By Britney T-M
TRIPPIN’ is a summer blog series featuring coworking spaces, as BoxJelly intern Britney T-M travels to attend George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program. Follow the trip on Google Maps.
“Louisville is extremely strong in the manufacturing, distribution, and long-term healthcare sectors. How do we cross-pollinate and innovate around them?” – Vik Chadha (director of iHub)
iHub is a coworking space within Nucleus (a research park), located in downtown Louisville. For just $80/month, membership grants you access to the entire space (which includes mailing services, meeting rooms, and events), free coffee, and free parking.
My host, Vik (director of iHub), was inspired by the cross-pollination and networking aspects of coworking, and in six months time, turned around what used to be a storage building for Nucleus into a coworking space. For Nucleus, it’s a great way for vertical industry cross-pollination, and can act as a sort of feeder into their main facilities, which include office spaces, laboratories for research, and business management and consulting services.
They are very open to first-time users, offering free use of the space to them. Vik emphasized not having to monetize services, by having the right alignment in order to be a magnet for those who will best carry out the initiatives you are trying to implement. In the same way that word-of-mouth is the most effective form of marketing, alignment is the most effective way for a coworking space to exist. “It’s all about identifying the needs for the ecosystem,” said Vik. “Louisville is extremely strong in the manufacturing, distribution, and long-term healthcare sectors. How do we cross-pollinate and innovate around them?” In answering this question, iHub creates a sort of ‘critical mass’, a density if you will, for creativity and innovation, that it will eventually feed into the science park and in turn, serve as a beneficial ‘Nucleus’ (puns intended!) for the entire city.
“We want to create our own future by creating ecosystems for innovation. How can we create a foundation for that?” -Vik Chadha, iHub Director
The launch of XLerateHealth’s Accelerate SMARTCAP Program at iHub could not have been an anymore serendipitous example. Vik extended an invitation for me, as it was scheduled during our time to meet. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer was in attendance, as well as Ted Smith, the chief of economic growth and innovation. An initiative of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), the SMARTCAP program will be an accelerator program, with awards in $20,000 to each selected participating early-stage startup companies who address healthcare barriers in space to address problems here on earth, such as access to remote areas, limited resources, and patient evaluation. (Space flight will also turn commercial within our lifetimes, so look out for that as well.) Selected start-ups will also have full access to Nucleus services, and of course, access to a network which includes NASA. They are currently accepting applications. Louisville is a prime location for this program to emerge, not only because of Nucleus, but also because of the city’s rich history in distribution and healthcare.
With all of this wonderful news, I couldn’t help but wonder how all of this benefit would include/enhance the lives of the people living in Louisville, and in Kentucky. The answer? Organic growth (of the economy), of course.
“The more I explore it, the more I realize that what we don’t have is a space that’s constantly trying to benefit and grow the creative economy in Louisville. That’s what I want to do in this space.” -Christopher Davis
The next “space” that I would visit has not yet opened it’s doors, but founder of what will be Method in Louisville, Christopher Davis, was more than willing to meet with me. We met of course, at the place that parented the whole coworking concept: a coffee shop.
A young up-and-coming designer and entrepreneur himself, Chris is not only trying to cultivate an industry, but looking to grow the city as a whole. What started out as an initiative to open a coworking space has turned into an analysis of Louisville’s ecosystems and cultures that led Chris to innovate around what so many smaller cities (including Honolulu) experience: the dreaded brain drain. “…it’s harder to find talent here in Louisville, which is so ridiculous because I have so many friends who were, and are, moving to places like the Valley and Austin and Chicago because they can’t get jobs in Louisville. Or, they think they can’t get jobs in Louisville.”
The more he looked around, the more Chris realized that Louisville needed a physical space for a designer and developer culture to form (much like what Nucleus is doing for the entrepreneurial, science, and healthcare culture); for people to come, create, build, and ‘”organically” develop the identity of the designer and developer cultures that are not yet in place. Realizing that renting desks would not feasibly sustain a space and distracts from other financial opportunities, Chris wants to build Method with the intentions of it being a creative commons; a place to cultivate creativity in Louisville. “The more I explore it, the more I realize that what we don’t have is a space that’s constantly trying to benefit and grow the creative economy in Louisville. that’s what I want to do in this space.” His ideas build a sort of support matrix that would patch a lot of holes that many urban areas see (such as unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, and outsourcing). Workshops and events open to the public, a three-tiered educational plan, and a “Startup Weekend” type of event to act as a crowd-sourcing program to address the city’s problems.
Chris is one of those people whose emanating love for their city keeps its heart pumping. Literally, a place would only be a bunch of buildings if it weren’t for the initiative of its citizens to contribute to its life flow. As a millennial, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start as our generation ages into the professional world and leadership positions, but there are great examples of peers we can look to for that glimpse of guidance.