Impact Hub XL – A new generation of Hubs?

Christoph Birkholz · 8 minutes · 27.02.2016

As the number of Impact Hubs around the world is increasing, the model of a local Impact Hub is also significantly growing. With its expansion to three locations, Impact Hub Zürich is only one of several peers building larger spaces for entrepreneurial communities, coworking infrastructure, inspiration and innovation.

 

This week, on March 1st, Impact Hub Zürich officially opens the 4th floor under the roof at our Colab location, thus expanding to over 2500 square meters across three spaces. However, it is neither the first multiple-location Impact Hub, nor is it the largest. Its development rather reflects the latest trend in growing community- and coworking spaces becoming central places in cities around the world: Two years ago, Impact Hub Madrid opened their 1800m2 NEXT location within walking distance of Impact Hub Clasico next to Madrid’s Caixa Forum. Impact Hub Sao Paulo piloted a smaller workshop space in Vila Madalena district, while Impact Hub Recife has just opened its second location in the city. Last year, our neighbours in Vienna expanded their loft space with opening a second floor thus growing over 1000m2 in space – a similar plan is currently on the way at Impact Hub Geneva.

 

Why growing in space?

Naturally, it is reassuring that the model works and can expand due to local Impact Hub communities growing and requiring more space. However, we experience that a larger space is not just more-of-the-same. In fact, a larger space allows for interesting innovations and areas of value-creation and -exchange on the Impact Hub platform.

First, members are now increasingly doing business with each other as high-quality service providers with a similar open mindset are just meters away from your desk. One anecdote underlines this member-to-member business: Social Investors quickly needed visuals for a gathering of 400 people that it was putting together for one of its clients. Rather than spending time and resources on searching different design agencies, they just walked over to the team desk of Grafik2 and explained their requirements. An hour later, both member teams were already discussing the draft visuals for the event. While strong community relationships are still the unique core of Impact Hub, member-to-member services can save costs and bring revenues for startups and businesses.

Second, a bigger space enables teams from larger corporates to build stronger relationships with startups and external innovation communities around future themes. For example, Impact Hub Zürich and Swiss ICT giant, Swisscom, last year initiated the Internet-of-Things cluster with meetups and hackathons in Zurich. Both Swisscoms and now AXA’s innovation teams regularly work from our newest Colab location at Sihlquai 131/133 to also build relationships within the growing IoT-community at Impact Hub Zürich. It is primarily through the daily personal interactions between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs within the coworking space and Auer&Co Cafe that true collaboration can emerge.

 

What does this mean for a city like Zurich?

In large cities like New York or London, a 1000m2, multi-location Impact Hub will still be one of many different providers for community and coworking space. In London alone, there are four Impact Hubs, four WeWorks, the Guardian Lab, Level39, and so on. And this diversity of spaces and communities for various groups adds to the strength of the local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Each neighbourhood can benefit from distinct spaces and communities to convene.

In smaller cities, however, say below 1 million inhabitants (which is not always the most relevant figure), it needs critical mass of people across multiple sectors within the community, be it startups, techies, creatives, culture entrepreneurs or corporate intrapreneurs. Last year’s merger with Colab Zurich and the opening of the new location at Sihlquai 131/131 has created a unique opportunity to bring together entrepreneurial people from all backgrounds in one location in Zurich. And the new attic level just added more space for workshops (up to 25 people), three new meeting rooms, up to five team desks, a chillout lounge and, coming up next, the makerZpace for IoT- and hardware-prototyping.

 

Contact Michel, if you would like to visit for a tour, or just come by for a cup of delicious coffee or a first free day of coworking.

 

Dr. Christoph Birkholz (34) is an entrepreneur based in Zurich, Switzerland. He is a co-founder and managing director of Impact Hub Zürich, the largest Hub in a global network of over 100 Impact Hubs. He also founded and directs Kickstart Accelerator, one of the world’s leading programs to accelerate partnerships between deep tech startups, corporates, universities and cities. Christoph is a...

Christoph Birkholz, Business Development

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