Matthew Oswald’s house in the outskirts of Seattle’s Capitol Hill harbors a peculiar breed of chaos. “Everyday there’s something new,” Oswald says. “It’s like a sitcom.” Just think: Big Bang Theory meets The Real World.
Oswald is a bearded, tattooed, proud New Yorker who first moved to Seattle for a job as an Amazon engineer. Now the 34-year-old lives and works at the IO House, the first manifestation of GrokHome’s business plan to provide long- and short-term communal living to whizzes and geeks who are looking to break into Seattle’s budding tech scene. It’s Oswald’s job to keep the eight-person hacker house filled with fitting residents — described on GrokHome’s website as “smart people working on interesting projects” — and then make sure it all runs smoothly as they go about indulging in geekdom together. Some days that’s easier than others.
On one of the more interesting days, Oswald came home to find a Mack truck parked outside. It contained 20,000 pillowcases, all of which belonged to 22-year-old resident Jordan Schindler. The blossoming entrepreneur had come up with a zany product idea: pillowcases infused with acne medication, so teenagers could work on their complexions as they slept.
“Don’t worry, I think I sold them all,” Schindler assured Oswald. Sure enough, about two hours later another truck arrived, loaded them up, and carried them over to Amazon. “And they sold 20,000 units within like, I don’t know, less than two hours,” Oswald says.
Cooperative housing — a.k.a. co-living — has become a hot topic for anyone thinking about the future of urban living. In late 2013, the hype about co-living was in full force; tales of millennials packing into Bay Area buildings sprang up everywhere from Gawker to NPR and The New York Times.