Startups Fuel Coworking Growth in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong regularly tops the (unenviable) list for the world’s most expensive office space. So it’s perhaps not surprising that this particular city was a little late to join the coworking party.

According to The Good Lab, no coworking space existed in Hong Kong before 2012. Yet in just a few short years, the city has experienced a dramatic surge in flexible workspace and now counts around 40 coworking spaces, including workspace giant WeWork and newly funded entrant, Campfire.

How, and why, has Hong Kong reversed its flexible workspace fortunes? Here, Edwin Ho from Urban Serviced Offices in Hong Kong walks us through the most notable changes and trends within the regional workspace market:

The Growth of Coworking in Hong Kong
Edwin Ho, Urban Serviced Offices

Coworking spaces have thrived in recent years, especially in Asia, where they have popped up in countries across the region and experienced meteoric growth.

Singapore now has 30 different coworking spaces as of 2016, up from just one in 2009. The Philippines now has between 13 and 20 shared spaces, mostly in Metro Manila’s business districts.

As of the end of 2016, as many as 10,000 coworking spaces may already be open all over Asia.

Coworking in Hong Kong

As with most of Asia, Hong Kong’s coworking market is booming. Indeed, coworking makes plenty of sense given the limitations of space in the city, and a large proportion of coworking spaces here are located in high-rent areas.

Various companies have stepped up to the plate in order to fulfill Hong Kong’s coworking demands.

Swire Properties has a startup accelerator and coworking brand known as Blueprint, which features multiple spaces spread across a 10,000-square-foot floor that are open 24 hours a day.

Another company, Booqed, has taken a different approach that more resembles services from the sharing economy such as Airbnb. Rather than owning their own spaces, Booqed instead connects users looking for a place to cowork to companies with unused spaces, restaurants with free space during off-peak hours, and places like yoga studios which aren’t always in use.

A new player in the game is Urban Group, which launched Urban Serviced Offices in Central Hong Kong last year.

Urban Serviced Offices addresses the new trend of coworking as well as catering to the growth of social enterprises, through a sustainable platform with innovative design, ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing furniture, and environmentally-friendly practices.

The future of coworking in Asia

Hong Kong’s investors are watching the growth of startups, which saw a 24% year-on-year increase in 2016. Now, looking to collaborate with other start-up capitals experiencing similar growth, investors are turning to India, which has the third largest start-up base in the world.

Hong Kong represents the 16th largest foreign direct equity (FDI) investor in India, with an inflow of $1.976 billion between April 2000 and September 2016.

In addition, Hong Kong’s large Indian community and its relatively relaxed rules on foreigners’ ownership of Hong Kong-based companies may represent a sleeping giant of startups that is just waiting to awaken.

What does this have to do with coworking?

Start-ups require workspaces, and oftentimes having a dedicated office can be too expensive to the point of killing the business – whereas coworking spaces provide a comparatively affordable workspace environment. Furthermore as we know, their collaborative culture provides a community-rich environment and a support network that actively helps small businesses thrive and grow.

Indeed, one could attribute the large demand for coworking spaces to the growth of start-ups. As such, growth in start-ups is a likely boon for the coworking industry, which may currently be experiencing oversupply in the Asian markets as the number of spaces opening up exceeds the demand for them.

Some coworking spaces are also adapting to demand by acting as startup accelerators, such as the aforementioned Blueprint. Entering partnerships with such spaces not only gives clients’ employees a place to work, but also introduces them to a network of like-minded entrepreneurs.

Urban: serviced offices functions in the same way, where becoming part of the network and sharing resources is a key element of the collaborative co-working space.

All things considered, it’s clear that coworking is here to stay, complementing the traditional workspace with an innovative way of getting the job done, while inviting new ways of collaborating and offering opportunities to start-ups that may not otherwise have been available.

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