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Entrepreneurs need a network that understands, says TechHub co-founder

Elizabeth Varley gives Computer Weekly a tour of TechHub London and explains why entrepreneurs need other people that understand why sacrifices need to be made to be successful

Entrepreneurs need to surround themselves with other people who understand the sacrifices needed to get a business off the ground, TechHub co-founder and CEO Elizabeth Varley told Computer Weekly recently.  

TechHub is a startup network with more than 1,000 members worldwide. Founded in 2010, in London, it offers events, working space, access to experts and advice, and a community for support.

“Being an entrepreneur is very isolating, so working with other people who understand that is invaluable. Other entrepreneurs see it as normal that you might have to break commitments with friends, or that you haven’t had time to eat so have to order 2am pizza," Varley said.

“You don’t have to explain yourself to other people. We’re not interested in stealing ideas - there are no buyout threats here, so TechHub is a safety net.”

Varley said entrepreneurs are naturally risk takers, so working in an environment with other risk takers is beneficial: “Taking risks here becomes normal, and working in a community that understands and supports that really helps. Learning whether or not to take risks, or to call it quits, is a valuable life skill,” she said.

In June 2015, TechHub announced TechHub London, which is located in Ropemaker Street, conveniently close to TechHub Shoreditch and TechHub @Campus. The London launch comes not long after the network unveiled TechHub Madrid and TechHub Boston.

Computer Weekly recently toured TechHub London, which will be home to 400 members who will take advantage of a smart setting to meet with corporate clients and enterprise-focused venture capitalists.

It is the first TechHub in London to offer three types of membership: team members, for those who are part of a large team; resident members, for groups of one to four people; and flex members, for those who want to drop in and out when they need.

On selecting startups and supporting members, Varley said: “We don’t go by the business plan, because you could have good tech but a bad business plan. There is a sense of community and help here, not just a cheap desk to get started. You can dip in and out when you need.

“We’re not an accelerator, so we don’t have a set amount of weeks but we do hold workshops, events and you will have a community around you all the time, when you need it. Once you’re a member of TechHub you can access any of the locations worldwide. So if you’re looking to start a business on the east coast of America, you can have access to members there before you even make the trip,” she added.

Varley said there are there are 42 languages spoken among TechHub members.

The average age of a TechHub member, she added, is 34: “Which is older than most people think. We have all ages here spanning from those in their teens up to their forties – some have had a failed business and want to start again and some are just starting out.

“It’s mostly people who have worked in a business before, have seen a problem and want to solve it,” said Varley.

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Women want high-growth startups

Currently, 20% of TechHub members are women, Varley said, which is a figure she would like to increase: “I’m encouraging more women to come here as I’m a woman founder myself and we want more diversity here in general. 

“The more we talk about women as an industry, the more people don’t realise it’s a social problem. Rather than have women events, where the men don’t feel welcome, we should hold events with more female speakers and then the men will attend too,” she said.

Varley said the female members come to TechHub with the same aim as the male members: “The women founders here don’t tend to launch a business based on trying to fit work around their lifestyle or family commitments, but launch businesses to solve a problem just the same as the male founders. They’re looking to build high growth businesses with successful exits, instead of low growth companies to fit around family.”

TechHub currently exists in seven cities – Bangalore, Bucharest, Boston, London, Madrid, Riga and Swansea – but Varley hinted at more growth in the near future.

“Looking to the future we want to get corporates more engaged with the startup world. There will also be more international TechHub openings and some of our existing locations are bursting at the seams – India, in particular – so we’ll be looking at expanding where we can,” she said.

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