Raleigh is taking a big step toward becoming more supportive of entrepreneurs today.

HUB Raleigh, a 10,000-square-foot incubator for “purpose-driven, high-impact” entrepreneurs, is being unveiled this morning at 711 Hillsborough St.

The HUB will have six offices for startups, a co-working space with 18 desks, two conference rooms, a community area with an informal meeting space and a business center. There also will be a 4,000-square-foot event space with an outdoor terrace connected to the HUB, and a cafe/bar, Click Cafe.

The incubator/co-working space is being built by Brooks Bell, a Duke University alum who is the owner of the Raleigh-based online conversion firm, Brooks Bell. She and husband, Jesse Lipson, former owner of ShareFile, are putting their own money into the HUB. (ShareFile was sold to Citrix Systems last year for an undisclosed amount.)

The couple is building out the space themselves and seeding it with $100,000 in initial capital. Office and membership fees will be the HUB’s primary revenue.

Total initial investment is actually about $350,000, Brooks said, when you include the costs of the upfit, and sweat equity from partners Christopher Gergen, director of social entrepreneurship incubators Bull City Forward (Durham) and Queen City Forward (Charlotte), and Jason Widen, a social entrepreneur and real estate veteran who will be managing HUB’s operations.

The HUB will not open to entrepreneurs until Sept. 15, but pre-leasing begins tomorrow. For more details, keep checking their website: www.hubraleigh.com


I caught up with Brooks briefly on Wednesday for more details, and she was excited about the HUB, to say the least, especially about Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane being at the unveiling this morning.

Brooks wants HUB Raleigh to tackle several problems faced by Raleigh entrepreneurs: Lack of flexible office space, lack of community, lack of recognition and awareness nationally.

The Raleigh location will be part of a global network of 25 HUBs, and the first North Carolina HUB, joining seven others in the U.S. The original concept is out of London. Founded in 2005, what’s interesting about the HUB is not the business incubator or community component — which can be found in many other settings. Exhibit A: All the incubators/co-working spaces sprouting up in downtown Durham inside the loop. One unique value proposition of the HUB is that it taps into a global network.

The network aspect is coded into the financial and political structure of the HUB network. All the HUBs co-own the assets and make decisions with 1 vote per HUB, and must contribute financially to the network. Every new location must be voted into the association after a peer-review process.

I asked Brooks about the purpose and benefit of HUB and what it means to be a purpose-driven company — the kinds of entrepreneurs they’ll be looking for. Although HUB members will have membership privileges at Bull City Forward, they will not have to adhere to a social entrepreneurship triple bottomline.

Brooks’ responses below:

On what is a purpose-driven company:

  • “Purpose-driven company — It’s one of those things that you know when you see it. It’s a company that has an answer to the question of: How can I impact my community? We’ll also be reflecting on the quality of the founder themselves rather than the idea. Is the founder someone who is going to be building a sustainable company, creating jobs. Are they a lifetime entrepreneur? Or do they just have a get-rich quick idea? We’re not looking for me-too ideas.”

On the lack of national recognition of the Triangle’s startup scene:

  • “Jess recently sold ShareFile (to Citrix Systems), and we learned a lot about where Raleigh stands on the national stage. Venture capitalists in California, they don’t really look at the Triangle as a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. There’s not a lot of buzz. We have all the elements that we need for this area to be a hotbed, but we haven’t connected.”

On lack of community and flexible space for entrepreneurs in Raleigh:

  • “There’s entrepreneurial activity out there, but there’s no go-to space for Raleigh. When we started our company nearly 10 years ago, we really struggled to find a community in Raleigh and we were bouncing around subleases. This is, on the one hand, flexible space for teams of 1-5 people, but it’s also about community for them to feed off each other to connect to the global HUB community.”