Saugatuck: A Hub For Innovation

Howard Steinberg is a serial entrepreneur.

He started Source Marketing here in 1989. He sold his majority stake 9 years later, then created dLife — a multimedia diabetes education platform.

He rented office space all over town and near the train station. But after stepping down from dLife a year and a half ago to tackle new projects, his work environment changed.

He saw people at coffee and lunches. Yet his home office felt isolating and uninspiring.

Howard Steinberg, at 20 Ketchum Street.

Howard Steinberg, at 20 Ketchum Street.

Westport is filled with solo entrepreneurs and tiny companies operating out of basements and spare bedrooms. When Howard saw MadisonMott — the cutting-edge branding, advertising, digital and social media agency in Saugatuck — and realized there was 5,000 square feet of vacant space next door, his newest venture was born.

Westport Innovation Hub opens officially on September 1, but members begin working there this week.

Or — to be more precise — they “co-work” there.

The Hub is a place where creative people — entrepreneurs, investors and early stage businesses — can work on their own projects. But at the same time they support each other and share ideas. They may share capital too. 

“Ideas will percolate. Things will emerge organically,” Howard says.

The organic percolation takes place in a wide-open, inviting workspace. Westporter David Murray designed yin-and-yang-shaped desks. They’re a far cry from the right-angles seen in offices for the last century — and they’ll go a long way to promote collaboration.

So will the kitchen/coffee bar, with its funky countertop.

Westport Innovation HubThe Hub also features a videoconference room, plus another conference area with a bluestone slab from Gault as its tabletop. (Sam Gault owns the space, and has been a very supportive landlord.)

Monthly fees range from $600 to $1,500, depending on the type of workstation. High-speed internet, cable, printers, copiers, conference rooms — and of course coffee — are included.

Those rates are competitive with area office suites, Howard says. But the work environment is much friendlier than separate rooms with walls and doors.

Howard says about half the people who have signed up so far had been working out of their homes.

He was one of them.

The other day though, he said “the 5 sweetest words in the world” to his wife: “I’m going to the office.”

The Hub's desks invite collaboration. They're more inviting now than this photo shows; chairs have arrived since then.

The Hub’s desks invite collaboration. They’re more inviting now than this photo shows; chairs have arrived.

(For more information on the Westport Innovation Hub, click here.)

7 responses to “Saugatuck: A Hub For Innovation

  1. Eric William Buchroeder

    PT Barnum would be proud.

  2. Bart Shuldman

    Be careful-even though this is wonderful for this that need space. If you have an idea and it is unique, if you do not submit a patent, once you speak to someone about the idea, you lose the opportunity to patent it. Hopefully you will make anyone sign a non disclosure confidentialty agreement. That could and should protect you. Just know before you chose to disclose.

    Hope this helps.

  3. Love the name. And that logo design. Wow.

    Tim Manners
    Founder
    the HUB magazine
    Westport CT

  4. Howard Steinberg

    Eric – explain yourself: what does “PT Barnum would be proud” mean?

  5. Marty Silver

    @Howard, I think that Eric means that your idea is going to turn into a circus. Just if you needed the clarification. BTW this idea has been done before mainly out in Palo Alto.

    • Thanks for the clarification. These ignorant snarky comments leave me scratching my head. Boy, try to do something good around here. This “idea”, as you refer to it, has indeed been done in variety of ways from Palo Alto to Boston to Austin to Bridgeport. so what? No one claimed originality. There are now probably over 50 of them in one form or another across the US. None of them are in the circus business, but many of them have helped spawn young successful companies. But until now there has not been such an environment in our town!

      When we moved to Westport some 26 years ago there was a raging debate about building a new playground at the beach. I failed then to understand why something so seemingly positive was fodder for fervent dissent and endless chatter vs action. After reading some of the comments above, it is now clearer to me how a cranky minority in the 06880 community doesn’t even bother with facts and reality, but rather just shoots totally misinformed cheap shots from the hip when new paradigms emerge. Over more than two decades, thousand of kids have enjoyed the compo playground while their families bonded to each other and to the community. Just as individuals and businesses will grow, prosper, bond and enjoy the virtual sandbox of the westport innovation hub – feeding off positive energy vs pissy naysayer nonsense.