Date
23 November 2017
Local tech news site Unwire.com started operating a co-working facility last month. Photo: Unwire.com
Local tech news site Unwire.com started operating a co-working facility last month. Photo: Unwire.com

How co-working spaces are helping nurture start-ups

Sky-high property rental costs are a big hurdle for any young person in Hong Kong seeking to start his or her own business.

But now some relief is at hand thanks to the concept of co-working spaces, where people from various backgrounds and pursuing different ideas can share common office space at reasonable cost.

At the co-working spaces, a lot of effort goes into designing the common area where tenants can interact with each other.

Gathering in the common area, tenants can exchange ideas with like-minded people. Cross-over projects can be easily worked out this way. The interaction is essential to the start-ups which have limited resources.

Filling a need, it’s no surprise that co-working spaces have been springing up rapidly in the city in the recent past.

Unwire.com, a local technology news website, made its foray into the market last month, charging as little as HK$1,800 (US$232) per month in rent for use of space and services at Unwire Space.

Office desks (Unwire.com calls them “Hot Desks”) and basic recording equipment are included in the rent.

On top of that, Unwire.com’s team will also offer mentorship for the start-ups, and the end-product and service could be published on the company’s website in the future.

Applicants from the disciplines of app developing, graphic & 3D design, photo & video production would be given priority, according to Unwire.com.

“We have done lots of interviews with start-ups and noticed that app start-ups are the most eye-catchy and thus receive more opportunities. Photo and video production start-ups also show lots of creativity, but unfortunately they are often neglected,” Leo Cheung Yu-hin, a co-founder of Unwire.com, told the Hong Kong Economic Journal’s StartupBeat.

High rent is the most challenging problem that young entrepreneurs face. They are forced to either work from home, or at coffee shops such as Starbucks.

“But in Starbucks, you can easily lose your seat if you go for a toilet break. That’s why we think many of these startups need the kind of working space that we provide,” Cheung said.

Co-working space is a concept imported from the United States. At the beginning, most of such work stations in Hong Kong are located in prime spots such as Central and Causeway Bay and operated by foreigners. They mainly serve foreign entrepreneurs involved in start-ups.

Given the prime locations, the rental cost in these co-working spaces was not low enough to attract locals. Thus, some new co-working spaces that sought to fill the gap in the market have come up.

Along with the growth in demand, new participants are popping up to grab a slice of the market. One such player is CoCoon, which started operating in 2012 with a 14,000-square foot facility in Fortress Hill.

In January, property giant Swire launched its own venture called Blueprint.

The company spent about HK$20 million to redevelop 20,000 square feet of unused office space on the 16th and 17th floors of Cornwall House, part of its vast Taikoo Place office complex, into a new co-working space.

Both CoCoon and Blueprint charge about HK$2000 a month for a desk and the right to use facilities such as conference rooms, pantry and also ping-pong tables.

The two co-working spaces have organized forums periodically and invited angel investors to interact with the tenants to help the latter learn more about key issues and industry prospects.

Guy Bradley, chief executive of Swire, said the project contributes little commercially to the group. However, the group is keen on the venture as it supports young local entrepreneurs and start-ups, and helps nurture a culture of innovation and creativity, he said.

– Contact us at english@hkej.com

RC

At the co-working spaces, a lot of effort goes into designing the common area where tenants can interact with each other. Photo: Unwire.com


EJ Insight writer

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