10/26/2014

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Seattle's 'hacker house' is a live-in tech fest

Seattle's 'hacker house' is a live-in tech fest

SEATTLE -- In an attic turned meeting room, Ben Fraizer is holding court with the staff of his start-up gaming company. It's an intimate but cramped setting of soft couches and two small tables. Nothing fancy, but then again the people staying in Seattle's first software "hacker house" are not there for the creature comforts.

You won't find hackers in the traditional sense, sitting around trying to break into a computer network. Rather, hacker is often a term used by techies that refers to coders -- the people who write software

Serial entrepreneur Andy Rebele had heard about hacker houses in other cities like Boston and San Francisco and felt Seattle was ripe to have one of it's own.  So in a rented, nearly turn-of-the-century home in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, Rebele launched the "IO House."

"The idea is to have like minded people work in a collaborative environment," Rebele said. 

Renters use airbnb.com, a popular internet booking service that lets customers book rooms in private residences. They have choices of shared bunk beds, dormitory style, or more a more privacy option with a single queen bed. There's no TV, but there is plenty of free wireless internet.

"People end up staying for months at a time," said Matthew Oswald, who's known as the house captain, in charge of house operations.  "Depending on what type of what type of rooming situation you are looking for that can be anywhere from $750 a month up to about $1,500 a month."

"I can sleep right downstairs and I can go up to the attic and we have team meetings up there," Fraizer said. He shares a rented room with another like minded techie. "It's just full of this rotating cast of like minded people and technology, thinkers and doers and makers," he added.

Arno Klein is part of the cast. The former professor with a prestigious pedigree and graduate of MIT has been staying at the hacker house since January. He flies back home to New York every other weekend.

Instead of renting an apartment, he was looking for place that was different.  He needs to be in Seattle because he's developing human brain analysis software for a South Lake Union biotech firm.

"The serendipity is great, you can be speaking in a conversation somebody who is designing games who is nothing like I'm doing and yet he'll come up with ideas that are perfectly appropriate for the population I'm trying to build tools for," Klein said.

Rebele's goals is to possibly create a chain of similar homes they are calling "grok homes."

"Grok is to really understanding something, really deeply," Oswald said. 

They are building a new website grokhome.com to handle future bookings.  As with everything else at the hacker house, it will be a collaborative project and ideas are always welcome.

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