HQ Raleigh Bike Share Program

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HQ Raleigh has made a lot of news in its nearly four-year existence. There was its initial opening on Hillsborough Street in 2012 and the move just 18 months later to downtown Raleigh's warehouse district. 

A year ago, its leaders announced they'd more than triple in size just steps from the existing space in 2017. They also helped entrepreneurs in Greensboro open an HQ campus and have continued to add benefits for Raleigh members like telehealth, a strategist-in-residence, B Corp status and access to student project teams through the NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic.

But none of those announcements have received the hype that the one coming this Friday is getting. 

HQ's Jason Widen started talking up this big news to me back in November. Then there were hints when the hub released an annual report a few weeks later ("We are GROWING and have a BIG announcement coming in early February"). And now, the message below is all over its Twitter feed and newsletters to members and the community. There's even a hashtag: #HQHasNews.

HQ Raleigh Twitter Feed 2016

So what's the big news?  No one is talking.  But a similar announcement popped up on the Twitter feed of Charlotte startup campus Packard Place, an HQ Raleigh partner, earlier this morning. Both say news will be revealed on Friday, and via Twitter.  

Packard Place twitter feed January 2016

The handle HQ Charleston also joined Twitter in January, which Twitter notified me that HQ Raleigh director of marketing Allyson Sutton had created. She recently moved there and has been working remotely for HQ. When I asked her about it, she said it wasn't the news coming Friday. But she didn't deny that a Charleston campus was on the way. The city has had a recent influx of co-working spaces, reported The Post and Courier earlier this year but none seem focused on creating a community gathering space for the entire entrepreneurial community. That's what HQ typically provides. 

HQ Charleston Twitter feed

But back to Charlotte, where Packard Place is the clear center of gravity for the startup community. Founded in 2011 by husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Dan and Sara Roselli, the 117-year-old former automotive factory on Uptown's South Church Street—painted a distinctive white and black—now houses more than 100 companies and six different accelerators. 

There's RevTech Labs for early-stage tech companies and QC FinTech, for FinTech startups, both recruiting around the U.S. CLT Joules is focused on energy-oriented startups. And CityStartupLabs is a new accelerator training black Millennial males to become entrepreneurs. 

HQ Raleigh founder Christopher Gergen is partially responsible for launching two Packard Place programs for social impact entrepreneurs through Durham-based Bull City Forward spinoff Queen City Forward: QCFImpact3 and ImpactU.

Code school TechTalentSouth also calls Packard Place home. Its Triangle chapter is based in HQ Raleigh. 

We could be reading too far into the news, but it doesn't seem far-fetched that HQ would expand its influence again. Opened last August, HQ Greensboro already has 100 entrepreneurs working in a downtown campus. HQ Raleigh and Greensboro entrepreneurs can work and take advantage of programming in either space. The Raleigh-based ThinkHouse live-in fellowship program is also meant to grow, with additional campuses already opened in Greensboro and Durham.

Gergen has been actively involved in efforts to better brand the state and link its innovation hubs. And other organizations have been growing statewide too. The Startup Factory (TSF) started holding boot camps outside of the Triangle last summer. And NC RIoT, the Internet of Things meetup started in Raleigh, will host its first event in Greensboro this month. 

Says TSF Managing Partner Chris Heivly: "It's not just RTP any more. The TSF mantra we've been preaching is that North Carolina is poised to become one of the most critical regions in the country and every 21st century community needs to have a strong workforce and innovation and startup scene. "

Perhaps this provides a hint as well: HQ Raleigh's sixth and last core value from its annual report is "Think Big."

I also reached out to Derrick Minor, the city of Raleigh's innovation and entrepreneurship manager, and while he says he's not privy to HQ's news, he's excited about any opportunity to "increase the virtual density of the network."

"Being able to leverage resources and access entrepreneurs and investors from different markets throughout the state would not only potentially help each company in our respective markets, but could also create a huge marketing opportunity for the state as a whole with Raleigh and the Triangle at the epicenter," says Minor.

We'll get more information Friday afternoon at 4 p.m., but we're curious what you think. Will HQ become a brand that reaches far beyond Raleigh?