Virtual Vs Brick & Mortar Hubs. What's Your Startups' Choice? Experts believe that a physical hub gives you the opportunity to be a part of a community

By Sanchita Dash

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Uday Dhoot, an entrepreneur, hails from Jorhat, Assam. But for him to fulfil his entrepreneurial dreams, he had to move to a Tier I city like Bengaluru. Why? The city offers better resources, infrastructure and entrepreneurial connections.

Networking events, demo days, investor meet-ups, entrepreneurs are always running from one place to another, in search of the right mentor and investor. For entrepreneurs, an important aspect of their journey is aligning themselves with the right connections in the ecosystem.

The Hub Culture

In order to lessen their worries a bit, the concept of start-up hubs came about - the idea that under one roof the start-ups can get all sorts of connections, information and more. From the introduction of communities like Startup Village to co-working spaces and even government backed hubs like T-Hub, we are now evolving with the conception of the virtual hub StartupIndia Hub launched by the Central Government.

But what will really work out better for an entrepreneur? A virtual hub where an entrepreneur can be based out of anywhere yet gets the convenience of connections or a brick and mortar hub that lets the founder meet his or her mentors in person.

Virtual vs Brick and Mortar

While the concept of both these hubs remain the same, the reachout varies. "An online or virtual hub can be a good step for start-ups that know where they are headed or what they are looking for. These entrepreneurs have a specific requirement and they can just log into the site and look for the contact. Online portals are good for referencing but the game changes when they need more guidelines or details. Usually, later stage start-ups are already done with decent paperwork, tax filings etc., but for an early stage start-up that's not the case, they need more guidance about where they should go with their idea, how to do their registration etc.," said Vineel Reddy Pindi, founder and CEO of Collab House.

Srinivas Kollipara, founder and COO, of T-Hub, India's largest incubator based out of Hyderabad too agrees that the later stage start-ups would prefer the virtual hub. "There are two reasons why one would opt for a virtual hub - their geographical location doesn't give them access to a physical hub or they are already well settled start-ups looking for a particular contact."

According to Kollipara, the charm of a physical hub is different and better. "Beyond the mentorship and access to capital, you get a one-on-one interaction with your mentors. More importantly, a physical hub lets you be a part of the community, which adds a lot more value. Making way for collective intelligence, you are able to share knowledge and resources. Moreover, the startup is then able to set a benchmark for itself based on where his or her peers are," he said.

Entrepreneurs speak!

Be it the virtual hub or a hub with in-house mentor presence, the aim for both is the same - to help entrepreneurs. And entrepreneurs have an interesting story to tell. They believe that stage has no role to play. "Location of the entrepreneur is what makes all the difference. If I'm in a city like Bengaluru, where physical hubs are easily accessible to me, I would prefer the same. But if I was in my hometown in Assam, a virtual hub would have made all the difference. It's all about the quality of access I will get," said Dhoot.

While Dhoot emphasizes on the fact that the impact of both is different based on the geographical location of the startup, Akshay Chaturvedi, co-founder and CEO of edtech startup Leverage has another point to make.

"Both virtual and actual hubs are important, and contrary to myth, in no particular order given the stage of the startup. I went through an actual hub, the Draper Fellowship program in Silicon Valley, when our company Leverage was in ideation phase - and today, two years later, am an ardent fan of the YC StartupSchool Series, a virtual hub, which really aids early star entrepreneurs with things they might perhaps miss out on if not for the constant reiteration, straight from those who've build solid companies before," said Chaturvedi.

Sanchita Dash

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Senior Correspondent, Entrepreneur India

In the business of news for 5 years now. Making my way across India thanks to my career. A media graduate from Symbiosis, Pune, I have earlier worked with Deccan Chronicle (South India's leading English daily), T-Hub (India's largest incubator) and Anthill Ventures (a speed-scaling platform). 

Stories, movies and PJs are my thing. 

If you hear 'The Office' opening score randomly, don't worry it's just my phone ringing. 


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