Westbound: The Story Behind Huckletree’s White City Workspace
by Emily Prichard
Huckletree founders share a behind-the-scenes insight into their decision to create a West London coworking hub for creatives
Flashback to a grey, chilly January day earlier this year when we revealed seriously big news: Huckletree is officially heading to West London.
Based in the former BBC MediaWorks in White City Place, our first digital lifestyle workspace will curate a community of media, fashion, gaming and VR-focused startups and entrepreneurs to add to our diverse roster of members.
So far, Huckletree has been East London-centric with our first two spaces based in Clerkenwell and Shoreditch. What prompted the move to West?
Andrew: “I think one of the reasons why we chose West London is due to the fact that it’s typically not known as a hub for startups, yet. Through Gaby and I’s experience of living there for the last few years, we’ve seen lots of really successful early-stage businesses, across a vast number of sectors, set-up in the area and then leave. There’s no one area or hub for those businesses to come together and remedying this is something that Gaby and I are really passionate about.
We saw basing ourselves at MediaWorks as an incredible opportunity, firstly considering the extensive development that we’re seeing at White City, and secondly, the sheer number of exciting, creative businesses setting-up there too.
We looked at a number of potential spaces around west London and, when we found White City Place, we quickly bought into the wider creative ambitions of those there before us.
The BBC is almost being reborn in that area and you see up and coming media and digital businesses chasing their tails looking for small amounts of space nearby. Once we found this and heard about the Royal College of Art, Soho House and Yoox-Net-A-Porter Group also moving in the neighbourhood, it was a bit of a no-brainer!
When we did research the types of businesses in the area, it inevitably showed fashion, media and tech as the leading industries. Thankfully, this aligned well with our initial instincts and gave us the confidence take the risk to focus our membership base on digital lifestyle startups at Huckletree West, from content creators to VR to gaming.
From the amount of inbounds we’re currently seeing, it’s proving to be an attractive concept — there’s nothing like that around there.”
Gaby: “As Andrew says, we both live in West London and whilst there is a lot of exciting activity of here, we’re lacking one hub that acts as the centre point for the exciting ideas and influencers that come out of our industry and that’s what we’re looking to build at Huckletree West.
East London has been the centre of London’s innovation scene for so long and whilst we’re behind it and part of it, we do feel it’s time to offer West London the same sense of excitement.”
Who would be our dream member at Huckletree West?
Gaby: “For me, the dream Huckletree member is building something very exciting, and looking for a community to share their growth journey with and build their influence alongside. They might well be working within technology, but we’ve also seen many an exciting non-tech business walk through our doors and we can’t deny the part these businesses play in our ecosystem.
They all attract great talent and have great teams (and actually, working at Huckletree helps them do so).
But the thing about our dream members is this: in order to qualify, they really do need to be exciting. There’s zero shame in admitting that we love great brands.”
Andrew: “I think the big element around dream members is that we want to stay true to Huckletree’s ethos — and there is no dream member. They need to align in three ways:
1) Whether they’re later or early stage, tech enabled or VC funded, they share in what we’re trying to achieve in creating a network and community.
2) We need to be able to help them with something. That can be as small as providing a cool space to work from or bigger things like tech, hiring, finance and fundraising.
3) They need to buy into what we want to give them and vice versa.
Those three elements are key and just because Huckletree West is focused on digital lifestyle startups, they’re not going away. It’s more refined.”
Which challenges are Huckletree facing at the moment with scaling our people-first approach?
Andrew: “One thing that we’ve seen with larger coworking spaces in London is that they’ve grown at such a high rate, the curation element has taken a hit. One of the key elements of Huckletree is that our spaces all have to be a certain size of 500 members or less.
From a curation or community point of view, any larger than that and it just becomes a very big serviced office. So that’s one physical elements we’re using to keep that curation and the next bit is hiring.
Team side, we try to avoid hiring very institutionalised facility managers.
We don’t see ourselves as real estate, we’re a workspace accelerator. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about keeping the lights on and air conditioning working, but the goal is always to make sure that all the needs of the community are met. We do that by making sure we hire the best people possible from all walks of life.”
Gaby: “There are always going to be challenges faced when a business more than doubles in size in one year, and as Andrew points out, we’re presently experiencing those challenges on both the member and the talent side, forcing us to think even harder about the way we grow.
We recently realised that something as central to our vision as our approach to curation wasn’t streamlined across the team, so we quickly ensured that everyone had access to a thought-piece on how we approach member curation. A lot of the struggles at this point have to do with communication!”
Why is West London such an inspiring place for creatives?
Gaby: “There’s just so much history in West London! Think about Portobello Road and the artists and designers who have been there for decades. Creativity and artistic rebellion were born here.”
Want to be a part of our community of disruptive digital lifestyle focused startups?
Apply now for membership at Huckletree West.