Day in the life of: Brad Hargreaves

Common’s CEO on nanny shares, eating two-pound salads and running to Mongolian metal

Oct.October 01, 2018 10:00 AM

Brad Hargreaves (Photo by Francesco Sapienza)

Brad Hargreaves, 32, is the CEO of Common, the New York-based co-living startup he founded in 2015. The company, which rivals WeWork’s WeLive brand and several other national and local startups, has generated a buzz for pioneering dorm-like rental options for adults, where living areas are shared and coffee, laundry detergent and housekeeping are folded into the monthly costs. Common leases about 300 furnished and custom-designed apartments in 20 properties across the U.S. — half of them in Brooklyn and Queens and the other half in Chicago, D.C., San Francisco and Seattle. And it plans to open two more locations in New York City next year, including one in Harlem. Rents at the company’s cheapest rooms in the boroughs, at 117 Albany Street in Crown Heights, started at $1,340 a month as of August. Its most expensive rooms nationally at the time, on 10th Street in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, went for $2,500 a month. Hargreaves, who previously co-founded the private tech school chain General Assembly in 2011, shies away from using the word “landlord” when describing Common. “We’re a hospitality company,” he said, noting that his startup’s brand is more than a modern twist on the single room occupancy concept. “It’s about living together. It’s also another way of achieving housing affordability.” Hargreaves added that he’s not concerned with amassing a residential empire. “We occasionally invest in deals, and we’re getting more involved with that.

But we will never hold any buildings on our books,” he said. New York developers that have partnered with the company include Patoma Partners, which built Common Havemeyer, a 51-room property on South Third Street in Williamsburg, and Duke Properties, which owns Common Fairview, a 20-room property on Fairview Avenue in Ridgewood. Investors also have faith in the startup and have rewarded Common with $65 million in venture capital funding — including a $40 million Series C round that closed in December. The company’s backers include LeFrak and Milstein Properties, which owns Common’s headquarters at 6 East 43rd Street, where 60 of its 100 employees work. Next year, Common plans to move around the corner to 335 Madison Avenue, a Milstein-owned high-rise that Facebook once called home. Hargreaves and his wife, Amanda Moskowitz, who founded a business services referral site for startups, live in a Chelsea rental building at Seventh Avenue and West 26th Street with their two children.

6:45 a.m. My kids wake me up. Julian, my two-year-old son, starts screaming. I also have a four-week-old boy, Milan. He’s named for Milan Kundera, whom my wife and I both like. We rent in Chelsea, where we’ve been for eight years. I like the neighborhood because it’s close to Penn Station, so I can get trains to Newark Airport, which I fly out of a lot. It’s a good, friendly neighborhood, and it’s close to everywhere. We’re looking to buy there now.

7:00 a.m. Julian drinks milk, and I will read to him for 15 minutes — anything with trucks in it. I will say, “That’s an excavator, that’s a forklift.” He doesn’t watch any Disney or Nickelodeon, but we will find these videos of dump trucks backing up and watch them on our TV.

7:30 a.m. I go for a run for about four miles in Hudson River Park, down to Pier 40 and back. I have to listen to music. It keeps me going. Right now, I’m listening to Hanggai, which is Mongolian power metal. I can’t understand anything that they’re singing, but it’s great running music.

8:00 a.m. I take a shower and get dressed, which takes about five minutes.

8:30 a.m. I drop off Julian at our nanny share at an apartment in Chelsea, where our good friends live. I love the idea of a nanny share: It’s incredibly cost-effective.

9:00 a.m. I pick up a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on the way to the office, which I arrive at around 9:30.

9:30 a.m. I start my day by grabbing a cup of coffee and walking around the office for a bit. It’s nice to run into an employee I may not see during the normal course of business and catch up with them for a few minutes. Then I try to spend half of my day in the field. Some of our properties are conversions, but some are new developments, and we get about two inquiries from real estate developers a day. After an inquiry, the next step is to take them on a tour of one of our houses. Or maybe a developer wants to show us a site.

12:00 p.m. I often take lunch with Simon Jawitz, my CFO. We grab it in the cafeteria downstairs, Sea Level Cafe. I will get a giant salad, with grilled chicken and beans. It’s probably a two-pound salad when they’re done making it. We work through the financials and go over models in the cafeteria.

1:00 p.m. I’m back in the office for 30-minute one-on-ones with some of my staff. I will meet with Sophie Wilkinson, our head of design and construction. We used to let our development partners approve finishes, like tiles and flooring, but we’re expanding to make more of those decisions in-house now. None of my day is taken up by fundraising or investor relations.

3:00 p.m. Our nanny will text photos of Julian to me and Amanda. Then it’s back to work. At Common, it’s important for us to have everything in-house, like our cleaners. We tried using third-party services, but it didn’t work. We need timing to be perfect.

4:30 p.m. Snack breaks are a must. On a good day, that means dried fruit. On a bad day, Doritos. I also make sure to “go home” for a few minutes via FaceTime.

6:00 p.m. I leave the office to put my son to bed and make dinner with my wife. It’s really the only time I’m not on email. We both enjoy cooking, and we like to be experimental. Stews and chilis are my favorites.

8:00 p.m. I might play an hour of video games. I like grand strategy, multiplayer games like Civilization. I have a gaming rig in my living room. It helps me to calm down.

9:00 p.m. I’m back on email and [the cloud-based communication app] Slack. It’s all Slack, ’round the clock. A lot of the execs at Common have kids, and they’ve gone home to put them to bed. But then they come back online, too.

12:30 a.m. By midnight, I’m in bed.

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