The story of NōD and its founder Chirag Gupta doesn’t start in Dallas, or even in the coworking industry. It starts with a Northwestern University Senior trying to connect college alums through a startup called AlumTalks. While working at this startup, Chirag used a Chicago space that opened in January, 2012 named 1871. “The great thing about it was you had all kinds of talent that would mix in one place, and so whatever you needed as a startup you could get there,” Chirag said. “And chances were you would meet someone who could help you with anything.”
Then Chirag graduated and moved to Dallas where he did freelance work for other startups in the area, not knowing of any coworking spaces similar to 1871. He ends up working from the Coffee House Café on Preston Rd for a while, but he missed the environment of coworking spaces, so he decided to borrow a conference room in what is now known as the “NōD” to host entrepreneurship workshops and meetups. “That was really my motivation [for NōD], it was ‘how do I recreate that environment for myself as a freelancer and an independent consultant where I can be surrounded by that variety of talent, and also bring what I learned from Chicago to Dallas’.”
These meetups eventually turned into a company called “North Dallas Coworking”. “It was a great domain name,” Chirag said, “great for search engine 0ptimization, but it just became such a mouthful to say it over and over, so we first abbreviated it to ‘No.D.’ for “North Dallas”, but [the name] also took on a new meaning as a central node in a network for people to get connected to other resources. So we started writing it as just ‘NōD’.”
There were two big challenges facing Chirag when he started NōD, and they were closely linked. The first was explaining what NōD was to people. Chirag went to small meetups and events for months talking to new entrepreneurs, but the concept of coworking spaces was still not big enough in Dallas for people to immediately understand the benefits it could provide. “It wasn’t until we had a critical mass of maybe 25 members that it became easy to explain to people.” And even for the early people who did decide to become NōD members, their experiences were much different than those of members today. “For a while it would just be me and a few other people playing ping pong or something while discussing their startups. It was so small scale back then compared to what we have today.”
The community grew quickly, however. To date, 100+ startups have gone through NōD, and the growing community is Chirag’s favorite part. “The most satisfying thing for me today would be meeting with someone who’s new here and seeing their whole mind light up when they see what’s possible for them in a space like this”. And the definition of “what’s possible” continues to expand. NōD has recently partnered with Austin Coding Academy to make programming and coding more accessible to those in the Dallas community, and this theme of education is one that Chirag will continue to implement into the NōD culture.
When I asked Chirag about directions the company was moving in today, education was a big one for him. “Design classes, digital marketing classes… we can have a really strong set of programs here for someone looking to make that career transition. If someone’s not sure ‘should I or shouldn’t I’, I think knowing they can learn all kinds of useful skills here is so valuable.” I then asked Chirag about future plans that could take a lot longer to implement, and he said, “in the long term, we could assemble an angel-network of local investors to meet with startups and invest with them. The point is that we want to make NōD the all-encompassing place for startups of any stage, from business plan to fundraising.”
Author Bio: John Novakovich is an incoming Freshman at Northwestern University (Class of 2020) with plans to study Economics and start his own business.