Using Co-Working Spaces to Build Community

(Eric Halsey) #1

In the last lesson, we looked at how Teddy Ruge used blogging to build his own reputation and a community of followers he later used to develop his businesses. Now, let’s look at one of those businesses more closely. Because Ruge and his partners have built Hive into an example of the power of a co-working space to build a community.

##Creating Community

“Hive is the Ugandan ihub basically. It’s on a smaller scale because the tech sector in Uganda is less evolved. Back in 2008-2009 and when we launched in 2010, most technologists were working in University labs, cafes, or bedrooms. So there wasn’t a community. I saw we needed that, we would have tech happy hours but we didn’t really have a community place. We started with a small office but all we could provide was slow internet. But we could have events, have people begin to meet each other, put faces to online identities, etc. Then, slowly it evolved as we got money for partnerships, around 2011 we really found our footing and had a space in Kampala.”
-Teddy Rouge, Founder of Raintree Farms, Co-founder of and Hive Colab

Teddy could clearly see that Kampala’s tech sector had a greater potential than most people believed. His work with the diaspora community and blogging had got him thinking about the potential of a co-working space. After all, he had already seen how many Africans were skeptical of African businesses and of their own potential. What better way to get more businesses started and more knowledge shared than to create a central meeting and working point for the community?

“You start with the three Fs. Once your money runs out, start with fools, family, and friends. In small doses you get that done. Eventually we applied of grant funding. We got better at writing grants. Eventually you end up with enough funding to keep the lights and internet on. We have a partnership to provide high speed internet there.”
-Teddy Rouge, Founder of Raintree Farms, Co-founder of and Hive Colab

Once Hive was started, the benefits for the community weren’t hard to see. What was difficult was finding a way to fund the space. That solution came gradually with grant funding and partnerships. But it wasn’t just luck or perseverance, Hive was started because Teddy could see that there was enough demand for it to exist.

"As other tech hubs are springing up throughout the continent, there’s the question of how we’re keeping the lights on. Each location needs to figure out how to keep the lights on. What do you pay attention to for that customization. What’s the tech adoption in your locale? Are you creating tools beyond your user base?

So, he warns here that any co-working space has to be tailored to its own environment. Success is not guaranteed. But Hive, like ihub in Nairobi, has shown that co-working spaces in Africa have the potential to become hubs for learning, community building, and the broader creation of a successful tech sector in African cities.