Two years ago last week (July 25), Eastbourne’s coworking space opened its doors to a handful of freelancers and entrepreneurs in a makeshift space above The Enterprise Shopping Centre.
The idea was simple: bringing people together increases the chances of serendipity with the potential that the resulting new ideas and projects could grow into something significant.
Cohub’s co-founders, Stuart and Laura Lambert, had already identified a latent demand for this type of space: two previous “jellies” held in a room above a pub invited freelancers, independent workers and entrepreneurs to switch the isolation of their normal workplace – home office, dining room table, coffee shop, and so on – and spend the day working alongside other like-minded individuals.
The jellies were a great success, as Stuart explained, “Over twenty people from various backgrounds and industries working for themselves, just not by themselves, sharing a coffee break with each other rather than the cat, being distracted by a joke or interesting story rather than the TV and laundry, and invariably reporting an increase in motivation and productivity.”
Once in their own space, Stuart and Laura set about building the Cohub community, welcoming freelancers from industries as diverse and water supply and hospitality consultancy, email marketing and automotive user experience design.
Last year, exactly a year after opening, Cohub moved to larger premises – more than double the size, in fact – and now have more than 40 members working from the space.
Some make use of hot desks, spending two or three days a week in the space and working from home or visiting clients at other times.
Others have dedicated desks and are part of the furniture.
As the Cohub membership increases so the potential for chance meetings grows exponentially.
A conversation between email marketing company Colony101 – who have three employees based in Cohub and another visiting regularly – and Dr Aidan Delaney, a lecturer from Brighton University working out of Cohub during a research project, lead to a realisation that there was an opportunity for a valuable Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP).
A couple of months later and Colony101 have secured in excess of £100,000 in funding for a two year partnership with the University of Brighton to create a new product that will support small and medium enterprises’ lifecycle marketing.
Colony101 have just hired an additional developer who is relocating to Eastbourne to support the project.
“If we were still based out of own office space we would not have bumped into Aidan and found out about KTP funding,” said Ian Pollard, director at Colony 101. “The opportunities and advantages of working out of a coworking space like Cohub are huge, from useful perspectives and advise on your current projects, to collaboration, sub-contracting opportunities, and even to new spinout businesses.“
Individuals have also come together to work on new projects. Spacebourne – a mission to get a weather balloon to the edge of space and capture high altitude, high definition images of Eastbourne and the surrounding area – was the brainchild of full-time member, Ian Pollard, and now in the final phases of development before a launch later this summer.
Neal Chant and Richard Stubbs were both successful IT professionals working for large local and multi-national organisations.
In spending time together in Cohub – and before that at the jellies – they came to realise that there was a lot of synergy in what they did.
They have now launched a brand new venture together, The Network Factory, providing bespoke technology solutions to clients throughout the UK and.
Cohub already hosts a number of regular events that bring non-members together in the space, including #WiredEB for digital, technology and creative professionals, Pick n’ Mix networking for forward thinking innovators and a regular gathering of social entrepreneurs.
And with a growing level of startup activity in the town, Cohub will be adding more events to their events programme aimed at supporting and connecting entrepreneurs, starting this evening (Friday, August 1) with The Startup BBQ, and event for anybody in or around Eastbourne involved in an early stage or pre-startup venture.
The startup BBQ is supported by Eastbourne Can, TechResort – a community interest company dedicated to making Eastbourne a great home for creative, digital and technology folks – and the town’s chamber of commerce, Eastbourne Unltd, the first of a series of upcoming events aimed at supporting startup businesses and entrepreneurs, whilst continuing to help existing businesses get better connected via networking and, of course, coworking.
So if you run your own business in Eastbourne, be it a startup or an established business, keep an eye on cohub.co.uk or follow @cohub on Twitter for more information.