Most companies seeking to lease offices still rely on the services of real estate agencies.
Hong Kong startup Zoom Offices wants to digitize this traditional lease model by providing an online platform that connects office property owners, operators, and office users.
Jeff Yu, founder and managing director of the firm, told EJ Insight in an interview that the company offers a full online experience for businesses in their office leasing and transaction process.
The platform allows prospective tenants to search through office listings and use 3D and virtual reality technologies to “walk through” the offices for lease.
Property owners and users can complete the deal online by making use of the platform’s e-contract and payment functions.
Finding the right office space is challenging for companies trying to get a foothold in the mainland China market.
“Back in the day, many of the traditional office spaces in mainland China were equipped with ‘standard facility package’ only, that is, only with ceilings and carpets, and no office furniture,” said Yu.
Prospective tenants also have to process chaotic information in the office leasing agency market. Fake listings are common, resulting in lots of scams and disputes.
“Fake property information is the biggest problem in the market,” said Yu. What makes Zoom Offices appealing to office users is that the platform strictly verifies and controls the property listings. “We send our staff to conduct on-site visits and inspections to the listed properties.”
Office listings on the platform come from over 110 cities worldwide. Zoom Offices has now served more than 45,000 companies seeking office spaces. They include mainland firms like People’s Daily and foreign companies such as Sony, UPS, and Bosch.
Startups account for less than 20 percent of the platform’s transaction volumes. “Medium- and large-sized companies constitute a bigger category in our user base, as they want to seek office spaces for their functional or regional departments,” he said.
Yu said “advertisements” present an opportunity for the company to increase its revenue. By that he means income from ranking which properties come first in listings after a user search.
“Users’ preference always comes first. After that, we will receive advertisement requests from office owners and operators, allowing them to select different platform fees taken by Zoom Offices in successful deals,” Yu said. “If they select the higher platform fee option in Zoom Offices, their listings will receive higher search rankings and better display.”
The platform started expanding to mainland China in 2016, with Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen as its core markets.
Zoom Offices had earlier focused on co-working space listings, and it now covers 99 percent of the co-working space brands. It is now moving into the second stage in one to two months.
“We are moving towards ‘all-property coverage’, which covers medium- to large-scale traditional offices and industrial park offices,” Yu said, adding that the platform is exploring to offer services to facilitate office property transactions in the future.
Zoom Offices completed a fundraising round in March last year, raising money mainly from Hong Kong-based venture capital firms.
Yu said “large enterprises” are set to come on board as the firm’s strategic partners. “They are the leaders in different fields in the real estate industry,” he added.
Supported by Yahoo Hong Kong, Zoom Offices participated in the recently concluded TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2018, an event where startups pitch their business ideas to venture capitalists, media and other interested parties.
“The US [startup] community is leading in technology advancement, while that of China excels in model innovation. We hope to learn from both,” Yu said.
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