Tag Archives: co-working space

Upsized, stylish and going niche: Co-working spaces bloom in Singapore

With its lavish interior designs and custom-made furnishings – including Italian hand-dyed rugs and handmade lamps sourced from New Zealand – The Great Room could be mistaken for the lobby of a brand new boutique hotel, instead of a co-working space.

And that is what the founders set out to achieve.

“This luxurious design concept came from observing how people like to meet in hotel lobbies. There’s a certain energy about hotel lobbies, almost like a sense of something purposeful or exciting is going to happen, and we want to replicate that,” chief executive officer Jaelle Ang, an ex-hotelier with training as an architect and artist, told Channel NewsAsia.

Officially launched two months ago, the 15,000-square-foot space, which overhauls the typical industrial chic image associated with most co-working spaces, is perhaps a reflection of how shared offices in Singapore have evolved since the sector’s first entrant Hackerspace.SG nearly seven years ago.

Then, the concept of having multiple companies or individuals sharing the same working environment was innovative and untested, but there are about 30 co-working spaces around the city-state now, with nearly one-fifth located in the Central Business District (CBD), according to figures released by property services and investment group JLL in July.

Experts say a host of supportive factors have facilitated the mushrooming of such facilities, including a thriving start-up scene in Singapore, as well as willingness from developers and landlords to partner co-working operators amid a softening commercial property market.

NEW ENTRANTS GOING NICHE

At The Great Room, which takes up the entire 10th level at One George Street, members can pick and choose their workspace from a variety of options including hot desks and private offices.

But eye-catching hardware isn’t the only factor that founders of The Great Room are banking on.

“Design can always be copied so we cannot rely on that. Our intent is to be a hospitality-inspired workspace,” said chief financial officer Yian Huang, adding that the team organises frequent business and social events such as its “Lunch & Learn” sessions which dish out advice on help available from government agencies, and curates its members to ensure a well-fitted community.

Three-week-old Collision 8 is the other new kid on the block, which boasts of having top-of-the-line workspaces alongside paranomic views of Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. On top of that, the 8,600-square-feet space, housed within High Street Centre, also runs on a “private member” concept.

“We have a set of questions to assess members based on their desire to innovate and collaborate,” said co-founder Michelle Yong, who is also the fourth-generation leader of homegrown construction firm Woh Hup. “We want to see if our members have the mindset of wanting to do something different, and preferably in collaboration with others.”

Inspired largely by her own partnership with co-founder Mr John Tan who is a serial entrepreneur and partner at two micro venture capital funds, Ms Yong wants to replicate an environment where “like-minded people” from varying backgrounds can come together.

“I started looking at this segment because the residential market has been pretty subdued and I was in search of new growth opportunities. I thought about targeting the healthcare professionals, given how crowded the co-working space is, but John suggested bringing together his investor community and my traditional corporate connections,” Ms Yong said. “So we believe in being an expert in one area while trying to find experts in other areas to piece together the best value chain.”

Meanwhile, Trehaus, which opened in February, is Singapore’s first shared office with child-minding facilities. The concept of the space, which houses workspaces such as hotdesks, dedicated desks, private offices and meeting rooms, as well as a children’s play area manned by trained facilitators, stemmed from co-founder Rachel Teo’s own frustrations from juggling the responsibilities of a working mother.

Thus far, the space has resonated well with parents, which account for 70 per cent of Trehaus’ members. During Channel NewsAsia’s last visit, the co-working area within the 3,800-square-feet space was more than half-filled while two childminders tended to three children at the play area.

“Certainly, we are not hipsters and neither do we have the cool vibes of Block 71 (the start-up space at Ayer Rajah Crescent), so we can’t and aren’t appealing to people looking for that. Our target group remains parents,” Ms Teo said. “We are also smaller but compared to other bigger spaces, we have a warm, homely feeling of a ‘modern village’.”

Industry experts say this growing trend of co-working spaces being centered on exclusivity and catering to niche groups comes on the back of an uptick in competition.

“These new operators can be considered as ‘start-ups’ themselves and unlike global co-working and serviced office brands such as WeWork and JustOffice, these new co-working spaces would have to carve out a niche and differentiate themselves in order to capture a certain market share from the major players,” said Cushman & Wakefield’s research director Christine Li.

Nonetheless, there are other players who believe in diversity. JustGroup’s founder and chief executive Kong Wan Sing, which owns two sprawling co-working spaces along Robinson Road and Raffles Quay, believes that meaningful collaboration hinges on numbers.

“I feel that collaboration will only be achieved when you have a big pool of members,” said Mr Kong, who added that members at JustCo hail from a wide range of industries such as public relations, fashion and hospitality. Apart from start-ups, bigger corporates including teams from Japanese messaging app LINE and American file-sharing site Dropbox also work out of JustCo’s shared offices.

“In fact, we are planning to become even bigger next year, with two new spaces spanning 100,000 square feet ready over the next six months,” added Mr Kong.

READY FOR FURTHER EXPANSION

And that optimism and willingness for further expansion, be it locally or overseas, is a common tune echoed by co-working space operators that Channel NewsAsia spoke to.

One reason is the lingering glut of office space in the CBD area, which has given co-working spaces more options to choose from and better negotiating power for leases with landlords, players said.

For Collision 8 which has plans for a café and additional space in the works, the co-working space still “has a long way to go before being saturated” despite rapid growth over the past years, Ms Yong said.

Ms Grace Sai, who spearheaded one of the city-state’s pioneer co-working spaces The Hub Singapore, agreed, noting that “cannibalisation within the industry” has not occurred just yet.

“It’s still early days to say (saturation). I think we will continue to take customers away from traditional office space, rather than from each other, so the cannibalisation within the industry isn’t happening yet,” said Ms Sai, who opened her second co-working facility at Cuppage Terrace earlier this month.

However, that is not to say that players, particularly the newer and smaller ones, will continue to enjoy an easy journey. “New entrants will either have to be more cost-competitive or more relevant to the target market they want to serve. Smaller players also will find it challenging because they may not enjoy the economies of scale in the market so there are a couple of us who are predicting a consolidation in the industry within the 18 to 24 months.”

Similarly for softening rents which have played well to the cards of co-working spaces, the gradual absorption of office supply may see rents recovering in the longer run, Cushman & Wakefield’s Ms Li said.

As such, some players like The Hub Singapore are rolling out future plans to offer more than just physical space.

“We have just closed our own venture fund to invest in great ideas and entrepreneurs out of our community. We have also signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with 10 of the venture funds in the region like Golden Gate Ventures, so that they can have access to the deal flow from our community,” Ms Sai said.

WHO WINS?

As the segment continues to evolve, industry watchers say users of co-working spaces will be on the winning end as they benefit from the wider range of concepts and product offerings over time, said industry watchers.

For Ms Bibiana Neo who is working out of Trehaus at the moment, the family-friendly co-working space is a dream come true. “I wasn’t able to get any infant care or childcare services previously as the ones that I was looking for were all fully taken. If this didn’t come along, I would probably have to travel to an infant care that’s a distance away,” said Ms Neo, who is a business solutions account executive at local firm Xintesys.

“Now, as and when I finish work, I can walk over to the Atelier to feed (my daughter) or spend time with her. I think I’m really blessed that my employers allowed me to work out of the office.”

Businesses also have the option to pick and choose co-working spaces according to their needs.

For travel and social networking app Roammate, the availability of mentors under The Hub Singapore’s “coaching and mentoring” program was a key attraction.

“When we moved over to Singapore, we left behind all our networking connections so we opted for one of the memberships that gave us access to very frequent and accessible time with mentors across a lot of different types of industries, and it has proven to be a good place for us to start and build up our community again,” co-founder Hannah Ryan told Channel NewsAsia.

And it’s not just tech-related start-ups that have tapped into the benefits of co-working spaces. Public relations firm The Umami Collective, for instance, chose to work out of JustCo so as to have a business community at its door step.

Co-founder Suzy Goulding said: “When you are a small business, it’s good to have other entrepreneurial businesses around you to share ideas and collaborate on projects, and there’s always so many things to learn from so it’s always good to have a business community at your doorstep.”

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 24 Aug 2016

CapitaLand latest to enter co-working space arena

THE concept of co-working space is gaining traction with office landlords here, with CapitaLand being the latest to introduce this in its headquarters building.

CapitaLand is partnering co-working space operator Collective Works under a 50-50 joint venture to turn the entire 12th floor at Capital Tower into co-working space. Spanning some 22,000 square feet, this can potentially house up to 250 companies.

Collective Works will manage the co-working space on behalf of the JV.

When asked about the rent, a CapitaLand spokeswoman said the JV leases the space at Capital Tower from the landlord CapitaLand Commercial Trust (CCT) at “market rent”.

Estimates of Grade-A office rents in Tanjong Pagar by property consultants range from S$8 to S$8.50 per square foot (psf) per month. The average rent of remaining leases expiring at Capital Tower disclosed by CCT was S$9.15 psf per month in the fourth quarter of 2015.

The 12th floor of Capital Tower was previously occupied by Japan’s Mizuho Bank, which vacated three floors from level 11 to 13 late last year, when it moved to Asia Square Tower 2 where it took up 120,000 sq ft of space. The 11th and 13th floors at Capital Tower have been subdivided and largely leased out to new tenants.

CapitaLand Singapore CEO Wen Khai Meng said the group is confident the co-working space at Capital Tower “will appeal to a range of fast-growing businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers seeking to rent fully functional, fitted-out office spaces under flexible lease terms” given its central location, connectivity to public transport, Grade-A specifications and amenities. “We foresee demand coming from sectors such as fin-tech, social media, technology, insurance, corporate training and venture capital investment,” he added.

Collective Works, the brainchild of entrepreneur Jonathan O’Byrne, launched its first co-working space in the Central Business District (CBD) back in December 2012 at 100 Cecil Street. “We have received pre-registration for more than 40 per cent of the space at Collective Works Capital Tower, prior to our announcement of the new location to press and clients,” Mr O’Byrne said.

Unlike serviced offices that rent out private rooms, co-working space operators charge a monthly membership fee for the use of hot-desking, designated work stations and shared facilities. According to Collective Works’ website, a hot-desking workspace starts from S$240 per month.

The co-working phenomenon which began in the United States has swept across other gateway cities such as London, Berlin and Paris, followed by South-east Asian countries such as Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

CapitaLand said research on the office market has revealed there is emerging interest among operators and customers for quality co-working spaces in the CBD.

Mr O’Byrne also noted that co-working currently represents just 10 per cent of the serviced office space in Singapore. “But with 30 per cent of the workforce predicted to work in small businesses by 2020, co-working could easily equal if not surpass the serviced office market in scale.”

In Singapore, co-working is at a fairly nascent stage. Of the nearly 40 co-working offices islandwide, 80 per cent are located outside the CBD. With over 3.5 million sq ft of total known CBD office supply coming onstream this year, operators are expanding into more centralised locations.

Global workspace provider Regus is taking up half of the 14th floor in the upcoming Guoco Tower in Tanjong Pagar, which will have both co-working space and serviced offices. Homegrown company JustGroup now operates co-working spaces at two locations – 120 Robinson Road and 6 Raffles Quay – totalling 50,000 sq ft and serviced offices spanning 150,000 sq ft in five locations.

OUE had said it plans to set aside some 15 per cent of retail net lettable space in its upcoming mall Downtown Gallery for co-working space. Keppel Land also carved out some 6,400 sq ft on the fourth level of Keppel Towers offering both serviced office and co-working spaces under its business venture Workspace.

Talk in the market is that Lend Lease might introduce co-working space at its upcoming mixed-use project Paya Lebar Central, which is jointly developed with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

A recent Bloomberg report said American firm WeWork is preparing to form a global venture with Australian property group Lendlease to lease office space and apartments to companies in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific.

Co-working space seen as boon for office landlords and tenants

Co-working spaces, a concept which made its way here six years ago, can be a hedge for office landlords against a wave of new office completions.

Rather than engage in an intense price war on rental incentives and subsidies, developers can take a dip in this “blue ocean” to gain a competitive advantage over their peers, Cushman & Wakefield says in a new report.

One way is to carve out undesirable or non-performing space for tenants to benefit from the option of renting the co-working space on a needs basis.

Developers may also consider bundling a portion of the vacant space with committed space under a “co-working concept” for quality anchor tenants.

Office landlord Keppel Land, for one, has waded into the co-working space under a new business venture, Workspace, which spans 6,400 square feet on the fourth level of Keppel Towers offering both serviced office and co-working spaces.

This caters largely to small startups in the service industry.

Cushman & Wakefield noted that such a concept could gain traction.

Technology is among the few sectors that have been on an expansion trail since the global financial crisis and a basket of technology firms tracked by the consultancy shows that their space requirements have increased by over 50 per cent annually on average since they first set up permanent offices here.

But rigid terms in their existing lease terms are stopping them from instantaneously re-scaling their space requirements.

Since the first co-working space, Hackerspace, opened its doors here in 2009, nearly 40 co-working offices have sprung up islandwide, of which 80 per cent are located outside the CBD.

Unlike serviced offices with private rooms, co-working spaces have large open areas that encourage communication and cross-pollination of ideas and promote a sense of community as members are encouraged to host and join events for networking purpose.

Co-working operators charge a monthly membership fee for the use of hot-desking, designated work stations and shared facilities. Some even extend professional services such as web design, accounting and legal support to startups. Such operators have drawn huge interest from venture capitalists and funds globally.

Seeing the rising demand for co- working spaces, many operators have spelt out plans to expand across Asia.

Home-grown company JustGroup launched its co-working space under JustCo last September, following the launch of its serviced offices under JustOffice in 2012.

JustGroup now operates co-working spaces in two locations – 120 Robinson Road and 6 Raffles Quay – totalling 50,000 sq ft and serviced offices spanning 150,000 sq ft in five locations, with the occupancy rate hovering at 95-100 per cent.

Backed by two investment management firms, JustGroup plans to have more co-working spaces in Singapore and serviced offices in other major cities in the Asia-Pacific region following its inaugural opening in Shanghai.

Global workspace provider Regus in 2014 partnered the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore and the National Library Board to launch “smart work centres”, or flexible mobile workstations, at three libraries here.

All of Regus’s locations, including the upcoming Guoco Tower in Tanjong Pagar, have co-working space and serviced offices.

Cushman & Wakefield noted that since many workers do not utilise their space every day, the provision of co-working space enables serviced office operators to tap a growing source of revenue as they can sell more co-working memberships than what the physical space can allow.

“Given the stability of demand from co-working and its profitability, we are of the view that now is the opportune time for co-working operators to look at expansion, taking advantage of the current supply situation: a total of 3.6 million sq ft of Grade A office space is entering the market in 2016,” said Cushman & Wakefield research director Christine Li.

More overseas players are looking to enter Singapore. The Hive, a co-working operator with locations in Hong Kong and Bangkok, is among the latest to establish a presence here, occupying four floors of three combined shophouses in New Bridge Road.

Singapore’s first family-friendly co-working space opens

Singapore’s first co-working space equipped with child-minding facilities officially opened on Wednesday (Feb 17).

Trehaus, which is located on Orchard Road, aims to give working parents a chance to meet like-minded people and grow their business network, while staying close to their children. Here, parents conduct their business at the Workspace and have the option of dropping their kids off at the Kids Atelier, which offers child-minding services, as well as various lessons and programmes.

Trehaus runs on a membership scheme, which starts at S$350 each month. This is comparable to rates at other working spaces in Singapore. Child minders can be hired for S$15 per hour. The facility can accommodate up to 60 working adults, as well as 30 children.

About 20 people, who include freelancers and entrepreneurs, have signed up. Among them are Ms Valerie Loh and her husband Shang Liang, who run a digital branding and web design company. The couple, who have a three-month-old baby, moved from another shared office space to Trehaus when it began operations in January.

“Whether it’s a serviced office or a co-working space, there aren’t really many networks here that have an environment or culture that welcomes kids,” said Ms Loh. “You feel like you always have to shush your baby or creep around.

“Here, you don’t have that pressure. It’s a lot healthier and more open; people are generally happy that you’re bringing your child around.”

Trehaus co-founder Tjin Lee said the company is eyeing a bigger market: “I’d like to debunk the expectation that this is only for entrepreneurs or for people who have flexi-working or freelance options. What we’re really hoping to do is to bring this as a concept to corporates at large, and we can then really change and impact the way people work.

“If companies understand that formats like Trehaus exist, that you can work and play, and that female employees don’t need to leave the workforce when they have children and know that they can find places to work that are near where their children are, then I think I can make a big difference to these companies.”

“VERY CREATIVE”: JOSEPHINE TEO

The co-working space is also a welcome addition as the Government moves to create more childcare options, said Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Josephine Teo, who helps oversee the National Population and Talent Division.

“I think it’s quite good that the private sector is getting involved in this very creative way,” said Mrs Teo. “I think what we want to do is nurture them and to encourage them to try out the concept and adapt it to different situations.”

The concept could even be brought to the heartlands, she added. “But it is very early days yet. When it finds acceptance in the market, we’ll see what we can do to give it a further boost.”