This week we were delighted to speak to Gabriela Hersham, CEO of Huckletree, London’s finest and most innovative co-working spaces. Bridging together London’s tech, finance and creative hubs under one roof, creating the perfect melting pot for growing startups!
1. First can you tell us a bit about your job? What does your company do?
We like to always start by saying that we are a community for the curious. We are in the business of creating workspaces for London’s most ambitious businesses. We have two buildings in London at present (Clerkenwell, and Shoreditch) and both are at capacity. We are opening our third space in Q3 of 2017, which will be in West London. Our members are entrepreneurs, startups, bigger businesses, agencies, venture investors and even incubators. Within each building, we create a complete ecosystem – that sweet spot intersection of lots of different businesses at different stages thriving in the same place.
I’m the CEO, which means that I am heavily involved in all areas of the business. At the moment, I’m spending about 30% of my time at the moment on HR/talent because we are growing the team quite radically and I do all the hiring myself. But my days also involve strategy and vision, marketing and sales, business development, expansion and operations. There isn’t an area of our business that doesn’t fascinate me.
2. What brought you to this area?
I have always chosen to surround myself with ambitious rule-breakers. It’s the rebellious teenager in me. So I thought it would be a good idea to build a business out of bringing these types together! We have 250 members in our Shoreditch building everyday and it’s incredible to walk into work and for it to be so welcoming.
I force myself to work from home one morning a week because I have a baby and I want to be present; but whilst I’m productive I am never as inspired as I am when I’m here.
3. What time does your day start, and what does your typical workday schedule look like?
Everyday is the same in terms of start time and end time for me because of the baby. I have to be very diligent with my time, and also productive whilst I am here – because I leave everyday at 5:30pm to get home on time to give him his bath and put him to bed. I don’t want to miss those moments.
4. What kind of projects are you currently working on?
The main current project is the launch of our new space later this year. One of my favourite words is optimisation, and I try to apply it to each area of my life. We optimise each new building in terms of design: drawing on what we’ve learnt through our other buildings (the successes, the shortcomings and what we can do differently). I would never want someone to walk into one of our buildings and don’t think ‘I get it, it’s Huckletree.’ I want each and every Huckletree to be a surprise.
We’re also working on our ‘Alpha Programme’ which is our way of giving back to really early stage entrepreneurs (pre-seed). We select three pre-seed startups each quarter, house them at Huckletree, give them an immersive programme of pitch practices, demo days, introductions, and help with their financial modelling. The programme culminates with a VC dinner. We don’t ask for anything from our Alpha startups – we just want to help them find their feet. I remember when I was starting Huckletree – it wasn’t always clear how to advance my concept towards reality. I had the idea but I would have loved to have had this kind of support system around me.
5. What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?
Having had my son one year ago, and having found the right balance of work and home. It’s tremendously difficult because as a mother you feel guilty when you’re at work – but as an entrepreneur you feel guilty when you’re at home. Setting my life up in a way that I can do both has been challenging – but I’m quite happy that I’ve managed to do find balance.
6. What is the one app you could not live without?
Bitmoji, I basically really only communicate in Bitmoji.
7. What is the best thing about working at your company?
The people. Coming in and having so many interesting people here really just drives me to come to work every morning.
8.Where is the after work hangout?
We don’t hang out so much after work truthfully. Our days are so intense together that everybody kind of needs to go home at the end! We start early (most of the team are here between 8 and 8:30am everyday). At the end of the day, each person’s respective bed is probably their best hangout!
During any given week at Huckletree there will be meditation, yoga, our ‘Growth Tuesday breakfasts’, Learning Thursday workshops and office hours, member drinks and pitch practice sessions in the auditorium. So every single day there are opportunities for our members (and team members) to do something to connect together.
9. Who is your professional role model?
My husband. I know that sounds really cheesy but it would probably have been even cheesier if I just said Sheryl Sandberg or something. Actually the men in my life, my husband, brother and father, they all work so hard and having them as role models around me really pushes me to always try harder. And my mum. She’s a force of her own. Definitely a role model for me with regards to being a strong woman.
10. What makes London a good city for technology and startups?
I think we have a lot of talent here. Our education system has the right programmes in place to make sure we’re leaving school now with much more of a technical knowledge than we had when I was at school. Back then, we didn’t learn to code at school. It wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t part of the curriculum and neither was entrepreneurship. Today is a different world.
I also think that London is a great example of a smart city, full of futuristic technologies that are being designed and implemented – some that we see and some that we have no idea are silently powering us from the background. As an environment, this affords us conditions which are receptive to innovation.
11. Which tech trends are you most excited about?
I generally like and am really interested in healthtech, there are some great apps and products out there like Thriva (one of our members at Huckletree) and Babylon health. It’s about time we take control over our health and our data.
12. What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
Diligence, being rigorous and through is really important, I don’t like to leave things half done. Intelligence obviously is another one and people who are fun to be around!
13. And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
Surround yourself with goodwill. Keep people around you who really want you to succeed, and who will help you get there. Having people who you can turn to for advice and support, people who you don’t feel ashamed calling five times a day, people who will give up their weekends to help you, is powerful. Us entrepreneurs need that support system. Starting your own business is hard and the journey is long – it’s only possible with the right army around you.