Hive is beginning to buzz – city hasn’t done much to make the honey flow.

By Pepper Parr


January 17th, 2014

It was to be the focal point in the city for those doing cutting edge computer application work.  It was going to be the place where all those geeks that do those marvellous new applications would gather.  It was going to be the place where people could spend a couple of hours in an environment that had a bit of a buzz to it as well as a pace where the support needed was at your fingertips.

If the coffee doesn’t give you a jolt – that wall will.

It had a boffo opening night.  Everyone that mattered in the city was there along with more than enough in the way of photo ops to satisfy any politician.

The Mayor touts the operation every chance he gets.

Writing computer code is intense, creative work that the best coders need to get away from.  Ping pong table have always been a favourite.

Shaun Pennell put in hundreds of hours of work and close to $200,000 in capital costs just to get the doors open.

But it didn’t take off – it didn’t have one of those hockey stick shaped growth curves.  It is growing and it will grow and in time it will find its market but it has ben and is a grind.

A quiet corner where an individual can work alone or collaboratively with a small group.

It was a new idea – something different and Burlington doesn`t do different all that well.  While there are a number of top-notch, first-rate technology companies in the city, we really aren`t a technology ‘city.  It is going to take some time for the HiVE to take off commercially but Pennell knew that going in.  What he wanted to create was a place where those people doing that ground breaking work could come out of their basements and meet like-minded people.

Every new idea usually needs some level of support in the early days and Pennell thought the city would be involved in some way.  Pennell wasn`t looking for a hand out but he did think the city would be an early subscriber to the service.

Breakout space where people can relax, read or talk through a concept.

The HiVe is a place for people who are perhaps working at home and need a place for meetings that is a little more upscale than their kitchen table.  He put together a business model that allowed people to buy what they needed – and do so by becoming a HiVE subscriber.  For a couple of hundred a month a person got access to very well dressed out premises where they can work for a couple of hours and store their equipment in a locker or spend the fill day taking potential clients or investors through their work.

An entrepreneur who did his time in Silicon Valley and came home to help others do what he has done.

Pennell also hoped that a number of professionals who live in Burlington but work in Toronto might from time to time use the location as a Burlington office.

There was hope too that the city and the Economic Development Corporation might take out memberships and on those occasions when a client is in town meeting with the city or the economic development people and needed some time and a place to upgrade or revise a proposal they could skip over two blocks and load up a computer and make the changes they wanted to make and zip it back to city hall.

For some reason the city didn’t feel it could play favourites and take out a membership at the HiVe and not with anyone else.  There is no one else!   While Mayor Goldring uses every chance he gets to talk about the place a little support from the city would help – and the city would get excellent value for its membership. 

The city is looking into having the HiVe made a RIC – a Regional Innovation Centre, which would be close to a kiss of death.  The words “innovation” and municipal administration don’t exactly fit into the same sentence.  Innovation calls for risk – major risk and that is not what anyone wants a municipal administration to be doing.

Leave the entrepreneurs to themselves, don’t shackle them but where you can support them.  The province does it, the federal government has large funding operations that do just this.

The city of Burlington had an opportunity to spend a couple of hundred dollars to take out a membership and send people to the location.  The professionals that come to the city to do business want places like this – and there are some of them using the place now. Still time – do the right thing and promote the place.  It deserves the recognition.

See for yourself – the HiVe is located on Elizabeth – doors away from the Dickens, on the very edge of Village Square.

Perhaps the smallest film screening room in the province; a plus for those who work with visual material and want to demonstrate a feature to a small group of buyers.

The location isn’t just for the nerds or the professionals who need a place to get some work done.  Plans are underway for small cultural activities that will use the space on the weekends and in the evenings.  Sara C ollaton has organized a unique event that has a trained and accomplished artists working with a limited number of people on the same painting.  Well not exactly THE same painting – each aspiring artist will do their version of the same painting with guidance and direction from the visiting artist.  This first event is sold out – there will be others that we will tell you about.

Everything is supplied – clothing to keep the paint off those designer jeans, all the paint you are going to need – and if you’re of age – a glass of wine as well.

That’s my kind of entrepreneurship.

Return to the Front page

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 comments to Hive is beginning to buzz – city hasn’t done much to make the honey flow.

  • Don

    I read your article about the Hive with great interest. I have not yet been in the Hive, but literally, have had my nose pressed against the window looking in. From what I saw it is a “made in Burlington” solution for what is often called an incubator or accelerator. It has moved beyond the shared multiple office concept of other Burlington facilities, offering the kind of creative culture required for growth.

    If we were sitting around the kitchen and chatting about the initiatives need to be undertaken to strengthen the local tax base, we would soon come up with idea to build a “Hive” type facility – so, full kudos to folks who have taken the risk to launch this facility. Finally, a use perfectly suited to both the downtown and this too often vacant space.
    Editor’s note: The writer, a former economic development officer for the city of Burlington knows what he is talking about. Now if more people will do more than press their nose against the window and walk in and if the city will put its money where its mouth is -the place will not only survive but thrive as well.

    • jskardzius

      The Hive is, unfortunately not an incubator or accelerator by any stretch. Those vehicles are founded by people with venture capital, or by people who have access to people with capital. They have in house anchor talent in the respective market segments that they are trying to address.

      The Hive, it seems to me, is a nice open work area with the opportunity for serendipitous encounters that might lead to creative/business connections. That is a good thing in of itself, but it would have a better chance of flourishing if it promoted those vital connections as a formal strategy. Perhaps that is a plan for the future. If so, the city’s current economic development officer would be a valuable asset to draw from.

    • Hi Don,

      I’d be happy to give you a tour around the HiVE. Please feel free to stop by anytime or email me via



  • Pat

    What a great idea, especially at the village square location. Get the city to promote innovative stuff like this. Good example for Goldring’s inspire burlington ideas.

    However, do you think the city’s procurement department has something to do with not allowing the city to purchase a membership? Does the City’s legal department have issues with the promotion of this? How about a Meed-Ward opinion?
    Editor’s note:
    It is Councillor Marianne Meed Ward who is working on the RIC angle.

  • JSkardzius

    A worthwhile venture. The location is a disadvantage while the square is under utilised. Regis on the North service road, and the CoffeeOffice on the south service road offer similar services with ample parking, both just off of the highway and close to Burlington’s industrial sector.

    Hamilton’s Mc Master Innovation Centre, and a vibrant tech community nearby are a few Kms away.

    Burlington needs a draw for young tech professionals to locate in the core and to establish businesses that can use the concept of the Hive. So far, there is no such anchor, nor a strategy to seed one.