Frustrated by lack of respectable, low-cost office space and support of other new and emerging business owners, a team of entrepreneurs in Raleigh is launching an equivalent of Durham’s “American Underground.”
Led by Brooks Bell, owner of her own rapidly growing high-tech integration business, and Christopher Gergen, who launched the Bull City Forward business program in Durham, “HUB Raleigh” is set to open on Sept. 15 at 711 Hillsborough Street.
Raleigh HUB is affiliated with the The HUB, an international startup-focused organization.
Bell and Gergen will provide a place were new and emerging businesses can gain access to co-working space. The owners of the private effort are investing $350,000 of their own money and “sweat equity,” Bell told WRAL news. Bell and Gergen met last fall at the Raleigh Innovation Summit, where the need for a Raleigh equivalent of the Underground or something similar, was the key point of discussion. The idea for the HUB soon “came together” after that summit, Bell said, and Gergen’s familiarity with the HUB organization helped steer them toward an affiliation with that group.
“Jason has toured different hubs around the world, and they are all very cool,” Bell said. They hope to create the same kind of operation here.
“It is very difficult to find decent office space for less than $1,000 a month, and early startups really only need a desk and reliable Internet access,” Bell explained. “There also is no place where entrepreneurs can bounce ideas off of each other. There is no community. This is a great solution.”
New business hubs such as the Underground and in cities from San Francisco to the East Coast are among the hottest trends in entrepreneurial circles. Durham has generated international attention with the Underground, Joystick Labs, the Startup Stampede, the Triangle Startup Factory, and other programs. But Raleigh lacked similar programs until the recent launch of the Cherokee Challenge program from Cherokee Investment Partners. Companies competed for spots and funding in the Cherokee program, however.
At the HUB, however, any company can apply. Rates for services are based on space and other services, starting as low as $30. Full office suites are available. Unlike Cherokee and Startup Factory, however, no investment funding is available although Brooks said “there’s no reason why that might not happen some day.”
Bell’s own 22-employee company, named Brooks Bell, is also based at 711 Hillsborough Street on the building’s second floor. She remembered the challenges she and her husband, Jesse Lipson who founded ShareFile, faced in starting their own companies more than a decade ago. Lipson recently sold ShareFile to Citrix, which plans to greatly expand operations in the Raleigh warehouse district with hundreds of employees. Lipson is a partner in the HUB venture.
The HUB is promising “cool space” with “lots of natural light” and “lots of cool amentities” – key ingredients for a successful entrepreneurial program, Bell stressed.
Features include a “brainstorming room,” six private suites, co-working space with 18 desks, a community area, and a business center.
Adding to the ambiance is the Click Cafe, an adjacent coffee shop and bar, and a 4,000 square foot event space with an outdoor terrace.
Interest is already high, Brooks said happily.
“We just launched our website today and we’ve already had three companies sign up,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll have a full house by the time we open.”