If you find yourself at the Hub L.A. on a post-industrial block of downtown Los Angeles, you’ll encounter all the features you might expect from a co-working space: Raw-wood planters and ample natural lighting. Zig-zagging communal tables, ready to host a row of MacBooks. Wall-sized white boards marked up with words like "inspire" or "collaboration."
But click "Apple + F" on the Hub’s website, and you won’t find the word "co-working" written a single time. Rather, co-founder Nick Kislinger calls the Hub a "members’ space for people who give a shit." While the 4,000-square-foot former warehouse may be ideal for cranking on a laptop all day, those in charge of Hub L.A. insist that the physical space is just the beginning of an exclusive social experience and community—portending a model of co-working spaces that’s more like a Soho House for social impact professionals.
While many co-working spaces feature business accelerator workshops and social events, CEO and co-founder Elizabeth Stewart says that the Hub will go beyond that to serve the "whole person" with programming for "personal development or professional development." And they’ll attempt to create a new community of urban entrepreneurs united around sustainability and digital media.
That means putting a cafe on-site, and organizing events like a release party for a book about "changes in consciousness," a lecture on permaculture, a workshop on sustainable infrastructure, or a short-film festival.
And it also means letting the right kind of person in. On the application, members must demonstrate a commitment to social impact through their professional aspirations. Individual memberships range from $25, which gets an open invitation to the events, to $510, for unlimited access to the space (about twice as much as full-time access to more typical co-working spaces downtown). According to Kislinger, a "dedicated impact media lab" geared at "Inconvenient Truth-style" media-makers will soon open.
So far, the concept seems to be working. Despite only being officially open for little more than one week, nearly 100 of 600 slots for members have already been filled, according to Stewart. Two four-person mini-offices, called "hub-lets"—which require at least a six-month lease—are already occupied by OkCupid Labs and Verynice, a consultancy for social design.
Hub L.A. is part of a global network of 30 Hubs in cities around the world from Madrid to Johannesburg. Members can connect online on "Hubnet," a social network 5,000-people strong.
The original Hub was founded in 2005 in London, which Stewart discovered while studying urban planning there for her masters. Stewart says that Hub chapters pay the organization a fee to license the brand, but they have to raise their own capital to get site-specific chapters off the ground. They also maintain individual control over whether to operate as a nonprofit, a choice which Stewart declined to "demonstrate the model that we’re working towards"—a for-profit social enterprise.
She says that some hubs market themselves as co-working space, but others don’t. "Our brand is evolving so quickly globally that it hasn’t caught up to what we have here in L.A."