created at: 2012-08-27Named one of Massachusetts’ most innovative people by the Boston Globe, Stas Gayshan is the founder of Space with a Soul, which provides work space and technical support to nonprofits and start-ups. I asked him about his latest project and Boston’s new innovation economy.

Tell us about Space with a Soul: what is it, how does it work, and how’s it been going?

Space with a Soul is at its heart (soul?) a mission accelerator. That means that we find ways to empower nonprofits and companies to focus on their mission–whatever it is. We do that by relieving them of the burden of running the infrastructure of an office, giving them the freedom to work and innovate with fewer constraints. We also build community by connecting like-minded individuals to one another. Resident organizations range in size from small to enormous, with impact at local, state, national, and international levels.

We’ve been doing great! Space with a Soul opened in May 2011, and less than six months later, we were full and had to expand! Our expansion gave us space to grow to 40-plus resident organizations, and we’ve got much more growth ahead.

Innovation is a big buzz word right now: Mayor Menino’s Innovation District, the Cambridge Innovation Center. Is this just the latest trend, or is there something fundamentally different about Boston?

Boston has historically been the home of ideas, changes, and revolutions, even before it became America’s capital of education. Maybe it’s something in our water! As a city and a region, whenever we’ve had problems, we’ve innovated our way out of them. The new trend is actually more about recognizing the impact that innovation has in driving our future and our economy.

There’s another driver at hand here as well. Entrepreneurs have always been networkers, but lately, the building of the network that connects entrepreneurs to one another has become a serious focus for many stakeholders in the ecosystem. (The previous sentence was a test to see how many buzzwords fit in one sentence.) In all seriousness, the number of events to connect innovators to one another has increased dramatically, and people’s willingness to help one another succeed is at an all-time high. There’s a real sense that we’re all in this together…and that helps everyone.

You’ve been very active in politics. In what ways is running a campaign like and unlike running a start-up?

There’s a good deal of similarity between the two. Campaigns and start-ups are populated with people chasing dreams and ideas to make the world a different, better place. People are working hard, putting in long hours, and generally in the company of similarly motivated folks. A sense of excitement is in the air!

Of course, there’s one major difference…campaigns are, by their nature, limited in time. Election day will come and go, and your candidate will win, or lose, and that’s the end. A good start-up doesn’t have an obvious end! You want the company to do well and prosper.

Finally, I understand you were instrumental in getting the mayor for a web ad. How did you pull that off?

That was awesome, and I wish I could take credit for that…but it wasn’t me! I thought it’d be funny if we got the mayor in the ad–and I did some editing of the footage and the voice-over in the ad is my voice. But getting the mayor there…that was the team all the way.

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Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!

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