Business & Tech, Features

TERRIERS INBIZ: Oliver Sanchez strives for diversity, community with Plug Cambridge

Oliver Sanchez, a BU alum, created Plug Boston, a collaborative workspace for diverse professionals. PHOTO COURTESY PLUG CAMBRIDGE

Oliver Sanchez, co-founder of Plug Cambridge, is no stranger to the world of business. A graduate of Boston University’s School of Management, he has more than 15 years of experience in finance, strategy and management.

Sanchez said he now looks to make a larger impact on the community that extends beyond corporate offices.

About a year ago, he left a lucrative position in financial planning and opened Plug Cambridge — the first U.S. location of the Plug co-working network, which focuses on “accelerating the diversity of ideas and backgrounds in the tech ecosystem in Boston,” Sanchez said.

The idea, he said, came to him while attending a startup competition where most of the competitors seemed to be of the same background and social circles.

“I kept seeing the same people over and over again,” he said. “[That] sparked in my head the thought of bringing entrepreneurs from different parts of the world to the Boston ecosystem.”

With that goal in mind, Sanchez founded Plug, which offers many tangible services, including whiteboards, conference rooms and office space, to clients.

Its most valuable attributes, however, are its more human-based resources, Sanchez said.

A team of professionals is available to guide an international clients as they grow their businesses in Boston. With the goal of diversifying the startup scene in Boston, the space holds events for the community that focus on networking and professional services to foster a sense of community.

This, Sanchez said, is what makes Plug so unique and transforms it from a space for work to a place for growth and unity.

“[We’re] looking to create a [pride of diversity] in the community,” he said. “We like to facilitate these kinds of interactions, these discussions and people in the community can use this space to do that.”

Such a pride of diversity is rooted in Sanchez’s own culture, he said, and his efforts to maintain a staff of many nationalities on the Plug team. Of Latin American heritage himself, he initiated Plug in São Paulo, Brazil in 2009.

According to Santiago Torres Torija, a business development associate at Plug Cambridge, Sanchez draws upon Latino culture in his interactions with staff and clients of similar cultural roots. Since Torres Torija and Sanchez share the same background, Torres Torija said it adds to the feeling of community.

“We talk all the time in Spanish and in English; we have a very close relationship,” Torres Torija said, emphasizing that Sanchez not only offers free mentorship and advice, but also wants to develop Latino leaders in Boston.

Aliya Serikpayeva, community manager at Plug, echoed Torres Torija’s sentiments.

“Oliver is very encouraging and helpful to me, Santiago and all of the members without exception,” Serikpayeva wrote in an email to The Daily Free Press. “The success of PLUG can 100% be attributed to Oliver’s personable quality.”

This success, driven by Sanchez’s focus on close staff relations and empowerment, is helping the community in more ways than one, Plug members said. Sanchez can be seen as a symbol of comfort in the current social and political climate.

At the Orientation Legal en tiempos de cambio on Feb. 7, Plug offered free legal counsel to immigrants who are facing deportation or have concerns regarding their status in the United States after several legislative changes.

Sanchez works to offer events like these frequently in order to better serve the community at large, not just members who use Plug’s facilities on a regular basis.

In an effort to pursue more long-term solutions to the problems presented by recent political changes, Sanchez mentioned that the company is planning to launch “an accelerator for Latin American startups who want to come [to the United States].”

While the accelerator is focused on entrepreneurs from Latin America, hinging upon cultural roots, its development is oriented much closer to Cambridge. Four MBA students from the Questrom School of Business are aiding in strategy and market research, Sanchez said.

The accelerator is just one step toward expansion, which Sanchez said he sees as both necessary and inevitable. These opportunities for growth will allow Plug to become increasingly involved in the diverse entrepreneurial community in the Greater Boston area, Sanchez said.

“In times of uncertainty and change,” Torres Torija said, “Oliver tries to build bridges instead of walls.”

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