Call it fate. Or destiny. Or just great luck. Because when Ding — the Dublin-based tech company — landed at Bell Works this spring, the mobile top up giant not only found a great location for its second U.S. office, which was up and running in no time, but a kindred spirit in global connectivity.
“We wanted to hit the ground running, but also find something that represented the company’s forward thinking," James Hall, Ding’s head of Americas B2B said. “Bell Labs was the first to make a transatlantic connection and Ding is the premier global connector of families with loved ones overseas.”
Unlike the U.S., where most mobile phone users are tied to a monthly calling plan, 75 percent of the world’s 5 billion phones are prepaid, meaning there’s no contract and credit is purchased in advance of service. Ding links families overseas — many of them migrant workers— with families back home by letting them send mobile phone credit, or “top up” their phones.
Since its inception in 2006, Ding’s users have successfully sent over 300 million top-ups globally — via the app, online at Ding.com, and in-store at over 600,000+ retail outlets worldwide — making it the number one international mobile top-up platform in the world.
With an eye on expanding its market further into the Americas, Ding saw New Jersey — with its proximity to New York and Philadelphia, not to mention easy flights to Dublin and Canada — as a prime location for its second U.S. office (the first is in Miami). Hall and his team scouted spaces as far north as Jersey City and throughout Monmouth County, until finally landing in Holmdel to tour Bell Works.
"There was just such a 'wow factor' when we first walked into the building," James Hall, Ding’s head of Americas B2B, said.
“It was actually one of the last spaces we looked at,” said Hall, who moved with his family from Dublin to run the Holmdel office. “There was just such a ‘wow factor’ when we first walked into the building.”
While a lot of the other locations the Ding team toured seemed like just run-of-the-mill office space, Hall said the college-campus feel and collaborative energy of the Bell Works reimagined metroburb design echoed Ding’s innovative mindset. “This felt more like a home for us,” he said, entering the center atrium that buzzed with lunchtime activity.
But it’s the history of Eero Saarinen’s futuristic building, which served for decades as a giant incubator for communications giant Bell Labs and pioneered global connectivity, that really speaks to the core of Ding’s forward thinking values, said Hall. As a pioneer connecting Europe and the U.S. back in the 1950s and proponent of the early development of the cell phone, the Bell Labs legacy perfectly reflected the Ding culture.
“It’s really about connecting people,” said Hall over cappuccinos at a table outside the recently-opened Booskerdoo coffee shop, which sits beneath Bell Works’ soaring glass atrium.
Colette Campbell, Ding’s head of corporate communications, agreed, “Our business is all about connecting our users and where better than in the place which completed the first transatlantic telephone cable. It was fate!”
Ding's business is all about connecting their users and where better to do that than in the place which completed the first transatlantic telephone cable?
“Global connectivity, something which Bell Labs researchers literally laid the cables for, is high on the list of priorities for James and the team there, as they set about connecting more and more users in the U.S. to family and friends back home,” she added.
Prior to Ding’s April move, the space was occupied by, Nvidia and was double its current size. The makers of graphics cards and driverless car technology moved upstairs to a larger space on the third floor, to accommodate their growing team.
Ding’s office was one of the original pre-built spaces designed by Bell Works’ Creative Director Paola Zamudio, before there were even any tenants in the building. Like the pret-a-porter designs of the fashion world, these “ready-to-wear” spaces were designed for design savvy companies looking to get up and running fast.
“I designed these offices thinking of the future tenant as an entrepreneur,” Zamudio said. For these entrepreneurs, the spaces needed to flexible with a lot of light and be very open. I wanted them to feel like a space to create.”
Ding’s office is one of the original pre-built spaces designed by Bell Works’ Creative Director Paola Zamudio
Working with Ding’s brand team in the Dublin office, the team fashioned the Bell Works office after the Irish space, with furniture that mimics the company’s headquarters and the Ding logo displayed prominently along the front of the office. The space is comfortable for the five employees working there now, but Hall says he expects to double that number over the next year and thinks the space will easily accommodate 10-12 workers.
“The Bell works space is incredible what’s not to love?” said Campbell. “While the Ding office in NJ is similar in look and feel to Dublin, we sadly don’t have a campus feel that’s established in Bell Works.”
In a nod to the history of the building, Ding installed its own version of a phone booth — or as the Irish call it, a “calling booth” — at the back of its new office space. Unlike those more old-fashioned boxes that come to mind, Ding’s phone booth is sound proofed and air conditioned and the perfect spot, said Hall, to jump on a call in a private setting.
In a nod to the history of the building, Ding installed its own version of a phone booth — or as the Irish call it, a “calling booth”to jump on a call in a private setting.
Ding also mounted flat screens along the wall that can be used for meetings and video conferences or show all global top up transactions in real time. Fireworks burst from the center of the United States where a top up originates and arcs south to Guatemala and then one to Cuba and another to Mexico and continue beginning and ending in locations around the globe, all captured on-screen.
In April, the Bell Works Ding team hosted the company’s quarterly meeting, which brought management from Europe, the Mideast and Americas for the four-day gathering. Hall said the Bell Works space made an immediate impression on his visitors as they approached the building. “They were taken aback by the sprawling building in that perfectly landscaped green space.”
“It’s certainly an eye-opener,” he added.
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