Huckletree: Building communities of fast-growing start-ups in Ireland and the UK

11 Apr 2022

Andrew Lynch, COO and co-founder, Huckletree. Image: Huckletree

Huckletree’s hubs in Dublin, London and Manchester are poised for growth as more and more businesses adapt to flexible working.

“From the very beginning of setting up operations in Dublin, we wanted to target the most ambitious, visionary start-ups and scale-ups building and scaling incredible businesses in fast-growth sectors,” said Andrew Lynch, outlining the early vision for Huckletree.

The office and workspace provider was originally founded in the UK in 2014, with the Irish arm established in 2017.

Today, Huckletree D2 in The Academy in Dublin’s city centre – once the home of Twitter’s European HQ – is a base for almost 70 companies, with high-profile clients including UK unicorn Starling Bank and Irish up-and-comers Tines and ChannelSight.

These rapidly scaling businesses turn to Huckletree for a flexible, adaptable workspace that can grow and shift as they need.

“The market for shared workspace has exploded post-pandemic, and we are now seeing a lot of interest from larger scale-up companies who are exploring alternative options to taking on their own lease,” said Lynch. “This means we have a really interesting mix of early, mid and late-stage tech companies all operating under one roof.”

Huckletree operates six workspace hubs in London, Manchester and Dublin. There’s plenty of competition in the sector, but Lynch said the secret sauce for his business is in the ‘art’ of creating innovation ecosystems.

“Each of our hubs is dedicated to a specific vertical or industry. Dublin, for example, is curated around high-growth tech, SaaS and international expanders. In London, we have Soho curated around a network of VCs and investors. But we get even more granular than that,” he explained.

“Though we fully curate 80pc around that industry, we keep 20pc open to what that industry needs, be it financial advisers, lawyers, creative agencies, investors. What this does is create an ecosystem of businesses that cross-pollinate, learn from each other, even spark deal-flow. It’s quite remarkable.”

‘Setting up a location in Dublin back in 2017 was based primarily on how inspiring the start-up scene had become’

Lynch said Huckletree’s mission is to create “the world’s most vibrant innovation ecosystem”.

Providing the workspace for high-growth technology and creative companies is the core business but COO Lynch said the unique offering at Huckletree is its ability to unite these businesses so they can share their learnings and expand their networks. As well as the room to work and grow, Huckletree offers innovation consultancy, educational programming and events that bring together its community of members, investors and ambassadors.

Lynch himself was born in Ireland but moved to London after college. “Having spent time working in the world of private equity and venture capital with JP Morgan and Cambridge Associates, I traded in my suit and tie to join the co-working sector alongside Huckletree’s co-founder and CEO, Gabriela Hersham,” he recounted.

“The first idea of Huckletree was sparked by Gaby back in 2010 when she was working in the film industry in New York and working from a shared office space. This led to her launching the first Huckletree space in 2014 in Clerkenwell, London.”

After a decade in London, Lynch returned to Ireland with his family last year. “It’s incredible to see the change in the city since I left after finishing college,” he said. “Setting up a location in Dublin back in 2017 was based primarily on how inspiring the start-up scene had become. Since then, multiple factors including Brexit have brought even more opportunities to tech companies based here.”

These changes have made it “a really interesting time for business and tech in Dublin”, according to Lynch.

“We are seeing numerous companies scaling rapidly and a steadily increasing number of exciting start-ups,” he said. “There is an undeniable buzz and an enthusiasm for tech innovation in sectors including security, SaaS, fintech, e-commerce and AI. Companies like Tines and Flipdish are proving that it is possible to scale a tech company from Ireland.”

‘Offices are now being valued as the place where you create, not a place where you grind it out and work’

And in the last two years, it’s not just the Dublin start-up scene that Lynch has found transformed. The world of work and the attitude to flexible workplaces has come on leaps and bounds following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Since the easing of restrictions in Ireland and the UK, we have seen more and more companies looking for workspace for their hybrid teams,” said Lynch. “Towards the end of last year, our membership base in Dublin grew by 35pc as the country started opening back up again and we’ve really seen the market bounce back in recent months. In fact, we’re almost full across all our hubs.”

Huckletree now finds itself well placed to offer not just scaling start-ups but all kinds of businesses the flexible workspace they require. “People are expecting flexible work options from their employers, and being in a space like Huckletree helps companies to offer the ultimate flexibility to their employees, while offering a hub to connect with those around them,” said Lynch.

“How people view the world of work has changed, and we have responded to that change, ensuring that what we offer is what people are looking for in 2022 and beyond. Offices are now being valued as the place where you create, not a place where you grind it out and work. They are a place where you understand context, build bonds and make important industry connections. For a workspace like ours that caters for the innovation ecosystem, it’s less about perks and more about the true ingredients for entrepreneurial thinking.”

‘Gaby and I joke that the last two years were our real-world MBA’

Lynch sees the transformation of industry over the past two years as “a reminder that true innovation never sleeps”. Through the challenges Covid-19 brought, he too has come out of the crisis with valuable lessons learned.

“Covid turned the world on its head and everything we assumed about consumer behaviour and took somewhat for granted prior to the pandemic was thrown out the window. We’re now in a phase of normalisation, where businesses have moved on from being in survival mode and are now focusing on growth again,” he said.

“Gaby and I joke that the last two years were our real-world MBA; a varied course covering product development, sales, finance, investor relations and, of course, crisis management.”

And during the pandemic, Huckletree continued to drive forward with new ideas, fit for the future of work.

“Last year we launched Earthrise, a virtual summit which brought together sustainability leaders, founders, politicians and innovators from all corners of the world. We are running that again this year in May as a hybrid event in multiple cities across the world, which we are really excited about,” said Lynch.

Throughout the business, Huckletree is aiming for sustainability, from the partners it works with to the buildings it inhabits. “We are also currently in the process of applying for B Corp certification which means that we are reviewing everything from how we recycle to the suppliers we work with,” said Lynch.

Also on the roadmap is a second Dublin hub, and accelerated growth across the entire portfolio. “This means that we will be growing our community team, which we are really excited about!” Lynch added.

“In Dublin, the short-term goal for us is to at least triple Huckletree’s footprint in the capital city over the next three years. Our growth ambitions have accelerated in the past 24 months, because of the trend we are seeing across our markets toward a flexible approach to workspace, which has aided our model and the market massively following the pandemic.

“The ultimate goal that drives us every day is to be the home of brave innovation across the UK and Ireland, and we feel that we are well on our way to achieving that.”

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.