Editor’s note: We have a Startup Factory in Durham, HQRaleigh in the capital city, the American Underground in Durham and a soon-to-open office in Raleigh, and more shared office space efforts across the triangle that are growing to support new businesses. But those startup efforts opened a new frontier Thursday night: ThinkHouse. And this isn’t a 2014 version of Animal House. It’s business – with some frat atmosphere built in.

But can the house in Raleigh’s historic Boylan Heights devoted to entrepreneurs provide an additional spark to the Triangle’s entrepreneurial business sector? WRALTechWire’s Jason Parker tours the remodeled residence and provides a detailed first-person account for our Insiders.

RALEIGH, N.C. - “This has been an incredible experience, and I’ve only lived here for 15 days.”

Ten seconds earlier, Jay Dawkins called attention to the crowd of 80 people who turned out to tour ThinkHouse, an co-living space for entrepreneurs running scalable companies.

Dawkins, the founder of Cityzen, an early-stage company that is developing a dynamic online platform to give people a voice in their cities, welcomes the crowd that includes college students, entrepreneurs, parents, City of Raleigh employees, and F. Scott Moody (founder of Authentec and a local investor).

Dawkins has a fascinating background, including stints as a Realtor (his broker’s license is still valid), a development associate at Lookout Ventures, and as student body president at North Carolina State University.

“If you’d seen the house 6-7 months ago, compared to now, you’d be like “wow,” says Dawkins, “Jason Widen and the founders have transformed the house.”

And what a transformation – the historic house has been renovated to include seven bedrooms, all with their own private bathrooms – and living space and common areas that any young, creative professional would gladly drop a grand in rent and be psyched about the deal they were receiving.

You know, if community-style living would be your thing.

How They Live

Of the eight ThinkHouse Fellows, seven live in the house. It’s hard not to make “Real World—Entrepreneurs” analogies and allusions – in fact, at least two of the guests in the house ask pointed questions about “when the video cameras will come.”

“That’s the last thing I want,” says David Shaner, CEO of Offline, one of the most advanced-stage companies in the program. He paints a picture of waking up at dawn with a cameraman in his face asking if he’s going to go on that run he promised the audience in last night’s private interviews.

He’s here to get serious business done, not to entertain an audience. His seven peers anticipate laying the foundation for scalable businesses during the six-month program. They’re here to work — and, of course, to live.

The living quarters are sizeable, and each entrepreneur has turned their room into extensions of themselves.

The furnishings in the house come from the inspiration of Fellow (and acting community manager) Sean Newman Maroni, founder of BetaVersity. His company designs creative and entrepreneurial prototyping spaces for communities, companies and the education industry.

Maroni’s latest project is the BetaBox, a mobile prototyping facility delivered to a single location in a shipping box, equipped with everything you would need in order to conduct a strategic visioning session with a board of directors or lead a design-thinking brainstorm.

Where Work Happens

I’m writing in the living room, and halfway through this article, Shaner and Saul Selwyn Flores, the founder of Pixbit, a digital agency that helps brands and nonprofits with their communications goals, sit down at the couch with glasses of red wine.

“Can’t believe you’re working right now,” Shaner pokes at Dawkins, who is typing away on his computer, responding to emails and researching potential connections made at the event.

Shaner and Flores are soon deeply immersed in a conversation about the future of content creation. Shaner, whose company is focused on delivering personalized recommendations in local communities through well-curated content about experiences, posits a central thesis that passionate bloggers in local communities are altruistic in nature – they want to share their passion and interests with a wider audience.

Flores bets that the future of content creation depends far more on a personalized brand than on large media conglomerations.

Think “Seth Godin” rather than “NBC.”

The conversation ties back into the business models of their companies. It’s the perfect example of what the living community is designed to do: create meaningful and impactful conversations that help young companies troubleshoot and solve early problems.

The Founding Team

ThinkHouse is a project cofounded by the same team that has built HQ Raleigh into a full-capacity early-stage incubator and coworking space: Jason Widen, Christopher Gergen, Jesse Lipson, and Brooks Bell.

Widen addressed the crowd after Dawkins stepped down from his welcoming and jovial introduction.

“The founding team thought back to 15 or 20 years ago,” said Widen, “we were in the same spot as these entrepreneurs.”

“We were starting companies, exploring ideas, and attempting to innovate,” continued Widen, “but we were often doing it in isolation.”

Lipson, founder of ShareFile, and Bell, founder of Brooks Bell Interactive, still head two of Raleigh’s best success stories. The companies employ hundreds of people in Raleigh and set the stage for the meteoric rise of Raleigh’s entrepreneurial infrastructure.

“When Brooks and I were tossing around the idea for HQ Raleigh,” says Gergen to me in the middle of the event, “it was just an idea—now it’s really happening.”

He means more than an occurrence – a single, one-off achievement. He’s talking about forward momentum in Raleigh’s urban center. HQ Raleigh is already at full capacity in their current space, and Widen is leading the charge with the rest of the HQ team in opening a space nearly four times as large as the current space adjacent to Brooks Bell’s office on Hillsborough Road.

It’s happening, said Gergen, the infrastructure is being built. Serendipitous connections occur more regularly now than at any time ever before, in large part due to the work of community builders like Derrick Minor, innovation manager for the City of Raleigh. More entrepreneurs are collaborating, co-working, and learning to address major challenges alongside their peers.

Already, 19 of 22 suites in the new HQ Raleigh building are leased, said Gergen. And it’s not just HQ Raleigh. American Underground’s Raleigh office is up and running.

Minor works from there at least two days a week, and calls the ecosystem inspiring.

Our brief conversation centers around the importance of the network effect – we share a mutual understanding that we’re rapidly approaching a promising network density in the Triangle’s urban areas, a network density that will only help young companies grow into scalable and mature business ventures.

It’s exciting – and inspiring.

Why It Is Working

The network effect relies on the concept of trust, said Minor, and access to mentors in formal and informal settings. Informal settings are vital to community building, says Minor, and I’m prone to agree.

I’ve spent four hours here at ThinkHouse, and for the last 90-minutes, I’ve witnessed an ideation session between a current Fellow and a guest that has chosen, like me, to stay in this creative environment. I’ve witnessed that impassioned debate on the future of content – offering my opinion as a writer and entrepreneur – between Shaner and Flores. I’ve witnessed post-it notes being written as reminders to complete action items tomorrow. I’ve overheard a conversation about social justice. And I’ve heard about a new iPhone app that I’ll download tomorrow.

There’s something in the water, and it’s being dispensed in the shared refrigerator. “Seven guys, one refrigerator,” said Shaner in greeting me at the door, four hours before I wrote these final words.

The same collaborative spirit that these Fellows will rely on to share their fridge and kitchen will carry these entrepreneurs forward in their businesses – forward through weekly programming meetings to update each other on the status of their companies as they develop their next iteration of their product, forward through monthly “family-style” dinners with local entrepreneurs as guests of honor, and forward through six intensive months of iterative design.