The need for effective space solutions has not always been high priority. But as our population grows and space becomes more limited, people need a way to make every square foot count.
Those needs are what launched URBANEER™, a company founded by Mike VanGessel and Bruce Thompson. Before founding the company, Thompson and VanGessel – founder and CEO of Rockford Construction – had worked together professionally for more than four years. During that time, their combined focus was to drive innovation in the built environment. URBANEER™ was the culmination of their shared focus.
For Thompson specifically, the road to URBANEER™ begin before he met VanGessel. He started thinking about how technology would change our space needs in the 1990s and began to research other points in history when innovation had changed physical space. The research and brainstorming Thompson did during that time helped him to think about the transformation that we are beginning to see today.
According to Thompson, the two partners fit together like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. VanGessel’s expertise in construction and development matched Thompson’s history in technology and innovation. In 2013, the development of the brand was launched in a way you would expect from creative entrepreneurs – URBANEER™ was one of the words VanGessel wrote on a napkin during lunch at San Chez. And with that, the brand was born.
The two started experimenting with cardboard as early prototypes. They got a small team together with diverse skills and met for two hours every week for brainstorming and prototyping and leveraged the space that was made available to them at Rockford Construction. Thompson provided beer to the creatives, and they got to work on the future of URBANEER™.
Rockford Construction gave URBANEER™ a platform that was critical to its launch. With Rockford’s help, URBANEER™ had the ability to prototype and pilot innovation, as well as an opportunity to gain insight from Rockford employees in the areas of property management and introducing new concepts into the market.
The work resulted in products and services that provide space solutions to a number of markets. The challenge, however, was to get people in West Michigan to think more about new concepts to optimize space and make every square foot count. Ideas from other markets were brought in so that clients could be shown real-life examples of what could be done with space. Wall beds and movable walls are just two examples of products that had yet to make their way into the West Michigan market, and those concepts caught on quickly.
Today, URBANEER™ has cultivated a robust team with a wide range of skills and expertise. The majority of clients are now external to Rockford construction, showing how the company has really come into its own in the past three years. The URBANEER™ team currently has its sights set on becoming a global brand, with hopes of seeing their products in cities from New York to Hong Kong.