Shared spaces — the new norm

Workspace firm WeWork enters the Malaysian market this year to a huge success, launching its largest space in SE Asia at the Equatorial Plaza in KL recently, with plans to launch another centre in the Mid Valley area within 2019

(From left) Wang, InvestKL Corp director and head of investor relations for the Americas and Europe Dennis Tan, Turochas, InvestKL CEO Datuk Zainal Amanshah, Ressel and WeWork South-East Asia head of community and member experience Eyad Zahra celebrating the official opening of WeWork

by LYDIA NATHAN/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

CO-WORKING spaces are getting quite a bit of attention in the country, particularly among freelancers and start-up companies that are looking for a more flexible operating condition which is cost-effective.

With an estimated growth of 36% in Kuala Lumpur (KL) last year — the fastest-growing region in Asia Pacific — co-working space companies are looking at better years to come.

For instance, workspace firm WeWork entered the Malaysian market this year to a huge success, launching its largest space in South-East Asia at the Equatorial Plaza in KL recently, with plans to launch another centre in the Mid Valley area within 2019.

WeWork South-East Asia MD Turochas Fuad told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that one of the main benefits of its platform is the huge networks available for its members across the globe on a daily basis, along with the flexibility aspect.

“WeWork has a genuine approach for its members, to help them grow their businesses and create something different,” he said.

Various companies that are currently taking advantage of WeWork’s services have also expressed their interest in expanding their business in the country, as well as their strategies to capture a more sizeable share in their respective businesses.

Homage

In-home caregiving services platform Homage Sdn Bhd — one of the first occupants at WeWork’s spaces in KL — started in Singapore before expanding to Malaysia earlier this year.

Its country manager for Malaysia Kevin Hoong said as the company expands, it needs collaborative spaces and communities that are flexible enough to meet all the company’s needs. “We needed to move in quickly and the team at WeWork made the change a seamless experience. In just a few months since we initially moved in, they helped us look for a new space to accommodate our expanding team and move them into it in a turnkey way,” Hoong told TMR.

He added that it was quick and hassle-free, making any form of disruption to the company minimal, which is highly crucial for any growing company.

“Apart from it being strategically placed in the heart of KL, we were drawn to WeWork due to the high quality of its physical spaces and amenities,” he added.

According to Hoong, Homage has been given countless opportunities to join WeWork’s frequently-held community events, allowing connection with other companies.

“WeWork generally attracts a high calibre of companies in its locations across the world and it’s no different in Malaysia. Benefits include exclusives, members-only events, as well as rewards from WeWork,” he said.

For example, being a health tech caregiving company, Homage participated in WeWork’s wellness programme to help members raise awareness about issues relating to personal health and aged care, and provided WeWork members preferential rates when they engaged with its services.

Hoong also said the shared spaces help foster a sense of community and form ties with other members.

“We found that it possesses a friendly community across its offices worldwide that provides a warm and open working environment for our team,” he said.

He added that the future of shared working spaces is bright as it has also changed the way work life runs.

“Shared spaces will only be more important in tomorrow’s business environment as more companies and entrepreneurs prefer to work in spaces that help foster communication, ideation, collaboration and innovation.

“With WeWork, the experience of having our team in Malaysia — working more closely with each other in addition to getting opportunities to a diverse range of people outside our company in the local community — has so far been very engaging,” Hoong said.

PostCo

Parcel collection and return network PostCo is a Malaysian-based start-up that initially joined WeWork in Vietnam before housing a team right here in KL using the same services.

Its COO Melisa Wang said PostCo was actually one of the first few WeWork Vietnam members in its Ho Chi Minh building (E Town Central) and had encountered valuable opportunities over there.

“We were given the opportunity to network and connect with their community of entrepreneurs, business owners and companies, all of different sizes,” she told TMR.

Wang added that in light of the many social and professional networking events held by WeWork, PostCo had the opportunity to take full advantage of them, leveraging on WeWork’s ecosystem of partners to help grow its business regionally.

She said the main thing which attracted PostCo to jump on the shared space platform was not only its beautiful spaces, but based on the productivity levels witnessed in Vietnam as well.

“Aesthetics aside, we were working alongside a community of some of the most ambitious and energetic people, and these vibes have sparked creativity and kept everyone in our team motivated.

“That is why some of the best work that we have delivered came from our time with WeWork,” Wang said.

She said WeWork also offers among the best amenities around — from its fresh fruit water, to soundproof phone booths for private calls and video meetings.

Wang added that as PostCo continues to grow, the company is expected to continue leveraging on WeWork’s existing global network.

“It’s not just to set up physical offices, but to tap into their community of members and key partners who can help scale and grow our business locally.

“We have a couple of potential partnerships in the pipeline. We are so glad that throughout our time with WeWork, we have made many meaningful connections and discussions with members, both in KL and Vietnam,” she said.

Wang said shared working spaces definitely have a future, as flexibility is one of the main elements in housing a team.

“Depending on the stage and what is required by each company, business owners have the flexibility to scale up and down from a hot desk to a full-fledged private office as they see fit. Platforms like WeWork can provide you access to a global network of thousands of business owners who can elaborate on the knowledge and resources to help grow your business,” Wang said.

Momentum Commerce

Global e-commerce solution provider Momentum Commerce Sdn Bhd was born at the end of 2018 and had initial talks with WeWork Malaysia to be one of the first members to move in.

The solution provider specialises in empowering brands and small and medium enterprises on the adoption of digital transformation and e-commerce.

Its CEO and founder Hans-Peter Ressel told TMR that WeWork had provided the flexibility needed for a newly born start-up and this allowed Momentum Commerce to focus on its core business while leaving other details to WeWork.

“We were looking for a one-stop solution in a prime location, allowing us to ramp up our expansion activities if and when we feel the time is right,” he said.

Resell said WeWork had helped facilitate a new way of working through beautiful, functional, well-kept spaces that created an atmosphere of vitality for today’s creators.

“The whole environment also helps us to attract new talent both in our KL home base, as well as scaling up our business across South East Asia, while being plugged into a global network,” he said.

Ressel said, in particular, WeWork has helped businesses thrive by sharing services, business

ideas and even advice — noting that its members are from different industries and all walks of life.

“The more people in the community, the more opportunity for connection and collaboration between members, both in the physical and digital spaces that WeWork provides,” Ressel said.

For instance, a collaborative relationship Momentum Commerce has is with its information technology (IT) solution provider that shares a similar space at WeWork.

“Our IT solution provider sits just around the corner, this is a massive advantage and we also really enjoy the short and informal communication channels in this environment,” he said.

Ressel said the community aspect of co-working spaces with all the potential collaborations and partnerships is a very strong proposition for companies of all different sizes — including freelancers, and new and existing start-ups.

“Having the flexibility to ramp up/down your company quickly and being able to scale globally fast is a huge advantage and I believe more and more companies in every step of the lifecycle will try to take advantage of that,” Resell said.