Bali’s Hub for Collaborative Innovation

By : Jen Baxter | on 11:23 AM October 06, 2013
Category : Life & Style, Travel, Featured

Digital nomads, entrepreneurs and activists meet, share ideas and collaborate at Hubud in Ubud, Bali founded by Steven Monroe, John Aldersin and Peter Hall. (Photo courtesy of Hubud) Digital nomads, entrepreneurs and activists meet, share ideas and collaborate at Hubud in Ubud, Bali founded by Steve Munroe, John Alderson and Peter Wall. (Photo courtesy of Hubud)

Joining the global ecosystem of co-working spaces, Hubud, (a play on the words of hub and Ubud) opened early in 2013 and has quickly become a hub for Ubud’s creative and innovative collective.

Capitalizing on the natural fit between the co-working concept and Bali’s laid-back, alternative lifestyle, co-founders John Alderson, Peter Wall and Steve Munroe have established a space that attracts a community of diverse professionals. Entrepreneurs, digital nomads and non-profits work side-by-side, demonstrating that this concept’s time has come.

Co-working spaces have quickly become more than just shared office space with fast Wi-Fi, desks and cool cafes. They have grown into places of learning where connections and relationships develop spontaneously and organically. Entrepreneurs, freelancers and programmers share knowledge in collaborative and innovative environments, whose development is creating a natural ecosystem in which collaboration and sharing resources are encouraged. This allows for professional growth to flourish in unexpected and exciting ways.

The co-founders have been surprised by how quickly the Ubud community has embraced the space. Each day they witness professional and personal connections between established Ubud expats, serial entrepreneurs, creative freelancers and non-profit professionals.

To facilitate these connections and collaborations, Hubud has been hosting a series of weekly events. Hall and Munroe both feel these events are where the magic happens.

Bali Bunkus

(Photo courtesy of Hubud) (Photo courtesy of Hubud)

These events — “Bali Bunkus” (lunchtime learning sessions), skill shares, evening meet-ups, Indonesian language classes and members’ lunches — allow relationships and ideas to take root.

Hubud is following the trail that founders of co-working spaces worldwide are blazing. “The fantastic thing about the co-working world is that members are supportive of each other,” Munroe said.

Before Hubud opened its doors, the team was mentored and supported by Grace Sai of the Hub Singapore and Puja Warier from Bombay Connect in India. Sai’s most influential advice was to grow the community first, before the trio even found a space.

The three collaborated and hosted a monthly Pecha Kucha night, where people stand for three minutes with six slides and talk about their work in an informal, improvised format. These events began to create the “hub” of people who now form part of Hubud’s 140 members from more than 20 countries.

The space inspires both aesthetically and in terms of the people it attracts. The interior is mostly bamboo, with a two-story open floor plan, including conference rooms, a Skype room and a cafe. The core vision of community-building, Wall said, is based on five “Golden Values”: authenticity, connection, collaboration, productivity and social change.

Wall strongly feels that, once people are engaged and productive, they have an opportunity to make an impact in Bali, Indonesia and the world.

The three recognize that the process has been about inspiring and nurturing a community as much as the business and projects being worked on at Hubud. The initial months were spent encouraging people to collaborate, connect and be creative. Now the focus has turned to encouraging people to contribute through events, programs and by “facilitating serendipity.” The next phase will be growth.

Work environment of the future

(Photo courtesy of Hubud) (Photo courtesy of Hubud)

Sitting in Hubud’s raw food cafe, “The Living Food Lab,” overlooking rice fields, Munroe explains: “This type of environment is the work environment of the future, where creative individuals, freelancers and small teams work in spaces that are inspiring, independent, non-corporate and diverse. We have designers, photographers, programmers, NGOs and writers. It’s like our dream dinner party.”

Ewa Wojkowska, a respected member of the Ubud community and an adviser to the online marketplace Yayasan Kopernik, said, “I don’t know what people did before Hubud. It’s difficult now to imagine a time before it.”

Yayasan Kopernik connects communities in the developing world with financial supporters and technology; their teams have started working out of Hubud regularly. In the last few months Kopernik has hosted visiting student research teams from both MIT and Cambridge University.

This year the foundation is partnering with AusAid (an Australian government aid agency) and Hubud to hold an Indonesian Social Innovation Award. The contest is open to Indonesian innovators hoping to help the disadvantaged by solving social issues in the areas of agriculture, education, energy, environment, health, information, communication technology, water and sanitation.

Still, the biggest challenge right now is attracting more Indonesian members, who currently only make up about 10 percent. The plan is to grow this to 50 percent.

Hubud’s open, hip and cozy atmosphere attracts both longtime residents and the fluid talent of “digital nomads” whose professions allow them to work from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. The previous lifestyle of the digital nomad was connected to creative freelancers, but this seems to be changing. Now, more small business owners in internet marketing and e-commerce have the opportunity to relocate while managing their “virtual teams” via Skype calls and task management software.

While technology tools cannot replace the relationship building opportunities created by face-to-face meetings, in many cases it can afford people a healthier, less stressful lifestyle and more time with their families, while also allowing them to connect with a diverse group of professionals with whom they would not otherwise work. Consequently, they learn new tools and share best practices.

With co-working spaces popping up across the world, Hubud and spaces like it signal a shift in the global economy.

From San Francisco, California — where the first co-working space, Citizen Space, opened seven years ago — to the tropical paradise of Ubud, Bali, a whole generation is experiencing this shift in the workplace paradigm.

Co-working environments promote human values to support people in their businesses. From there, the connections formed have the potential to create a global movement of innovation, change and mobility like never before.

Jen Baxter also writes a blog called “In the Wonder” about travel and transformation. It can be found at


88 Monkey Forest RoadUbud, Bali

Show More