photo left: One of the 25 founding members, Eiji Han Shimizu at the launch.
by Rio Helmi
On Monday the 4th of March, HUBUD launched. A co-working space down near the Padang Tegal Monkey Forest, built in bamboo, it is the brainchild of three expat men (Peter Wall, John Alderson, and Steve Monroe) who happened to have very similar ideas for a space like this. (Peter Wall: “I think sometimes good ideas come out of the earth at the same time in different directions.”) They then met Balinese Made Gandra who had the right space and the right attitude. HUBUD is meant not just as a workspace for multiple users. Its founders are looking to create something much more.
Rio: So what you’re hoping for is some synergy. You have some founding members. Did you approach them, or how did that work?
Peter: We have 25 founding members now. For the most part we approached them. We said “Hey, we think you’re cool, we’re going to open this space, are you interested?” We got a lot of feedback; people were interested and wanted to take part. It helped us defray some of our start-up costs. And it helped them make a commitment: “We believe in the idea.” We also put it out on Facebook and spoke about it on 20/20 over the last two months. I thought we were going to sell maybe 10, but we reached our cap of 25.
Rio: Looking at some of your 25 founding members, they are pretty interesting. Even just with them alone, there’s enough to create some sort of synergy. But I’m intrigued: are you looking at mainly people who are staying here, or at interesting people who are zipping through for a while?
Peter: What I like about Ubud is that it is a real crossroads. There are people like yourself who have been here 10, 20, 30 years. People who are established, who have businesses here, who have lives here. Those people for the most part build their network and their world, and it kind of narrows the longer you are here. You get into your thing, you get into your rhythm. Then there are people in my category – I put them in the 6 months to 5 years window. These people are still a little more open to meeting other people and are looking for projects and ways to engage with the community – that’s probably going to be a huge part of our membership. But we are super interested in the other people as well, because I think really cool things happen when you get the knowledge of people who have been here over a long time, and the experience of people who have been here a long time. For example Rucina Ballinger has been enormously supportive.
(Peter tells me a story about how two members – long-time residents who had never met each other before – met and discovered they and their parents had long similar histories in Indonesia going back to the 30’s): These are the kinds of connections we are going to encourage people to have here. So it really is like a hub. There are enough empires already in Ubud, which is great, but in terms of a place where people can come in a non-competitive, collaborative atmosphere I think the time is right for this kind of thing to happen in Ubud.
Rio: Yes that’s what makes it interesting, otherwise it’s just a business center.
Peter: Yes. We say that our three things are productivity, creativity, and collaboration. We want people who are doing things, doing projects: Productivity. Not a sexy word, but (Hubud) is not a café, not a place to just hang out. I mean obviously people are going to meet here and then go out to lunch but it’s a place to do things. Creativity: obviously a wide definition there and there’s no shortage of creativity in Ubud. And Collaboration. We don’t want members who are going to come and just sit at their own little desk and not talk to anyone, not asking for feedback (from the others).
Rio: For many years Bali has been a kind of creativity lab. There’s also another side, more related to marketing that sometimes strangles the creativity. It’s ironic because you need both to make it work. It comes about through the dynamic and interaction between what’s already here, and the new. Which brings us to my next question: are you making an effort to reach out to the non-expat local community, Balinese and other Indonesians?
Peter: It’s a super good question. We have always said this place would be a failure if it was just a bunch of bulés coming together. We are totally aware that for the start we are going to be bulé heavy because that’s our background, and also because that’s where the idea comes from. But that’s not OK, we need to have an Indonesian clientele, and Balinese, involved. We are fortunate because we have a fantastic Balinese partner Made Gandra who loves the idea. We also have people like Daniel Ziv and Lakota Moira who are very connected to the Indonesian community. We are hoping we can spread it through the Ubud community – it’s a challenge because there is a cultural ‘divide’. We are looking at what some other hubs have done, to have what they call an “impact fund”: we approach entrepreneurs, people who have done well, who want to give back to the community so we have scholarships for young Indonesian entrepreneurs, young Indonesians wanting to get their projects off the ground. We are partnering with Kopernik and AusAID to provide a 12-month scholarship award for young innovators to work out of Ubud: “The AusAID Social Innovator Award, powered by Kopernik and Hubud”. It’s a cash prize and a 12 months scholarship.