Austin tech legends team up for what looks like a WeWork competitor

Key Points
  • Swivel -- code name Poquito -- raised $1 million last week from Mike Maples.
  • Swivel co-founder Scott Harmon and venture capitalist Maples have a long history together in Austin.
Mike Maples, managing partner of the venture capital firm Floodgate, sits for a photo in Menlo Park, California.
Tony Avelar | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Scott Harmon and Mike Maples are synonymous with Austin tech. They co-founded software developer Motive, which went public in 2004, and before that worked together at Tivoli Software, which was bought by IBM in 1996 for almost $750 million.

Maples — who's since become a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist with early investments in Twitter, Cruise Automation and Okta — has just made a big bet on Harmon's newest stealth start-up, Swivel, which appears to be a competitor to WeWork.

According to a filing with the SEC on Friday, Maples has invested $1 million in a Harmon-led project called Poquito. It's Maples second investment in the company, as he previously invested $850,000, according to a filing in November.

Harmon didn't respond to a request for comment, and Maples — co-founder of Floodgate — said that his former co-worker is staying stealthy at the moment, though he did say that Poquito was a code name for Swivel. Harmon's LinkedIn profile says he's been co-founder of Swivel since October.

Swivel calls itself a "workshifting" platform that "lets employees set schedules that enable them to get their best work done from the best places." The company's website promotes a pilot program targeting operators of co-working spaces and managers looking to offer flexibility for employees.

WeWork has catapulted to a valuation approaching $20 billion by opening up co-working locations in 23 U.S. cities and 15 other countries. Unlike earlier versions of the shared office, WeWork has focused on creating community-oriented spaces with a start-up feel that offer everything from on-demand workstations to private offices for teams.

SoftBank set to invest billions of dollars in to WeWork.
SoftBank set to invest billions of dollars in to WeWork.

WeWork's model carries heavy costs associated with office leases and operating the units. Swivel is using existing space at other offices and even coffee shops to make excess capacity available to workers on the move.

For Harmon, who's spent over three decades in technology, Swivel is his latest Austin-based endeavor. From 2011 until October, he was running Noesis Finance, a venture-backed company that provides financing for energy-efficient building equipment. Prior to that he was CEO of AlterPoint, a software maker that was acquired in 2009.

Maples left Austin for Silicon Valley and started his own early-stage venture firm in 2006. He remains a popular figure in the Texas capital's burgeoning tech scene and is still searching to find the city's top talent.