realism. Quite frankly, I can’t remember the last time I was in a meeting with a private equity person or a developer who asked about purpose and causation; who listened to my own inquisitive comments and even politely excused themselves for talking over me. Arun is a model of professionalism, one with whom you want to engage and work with.
Even as Arun’s focus for this project is Atlanta, it is clear that his global business background influences his creation. Flatiron City is not one more location for startups looking for inexpensive office space and google- like edgy playfulness. It is not a clone of Silicon Valley startup space. There is no room for “entitlement,” attitudes or technological biases of coders, since all are welcome. Ironcity looks to be a warm and inviting place for sophisticated businesses of all types, ones that are innovative and eager to earn their success, expand their products and services and get results. The repurposed wood flooring even adds a timeless and chic, rich European air of success. It is in stark contrast to the practiced tech edgy spaces to which we have become programmed to expect. But there is definitely a wealth of technology at work there. Microsoft has joined in to sponsor the first floor gathering and conference areas. The tech giant is opening only its second innovation center complete with hologram technology for visualization, 3D printers and subscriptions to the Biz Spark suite of tools. The latest Fiber based infrastructure provides speed and scalability for member companies. Local media giants are circling to step in with resources and support. Technology does not bark at you in this environment or brag of its existence. The emphasis is on growing companies. One gets the feeling that tech tools will bolster tech companies and consumer companies or media companies alike to whatever level of success they want to claim.
At the very foundation of the project is sweat and hard work. Construction is underway as Arun hosts his meetings in the small trailer bordering the immaculately maintained construction zone. Construction workers and supervisors in hard hats enthusiastically direct visitors to the door of Arun’s “office” in the trailer where he happily greets visitors in a crisp white shirt and hearty smile. Why do I mention his crisp white shirt? It represents his attention to detail while projecting the clean look of the building and the understated elegance of Flatiron City. Yes, these are all “soft” measurements. Nowadays, technology and tech office space is a commodity. At Flatiron City there is true differentiation. These soft factors may be just what emerging companies need to make their choice for work space. This is not just real estate. It is not just technology. I can’t help but suspect that his Flatiron City project for Atlanta, which is one of several planned, will be more than a real estate play or tech showcase and actually be a driver of economic impact for a city emerging as more than a tech hub for the south. In Atlanta, we have been proud of the work of the Atlanta Technology Development Center, ATDC, at Georgia Tech. We have boasted of David Cummings bringing a much needed current tech focus with the Atlanta Tech Village. I anticipate that Atlanta will be grateful for what Arun builds for the Atlanta ecosystem and what it represents to all emerging companies: Success.