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A startup finally finds a home

Illuminate founder <b>Shaun McMahon </b>was going through moving bins on the first day in his new office in the South End.
Illuminate founder <b>Shaun McMahon </b>was going through moving bins on the first day in his new office in the South End.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Shaun McMahon has moved his company several times since starting it in the bedroom of his South End apartment in 2004. The many startups and small businesses that dot Boston’s innovation scene can probably identify with the kind of growing pains McMahon’s company experienced, as well as the dread of packing it all up for an unfamiliar place.

Illuminate develops training materials for pharmaceutical sales teams. It was located in Fort Point, where McMahon had 10 employees packed into a 1,400-square-foot space. His office doubled as the conference room; two people worked in the hallway. He couldn’t hire because he had no place to put new employees.


The new office in the South End is three times the size. The move was pushed back several times, forcing McMahon to pay double his rent on the Fort Point office when his lease there ran out.

Then just when it looked like a go, the move was delayed again: There were issues with the backup generator, delaying the occupancy permit. McMahon also learned the elevator wasn’t operational, and the moving company refused to lug the stuff up a flight of stairs.

Fed up, McMahon talked to his lawyer and real estate agent about finding another space.

“I don’t want to say ‘nightmare’ because that sounds super dramatic,” said McMahon, 48. “It was a challenge.”

By the time the building was ready, it was almost Christmas, so McMahon put off the move for a week. And at 4:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 28 — moves aren’t allowed during business hours — the one-mile journey finally began.

Employees and movers piled computers, printers, and files into plastic crates. By 10 a.m., everything was in the new space, and, most important, the Internet service was up and running. One employee, on a deadline, was already at his new desk while the movers came and went.


There were a few hiccups. The phones didn’t work right away, and the office supplies were hard to find. The high ceilings and polished cement floors produced an unexpected echo that required new rugs and a white-noise machine. The move was costly, but now that it’s over, McMahon is enjoying the view of the Prudential Tower from the new space. “It’s kind of my dream office,” he said.

Illuminate may outgrow the space eventually, but the lease says McMahon can’t move again for seven years — and he’s just fine with that.

Katie Johnston can be reached at katie.johnston@globe.com.
Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.