Co-working spaces: The real estate model moonlighting as a business incubator

Co-working spaces: The real estate model moonlighting as a business incubatorWhat is the modern business owner looking for? Flexibility, cost savings….and community engagement. Lots and lots of engagement which sparks innovation and collaboration.

Co-working hubs are mushrooming across South East Asia. The digital disruption wave is facilitating the growth of the ‘new corporate’ – startups, freelancers and solopreneurs; all who require space to create and collaborate. It helps that millennials no longer feel pressured to jumpstart a traditional 9-5 career after graduation and many instead venture out to do their own thing.

Sceptics might pass off co-working as a fad; can’t freelancers and entrepreneurs just work from home or hunker down in a Starbucks anyway? Most will say, the demand for flexible working environments is strong in the  West, but Asian countries and Malaysia, in particular, haven’t quite reached the market trajectory seen in the West. Dreamspace, a co-working outfit based in Iskandar Malaysia begs to differ. Launched in May 2017, the 10,000 sq ft co-working branch located in 1Tebrau, just opposite the upcoming South Key Mall (by Mid Valley) is seeing brisk business, not just from young urban creatives but various SMEs as well.

Fulfilling business and lifestyle gaps

DreamSpace’s Business Development manager, Chew Kai Xin explains that shared office spaces are a step-up from serviced offices as it offers more than just a physical work-space. The fluidity of these set-ups brings forth a host of benefits, for both the individual entrepreneur seeking a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle and SMEs who are looking to save costs:

Flexibility – Most offices are open 24 hours and you get to set your own working hours – Working from dusk to dawn, taking 2 hours off to go to the gym, 3-day work-weeks; these options are now possible Productivity – Most freelancers get too comfortable at home and distractions abound whereas coffee shops/public spaces are crowded, noisy and the Wifi is spotty. There are various complementing facilities too in shared affairs such as printers, meeting rooms and a pantry

The DreamSpace team, (L-R) Chew Kai Xin, Chan Tze Qing and CS Koh are challenging the perception that offices are for working and working alone.

Productivity – Most freelancers get too comfortable at home and distractions abound whereas coffee shops/public spaces are crowded, noisy and the Wifi is spotty. There are various complementing facilities too in shared affairs such as printers, meeting rooms and a pantry.

Affordability – Its low point of entry and fuss-free leasing process minimises operation costs for startups and new businesses, a boon for newbies to the business world.

Streamlining operations – Businesses who are looking to expand their services into a new area can test the waters without breaking the bank – there is no need to sign-up for a long- term lease or pay for office equipment. The same goes for sales companies whose staff are always on the go, such as insurance agents and real estate negotiators. These sales professionals spend the bulk of their time meeting clients and only require one or two days of ‘office time’ in a week, thus employees can take turns to share a booked working space.

“By 2030, co-working spaces could make up 10-15% of office stock in Southeast Asia, compared to only 1-5% percent today.”

Regina Lim, National Director (Advisory & Research) at JLL

Something for everyone
Kai Xin shares, “Our client base, who consist of mainly SME’s and young urban creatives – freelancers, startups and independent professionals love how DreamSpace’s layout and concept allow for the fluid transition between collaborative and focused work.

There are various products to suit your job scope and preferences – from private working rooms seating 10 people to a ‘hot desk’ in the open area. To draw in the clientele, we offer various perks – free trials, ‘one-day passes’ and the option for companies to customize their own workroom,” Kai Xin adds.

Tenants could opt for a more public and open space

Professionals can select private desks.

SME’s could book an entire room for their staff.

Communication is the currency here 
Dreamspace’s secret sauce, however, is its ‘community factor’ which mimics a business incubator setting. Tenants are buying into DreamSpace’s USP – The only community-driven shared office in JB that focuses on helping startups grow into SMEs. These business owners are always looking for opinions, feedback and constructive criticism.

What better way to solve writer’s block or seek creative inspiration than through conversation? Not only do other tenants provide a great sounding board for creative brainstorming sessions, but they could end up becoming potential clients or business partners too! “Why do you think companies like Facebook and Google favour the open layout office concept? – Creative ideas and business opportunities aren’t born in front of a monitor, that’s why,” quips Kai Xin.

Terrance Tang & Shawn Ho (Co-founders of TGA Marketing)
“We like the variety DreamSpace provides – the private working spaces enable for focused and uninterrupted work. Whereas more relaxed options like the public seating allows you to ease into and mingle with the community. Being around like-minded people has certainly helped us unlock our creative juices! Also, the space and hour flexibility is perfect for a digital marketing agency like us, as we tend to be out a lot.”

Great things happen when people collide

When done right, the co-working experience offers so much more beyond a work desk and free Wifi, the tenant becomes part of a social movement or a community as well. DreamSpace’s weekly social get- togethers and monthly networking events serves as a platform to bring together a diverse group of business people.

“Our recent Austin18 Networking Under The Stars Night, hosted together with the local business association saw the attendance of SME Directors, angel investors, startup founders and local entrepreneurs. This engagement forges relationships and allows bigger and bolder ideas to take shape, which in turn leads to new business opportunities,” Kai Xin explains.

Open spaces near the pantry encourages impromptu discussions and plain old socialising.

The ping pong table which doubles as a meeting has seen many heated debates & brainstorming sessions.

There’s a bar too!

Niall McCourt (Founder of CartaPoints)
“Dreamspace has played an instrumental part in CartaPoint’s entrepreneurial journey as a fintech startup, right from the incubation stage to the official business launching. From connecting us with the right people and hosting excellent get- together events, to keeping us informed about what’s going on across the country, the platform provided by DreamSpace has been invaluable”.

Kavita (Manager at People360) 
As a recruitment agency based in Singapore, we were looking to expand our services into the JB market and offer cross-border work opportunities to the Malaysian workforce. We were attracted to DreamSpace’s community concept as it presents a great networking opportunity, which has helped us tremendously in studying and learning the local job landscape. On top of that, the location is ideal, easy to find and it comes fully equipped with all the necessary office facilities.

The power of community
It doesn’t stop there – co-working spaces open tenants up to new opportunities and learning experiences as well.
DreamSpace rents out event space for the day or by the hour too. According to Kai Xin, event space is in demand in Johor as the locals love attending seminars, training and workshops. “Tenants are coming in by the droves as our rent is 30-40%
cheaper than what most hotels charge for their ballrooms/auditoriums.

DreamSpace is leveraging on this demand; we are launching a new event hall in October 2017 which will be fully equipped with high-end acoustic fittings and can comfortably seat 100,” she adds.

This hive of activity at DreamSpace enhances the community experience for tenants as they are exposed to various experts and learning sessions, from property investment strategies to programming workshops. Taking it further, DreamSpace hosts a weekly in-house interactive programme too, aptly called ‘Good Morning Mondays’ where complimentary breakfast is served in the pantry to encourage tenants to come together and mingle. Kai Xin shares,“Through feedback and observation, we gleaned how important engagement is in boosting tenants’ morale and productivity. Our tenants and people in general continuously seek acceptance, encouragement and learning experiences and that is why most entrepreneurs thrive in nurturing environments. Hence, we go all out in creating a communal culture which encourages organic interactions and genuine friendships.

“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings”
Jackie Reses, Yahoo’s Chief of HR

There are no Monday blues at DreamSpace,” she quips. It is apparent that the comprehensive community aspect being offered by set-ups such as DreamSpace is just what today’s working professionals and businesses are looking for as the robust demand for such collaborative workspaces continues to grow. “There is a long waiting list for our 1Tebrau co-working space.We are extremely confident in the industry’s potential and will continue to partner with strategic business partners to further drive market growth – DreamSpace aspires to be the 7-11 of co-working space, providing entrepreneurs with the perfect business ecosystem, whenever they need it,” beams Kai Xin.