How to create extra room to work from home? An Airstream RV office

The Four Percent



As many of us have tried to get creative to find new ways to make working at home palatable for us during a pandemic, you’ve got to love Jeremiah Owyang’s solution. 

The independent tech analyst needed space to call his own, and found a great alternative to sky-high Silicon Valley rentals. 

He bought a small 22-foot Airstream RV on a 30-year loan, parked it in his back yard, and souped it up for video calls. The analyst surveyed the local real estate market, and found that rentals were charging at least $2,000 monthly. Instead, he got a 30-year-loan at $370 monthly for a $50,000 Airstream “Sport” trailer.  

“I own it. I can claim it as a business deduction and re-sell it at some point in the future,” says Owyang. 

Jeremiah Owyang in his Airstream (Photo: Jeremiah Owyang)

As he said this week on Twitter: “I used to fly to conferences, now, I just walk to the backyard.”

He describes the “Tiny Airstream Studio” it as “29 steps from the house,” and “a quiet place to work.” It’s also a production studio for the pandemic age, making lemonade from lemons for someone who needed to alter the way he works.

“Because I make money from speaking at conferences, I needed to show people I have the setup,” he says. “Yes, I have a studio in my backyard, how can I help you?”

As he posted on his Medium blog post, “Now, like most, my primary stage is from my own home, umm err backyard. To ensure my message is best communicated to the market, having decent audio and visual setup is critical during this socially isolating pandemic.”

So in his backyard, he flips on the ring lights, turns on his Sony A6400 camera, attaches his Movo lavalier microphone to his shirt lapel, cranks open a video conference program, and he’s ready to interview executives and give speeches.

Beyond the camera, lav mic, Logitech webcam and Samsung 30-inch monitor, “the most important,” tech tool in the trailer is his 1 gigabyte Comcast internet signal. “I have massive speed,” he says. (He puts the internet also through an Orbi Mesh Wireless Router by Netgear.) “The setup is like a little executive suite.”

So much so that when people see him on their video program, they think “it’s fake,” and that he’s inserted a background image. Finally, a client asked him point blank if he was in a trailer. “I was worried he would think he didn’t pay us enough money,” but that didn’t happen. “There are different cultural reactions to being in a trailer,” he says. 

Stepping into Jeremiah Owyang’s home office (Photo: Jeremiah Owyang)

Luckily, most people responded with envy, not disdain. 

Recently, he has picked up gigs doing a keynote speech, from the Airstream about innovation culture for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and is scheduled to interview executives from the San Francisco data analytics company Splunk.

Meanwhile, don’t look for Owyang to be cruising this summer on the open road with his Airstream, like the unit is intended for. It’s a permanent fixture in the backyard. “We don’t take it out, it’s a dedicated office,” he says. 

Putting Airstream’s to novel uses isn’t totally unique. Zappos founder Tony Hsieh bought a bunch of them for workers and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a village of them in the desert. 

When all is said and done, “This is the future,” says Owyang. “People are going to need dedicated, quiet places to work,” and will need to seek out alternatives. 

That could include moving from a high-density, high rent location like San Francisco to lower cost out of state, and switching from a one bedroom apartment to a two or three bedroom, or getting a separate unit for a backyard like a Tuffshed or Airstream. 

For himself, “I’m commuting to work. It just happens to be 29 steps away from my house.”

Analyst Jeremiah Owyang in front of his home office: an Airstream trailer (Photo: Jeremiah Owyang)

In other tech news this week

Current and former Facebook employees blast CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his stance on not labeling President Donald Trump’s posts. Meanwhile, Snapchat said it would stop promoting Trump’s posts. 

CES: The show will go on. Despite all those convention cancellations and the COVID threat that hasn’t gone away, the CES, which draws massive crowds (over 175,000 in 2020) will go on next year, the organizers said, with more cleaning of booth areas and wider aisles. 

Zoom: No end-to-end encryption for free users so company can work with law enforcement. Meanwhile, in its earnings announcement this week, Zoom showed how a pandemic can help a small company, as it went from 10 million users in the year ago quarter to 300 million, and revenue jumped to $328.2 million from $122 million.  

CES 2019 (Photo: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY)

This week’s Talking Tech podcasts

Please ditch FaceID on next iPhone

Okay, you like FaceID even if I don’t

Real’s latest: facial recognition for videos

How to network in a pandemic

Watch what you say on NextDoor: it’s not private

Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter

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