Co-working dynamo WeWork has been hotly anticipated in Southeast Asia. The local ecosystem was jazzed to see the US company acquire Singapore-based Spacemob in August, preempting its arrival in the region as part of a US$500 million investment that also covers its expansion to Korea.
Five months later, Spacemob founder and CEO Turochas “T” Fuad is WeWork’s managing director for Southeast Asia, and the company’s first space is officially open for business in Singapore’s Beach Center. It also has two more confirmed Singapore spaces in the works.
This is the 200th location for the global co-working company, while Singapore is its 20th country – a nice set of round numbers for Beach Center. “I’m not sure why – it’s just a random alignment,” Fuad laughs.
The venue has been taking in tenants since the beginning of December. Now it’s almost at full capacity, Fuad tells Tech in Asia. The mix includes freelancers and individual entrepreneurs (what the company terms “creators”), startups and small businesses, and larger multinationals looking for flexible space and networking opportunities.
Singaporean startups like Chope, PolicyPal, and StashAway are already housed at Beach Center, as well as larger companies like Twilio and HP. Freelancers include people working in a range of fields, from accounting and finance to animation.
The location is the first of several planned to open in Singapore as well as Southeast Asia. Fuad doesn’t share more details about WeWork’s regional plans at the moment, but the company has already announced its second and third locations in Singapore.
Early next year, a new space will open at 71 Robinson Road, in the heart of Singapore’s central business district (CBD). It will house around 1,000 people. “I think Robinson Road is very classic CBD,” Fuad says. “You have banks and financial institutions, but you also have fintech startups that are interested in those spaces.”
WeWork’s space in Funan will serve another 700 people.
The price points change slightly between the two initial venues – a private office at Robinson Road starts at US$906 per month and a desk starts from US$438 per month. The starting prices at Beach Road are US$817 and US$408, respectively, according to the website.
Together with Singapore-based real estate firm CapitaLand, WeWork also announced that it’s the first tenant of Funan, the upcoming re-imagined version of a tech-oriented shopping mall well known to Singaporeans.
Funan DigitalLife Mall was established in 1985 and closed down in late 2015. Its replacement will be a sizeable complex with shops, office space, and co-living facilities. True to its techie heritage, it will feature smart parking facilities, office entry through facial recognition, and robot-assisted shopping.
WeWork’s space in Funan will serve another 700 people and focus more on high-tech startups and multinationals, Fuad says.
Room to breathe
Fuad doesn’t reveal what the ratio is between startups, individuals, and big organizations at Beach Center, or how that impacts the company’s revenue. Globally, around 20 percent of WeWork members are larger businesses (or “enterprises” as WeWork calls them).
“Given that Singapore is a gateway city in Southeast Asia, a hub for a lot of financial companies and startups and entrepreneurs right now, we believe that the enterprise segment in Singapore will be an interesting one for us,” he says.
Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company and small companies want to learn from them.
For example, HP decided really quickly they wanted office space at Beach Center. “They came by here, looked at it for less than a day, and decided to become a member,” Fuad says. “I think their whole idea is, they want to be closer to a lot of smaller companies here and they wanted this particular division to be away from where their typical office would be, to have a little more fun and innovative atmosphere.”
There’s no shortage of co-working spaces in Singapore, with independent facilities like the Great Room, Collision 8, and ecosystem staple The Hub, as well as corporate-run spaces like Level3. All these businesses are competing for similar clientele, which raises questions about their viability in a small market like Singapore. Regardless, WeWork appears confident there will be demand for its own offering.
Fuad says that’s because WeWork’s focus on its global network provides extra value for its members – the network effect, essentially. “Beyond just space, [WeWork is] a platform for all types of creators, for different sizes of companies, who come together and collaborate,” he suggests. “Enterprises want to be as agile as a small company and small companies want to learn from [them].”
The company’s own staff play matchmaker with members. Community managers assess each client to understand their needs and then try to bring the right people together. An online marketplace, meanwhile, makes it easy for members to ply their trade to others in the network anywhere in the world.
WeWork will also offer its co-working-as-a-service product Powered by We. This is basically WeWork applying its know-how and network to large organizations in their own facilities, setting up and managing their working environments for them. According to Wired, the company is already managing offices like Airbnb in Berlin and Amazon in Boston.
“We will actually design, manage, and build it for them, and now their own employees can experience what a WeWork would be at their own real estate,” Fuad says.
This is an additional source of revenue for the company that could prove to be a more efficient path to greater growth. This way, WeWork expects to add more paying clients without having to source new spaces itself, while still getting its brand to more traditional workplaces.
WeWork at Beach Center
Conveniently, one of the pantries can be found at the lobby and common area. Beer on tap included.
There are all kinds of cozy nooks and crannies where people can have meetings.
But things can get more professional, too.
The design is partly inspired by Singaporean shophouses and food courts.
This cute nook looks very relaxing.
The common areas look par for the co-working course.
Office space takes up three floors in Beach Center.
Local treats await new tenants on their desks.
Several private offices are already occupied.
This classroom-looking area can also be used for game nights and yoga.
Converted from Singapore dollars. US$1 = S$1.35.
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