HUB Oakland co-founder Konda Mason addresses the crowd at the project's Kickstarter campaign launch party.

HUB Oakland launches Kickstarter campaign for new Uptown location

on April 12, 2013

More than 500 people from around the Bay Area attended a launch party in downtown Oakland Monday to help HUB Oakland try and raise $100,000 so that it can move into a large, permanent space in the Uptown district of Oakland. The HUB group, led by Oakland entrepreneur and filmmaker Konda Mason, is using the money it will make through a Kickstarter campaign to add private offices, conference rooms and collaborative spaces, as well as a kitchen and art gallery, to its new space.

Attendees, crowding into HUB Oakland’s temporary location at 1423 Broadway Ave. in downtown Oakland, wrote on two large sheets of paper to answer the question “What Makes You Come Alive?” scribbling in red-and-blue markers, “Creating art,” “Innovative ideas birthing into form,” or “Eating two plates of food at the same time.” For a launch party, the decorations were otherwise minimal, featuring a variety of company posters, and some red and white balloons in the open space.

As the Kickstarter campaign officially opened, Mason watched HUB Oakland’s Kickstarter page on a laptop, donations flying in. “We’re at $9,082! We’re going to make it to $10,000 in 10 minutes!” she said, and the crowd chanted with her: “$10,000 in 10 minutes! $10,000 in 10 minutes! $10,000 in 10 minutes!”

The HUB, started in London in 2005, began as a physical space for people with ideas for start-ups and a desire to collaborate to meet and work together. Now, there are more than 30 HUBs around the world, from San Francisco to Dubai to Vienna. Each HUB is started by a HUB Founder, who forms a team and takes care of logistics like location, funding and partnerships. The global HUB team helps out with advice on how to reach out to investors, potential members and the local community; they even provide templates for contracts and other logistics-based instructions to new founders via Google docs.

HUB Oakland has already received approximately $700,000 in funding from Oakland redevelopment funds, HUB San Francisco and angel investors for the new location, a two-floor, 16,000 square foot space, with a mezzanine and space for a meditation and yoga area. Now, the team is focusing on the final $100,000 — or hopefully more, Mason says — to build out the mezzanine and cover architect fees.

Once the HUB opens, revenue will come from memberships, which will allow Oakland companies and community members to use the offices. Mason said there will be 20 private offices in the Uptown location for those who want to be full members of the HUB, as well as open workspaces, or “hot desks,” for those who want to work casually. Some revenue will also be brought in through programs, workshops and conferences that will be offered to Oakland residents for a fee.

Mason said the Oakland HUB could break even in three years, if all goes according to plan. To sustain themselves until then, they are looking to raise over $1 million in total, mostly from investors and corporate sponsors.

Michigan-based furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, for example, has struck a deal with HUBs across the nation through its small and medium business program. In Oakland, the HUB will be furnished with Herman Miller furniture for a fraction of its price, and Herman Miller will be able to use the HUB as a showroom for potential customers. Herman Miller representative Kelsy O’Brien, who attended the Kickstarter party, said that Herman Miller and the HUB share similar values of sustainability and local manufacturing.

“This is a really great opportunity for a company to be invested very early on and see the project the whole way through,” she said.

Mason described the space as the best of working at home and having an office. “It’s not restrictive cubicles and it’s not surfing Facebook on your couch,” she said. “It’s somewhere in between that.”

HUB Oakland will also have a nonprofit arm, which will provide subsidized workshops and seminars for Oakland residents and students. The team is working on a curriculum and Mason said she is focused in particular on Oakland residents who are not in the downtown area. She said that she wants to bring together downtown Oakland and East and West Oakland to “stop the tale of two cities.”

“Oakland is thriving and Oakland is not thriving. The shooting at First Friday was a shock to a lot of people, but that kind of thing happens all the time in East Oakland,” she said. “We are working now on models to attract all of this city, not just specific parts of it.”

At the launch party, Rob Friend, who works at a telecommunications design firm in Oakland, said that opening up markets and creating new spaces is important at a time when traditional jobs are taken. “I’m glad it’s younger people who are enthusiastic and, if the plan fails, can get back up and say, ‘Well, I’ll do something else’,” he said.

But Mason, and HUB Oakland’s Kickstarter campaign manager Micah Daigle, said they are confident the campaign will succeed.

“There is no secret ingredient for Kickstarter success but we have well-connected founders with strong relationships, plus a global network,” Daigle said. “There are a lot of excited people here.”

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