What the London tech startup community can learn from the Hackspace community
For about the last half a year I have been a member of hacker/maker group hackspace here in London, and have been involved with the local startup community for just over a year as a member of TechHub – a co-working space for start-ups. In that time TechHub has grown from what was essentially a floor of a smallish office building with what seemed like around 40-50 people at any given time to being the biggest occupant at the Google Campus London, which is claimed to be the the largest purpose built space for start-ups in Europe. Hackspace, on the other hand, is in a much more modest business center taking two workshop units and has just this week crossed over the 500 membership threshold.
TechHub is a great provider of working space, something a lot of startups really need yet can rarely afford to rent, however I have found it to lack the community atmosphere and knowledge sharing approach that Hackspace has. Sure, there is the occasional passing around of contacts or a pointer in the right direction for a specific problem, but there isn’t that attitude of sitting down and helping each other out with technical (or business) stuff. I think a lot of that is due to the way the two organisations are managed and run. TechHub is a company that employs full time staff (some of whom are really helpful I should add) whereas hackspace is a member run organisation using the Once Click Orgs, where the members are responsible for the running of the space in a democratic fashion and trustees can intervene resolve issues where necessary. I think the member run aspect encourages people to step forward and participate; this week, for example, one of the members who is a computer graphics whiz, organised a workshop to teach people about different aspects of CG and computer vision. There are actually a lot of workshops being organised by members. They even setup the glastonbury equivalent of hacking with their EMF camp at the end of august; a three day event full of hacking all focused on sharing knowledge and having fun.
Surely a lot of knowledge is shared in incubators and accelerators, but even then a lot of that knowledge is not peer disseminated. And quite frankly there are nowhere near enough of them to meet the demands of early stage startups in London which in turn is hampering the success rate.
What London would benefit from is a member run organisation like Hackspace but focused on a slightly different kind of hacking, business hacking. And given the tools available through such OneClickOrgs now is as good a time as ever to start something like that…
Watch. This. Space.