iHub 2.0: The Space Between

By Kamal Bhattacharya
iHub
  Published 09 Sep 2016
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iHub 2.0: The Space Between

This blog post is part of a weekly post, where we will write about our progress on iHub 2.0. We invite people provide us feedback as the point of writing this weekly blog is for the community to provide ideas and help us shape iHub 2.0.

Space, the final frontier

I have spent this week in Boston with the InvestedDevelopment team, Miguel Granier and Heath Arensen, to discuss the new strategy and how we can improve on the things at hand. Very constructive and productive discussions. I have not had actual dedicated time with them after joining the iHub, I was pleased to see their commitment to the iHub. In the meantime, the team back home was, amongst other things, busy developing the new connect structure and I believe we will be ready to share our new model next week.

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While in Boston, we’ve spent most of our time at a place called Workbar, a co-working space for individuals and entrepreneurs with meeting rooms, phone booths, and events relevant to the members. In the spirit of our upcoming move and our ongoing search for space, Miguel scheduled a few sessions at other co-working spaces. Greentown Labs, which is a co-working space for entrepreneurs in the clean energy space. Photos were unfortunately not allowed in the lab area, but there were a few really cool robots, automated kitchens, etc. The lab space was quite impressive. We also visited Bolt, which is in fact a venture firm investing into early startups working at the intersection of hardware and software. Again really cool machine shop and some very interesting early products.

Over the last two decades I’ve worked at many places, where cool and at times important things have been built, but most of these places where embedded in institutions, such as a corporation or a university. The maker spaces of today are fascinating to me as they facilitate a new way of thinking about innovation outside of the traditional institutions. But at the core of it they are first and foremost businesses. Here is what I mean by that:

  • Mission:Each space has a mission that transcends the desire to be profitable. Workbar mission is to reimagine the way you work. Bolt is addressing the unique needs of a specific subset in the entrepreneurial space. Greentown Labs is about game-changing solutions for the energy space. Like any good business, theses spaces are built on a fundamental set of beliefs that drive them.
  • Business Model:There is a business model that is a manifestation what needs to be done to serve their clients best. This is bi-directional, i.e. there is something these spaces offer and something they ask for in return from those who use the spaces.
  • Space++:A “space” is so much more than just the physical place or the equipment. It's the people who create in these space and the support system that enables the mission. People, who support entrepreneurs to use machines. People, who make sure that you never run out of coffee or paper, when you need it. People, who understand what your needs are and connect you to those who can help you get to market or scale.

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From the outside in, spaces stand out for what people make, what they create and what gets to see the light of day.That is what spaceprojects. Greentown Labs shows the awards won by entrepreneurs in residence in a simple wall of fame. I was wonderingwhat of the things created in iHub are showcased and represented anywhere?Today, one might thinkit's celebrity visits that define us, and notinventions and innovations that are created there. A bit like celebrity restaurants and walls packed with pictures of dignitaries, hugging the owner, eating a steak and smiling. That makes totally sense for a steak house. But iHub ain’t no steak house. I’d like to believe that iHub is a place, where peoplemake things.

The Space: our next frontier

From an iHub 2.0 perspective, I’ve learned a few things:

  • Utilization:At the iHub we should be about creating solutionsthat matter for our region. From a business perspective that implies that we need to think about how space is being utilized. Connect, Build and Invent are mechanisms to utilize space and each of this segment can only work, if we reimagine space utilization
  • Space++:Space is more than brick & mortar, furniture, etc. It includes all those things required to make Connect, Build and Invent to come to life. And everything should be offered as a service.
  • Project what we make:Space should also be used to showcase who we are and what we do, not only who visits us. The latter is a nice to have, the former is essential.

In the next post I will concretize the steps that we will take for our space at iHub 2.0. Interestingly, I had a few exchanges over the last few weeks around the complexities of moving. The current space is intricately tied to the community and history and I get that.

There is a German word, “Bedenkenträger”, which literally means “carrier of concerns” or more appropriately “worrier”. There are too many worries at times, some of them are important, most more likely just part of worrying too much. Actually, the whole discussion about iHub and community reminds me of a like in an older song by Dave Matthews, The Space Between: “We're strange allies with warring hearts/What a wild-eyed beast you'll be/The space between the wicked lies we tell/And hope to keep safe from the pain”.

It’ll not only be fine, it will be very fine.

 

 

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