Hub of global influence on a beach
Tucked away on one of the most stunning stretches of South Shore is a beach hangout with a difference.
And although there has been no great fanfare surrounding its arrival, its presence in Bermuda is significant.
The island’s hosting of the 35th America’s Cup was key to the pop-up campus coming to the island. The campus is expected to attract innovators and influencers who control about $5 billion of investable assets.
And Stan Stalnaker, the man behind the venture, believes the America’s Cup has given Bermuda immense visibility, and this summer will be looked back on as a pivotal moment for the island.
The staging of a Hub Culture innovation campus at Ariel Sands places Bermuda on an enviable list that includes some of the world’s best known, signature gatherings.
Hub Culture has featured at The World Economic Forum in Davos, the Cannes Film Festival, South by Southwest, United Nations general assembly, and New York fashion weeks.
“We create these moments where influencers gather,” said Mr Stalnaker, founder of Hub Culture.
That is why the online social network, which has 45,000 members around the world and also manages the Ven digital currency, decided to bring a pavilion-style event to the island this summer.
Until the end of August, the innovation campus is hosting leading minds from a variety of fields, including artificial intelligence, digital currencies, architecture, sustainable development and the healing arts.
The Hub Culture Innovation Campus and Beach Club is a mobile set-up with meeting place cabanas, a bar, kitchen, lounges and beach hammocks. It is equipped with fibre-optic internet.
“The hubs are essentially spaces for collaboration and co-working. It’s a little bit of an incubator, a meeting point and a place for business, but in inspiring settings,” said Mr Stalnaker.
“We do these hubs mostly as pop-ups. People come for a temporary period of time, generally around important moments in the world. We gather our community at those spaces.
“We have been at the World Economic Forum in Davos for the last 10 years, and we are a media partner for the Forum. We are the only place outside the congress centre that the Forum holds official events.”
He described the Hub Culture network as being like a prototype for a virtual country, a community with its own meeting spaces, digital currency, digital identity resource, and an artificial intelligence platform called Zeke.
Sean Moran, head of business development at the Bermuda Business Development Agency, said of the Hub Culture concept: “I’ve seen their events in Hong Kong and New York, and they’re always thought-provoking, but the installation at Ariel Sands is unique: where else can you meet experts in blockchain, artificial intelligence and digital currencies, then walk 50 yards into the ocean for a swim?”
The BDA assisted the Hub Culture team with introductions and arrangements that made the pop-up campus in Bermuda possible.
Mr Moran added: “One of the BDA’s goals is to help develop new business opportunities and local jobs around the fast-evolving fintech space, so it’s important that Hub Culture is showcasing global developments through guest speakers and topical programmes. The schedule of events over the next two months promises to be stimulating.”
Bermudian and international members, who are flying in from around the world to enjoying the relaxing setting of the campus, will mingle, connect and network. Some will come specifically to attend a themed week that interests them.
“We have guests flying in from Beijing, Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York, London, Geneva, Miami, and Sao Paulo to see this.”
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the education partner of Hub Culture, and it is due to bring some of its senior people involved in digital currency and digital banking.
Elsewhere, a week themed on computer coding will be attended by developers from around the world, and there will be a week focused on Ethereum blockchain technology.
Sustainability and the environment are also spotlighted. An event supporting Bermuda’s Greenrock charity has been held. There will be a week looking at UN sustainable development goals, and another focused on the need to protect the world’s oceans and reefs.
Hub Culture’s campus at Ariel Sands features a collection of cabanas fashioned from shipping containers. They are examples of mobile architecture and sustainability, made of fully recycled materials and reformatted.
One is a creative studio, which includes a virtual reality version of the campus, allowing members to experience the beauty of the South Shore setting using VR technology wherever they happen to be in the world.
Hub Culture takes its name from the title of a 2003 book written by Mr Stalnaker.
“It looked at the social side of globalisation. The thesis was that there is an international group of people who move between the world’s ‘hubs’ — which could be big cities like New York and Tokyo, or micro-hubs like Bermuda, Aspen or Cape Town.
“They all had connections between each other and a post-national culture.”
The book led to a website that became one of the world’s first social hubs.
“We were always focused on experience and creating moments of the community. It was a kind of friends of friends of friends thing, and it was great to collect people and create experiences and moments for them.”
Hub Culture was formed as a company in 2006 and chose Bermuda as its headquarters, having looked for the best location to structure a digital asset. The following year it launched Ven, the world’s first digital currency and the first traded on regulated foreign exchange markets.
Ven is used by Hub Culture members to buy, share and trade knowledge, goods and services. The campus on South Shore is an example of Ven in action as the digital currency is the only one used for transactions at the site.
There is an unusual story behind how Hub Culture got the opportunity to base its summer campus at Ariel Sands, the site of Michael Douglas’s former resort.
With the America’s Cup on the world calendar, Hub Culture looked for a suitable location in Bermuda for one of its pavilion-style events.
“We came to look at it, and it was so breathtaking. We set up a call with the Ariel Sands Development Corporation, who wanted to create a hospitality story for Bermuda that was new and exciting,” said Mr Stalnaker.
The Ariel Sands team was invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos to see Hub Culture in operation.
“Michael Douglas came. He had a great time. He sat in on all our sessions about AI and digital currency. He was meeting with these CEOs.
“We got along so well and he said ‘OK, let’s bring Davos to Bermuda for the summer — that spirit’. We leased the property for the summer. He said create what you can and let’s bring Ariel Sands back to life for this important summer in Bermuda.
“It has been a great collaboration and we are excited to be working with him and his team in Bermuda.”
Mr Stalnaker believes Ven, fintech and the America’s Cup can all be springboards for the island.
“Ven has the potential to catapult Bermuda forward. Bermuda is an ideal location to lead the global trillion-dollar market for digital currency. Bermuda has a chance to be 100 times bigger than it is, financially.
“The problem is that Luxembourg and Singapore and Moscow and Panama City all realise this too. So there is a race on to see which jurisdictions will dominate the largest new asset class in a generation.”
And regarding the focus placed on the island by the America’s Cup, Mr Stalnaker said: “Bermuda has never had the exposure that it is getting right now and it stands to gain a lot.
“The most important thing for Bermuda will be the next two or three years and how it capitalises on what it has built.
“Bermuda has been handed this amazing gift with the Cup. That helped to bring us here, and we are then bringing a whole range of people.
“I imagine there are billions of dollars of investable capital that has come to the island and seen it for the first time this summer.
“We ourselves are bringing in at least $5 billion of investible capital — people who control that amount of money.
“Some of those people may decide to set up a business here or be more aware of Bermuda’s advantages as a place with good rule of law, stable government, a link to the US dollar and British heritage — those are long-term dividends that will come. This will be seen as a pivotal summer for Bermuda.”
Hub Culture has a website at www.hubculture.com