If you were a tiny, web-based start up in need of physical space and a support structure to nurture your business, what sort of things would you look for?
Last year, for 6 months of 2012, I interned at the award-winning international charity website UniversalGivingTM, which operated from a business incubation site named HUB SoMa in downtown San Francisco. Although I was working in marketing, as an urban planner, I was fascinated with the HUB. It was a physical space designed to facilitate collaboration, innovation, and social entrepreneurship within a trusted community of members.
Within the first month, I noticed several physical characteristics about the space that made the HUB an effective business incubator:
- 8,600 square foot floor space of mostly shared co-working space, creating opportunities for forming partnerships;
- Easily reserved booths, offices, and conference rooms for privacy;
- Unique, moveable furniture, which could be rearranged into any configuration of space as needed;
- And a prime location within a larger, emerging center of technological innovation south of Market Street in downtown San Francisco.
What makes the HUB unique is that it’s literally a physical center of activity. Yes, the HUB does boast a vibrant, global social network of 5000+ HUB members across 5 continents, each of them rigorously screened to qualify for membership. But in this age of continuously upgrading telecommunication technology, businesses still place a premium on quality places and spaces. The HUB recognizes this – and takes it one collaborative step further.
Do you know any other places like the HUB? What was your experience like? And what role do you think physical space plays in economic development?
Credits: Images by Steven Chang. Data linked to sources.