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Office Reconstructed: To network with top minds, head to co-working spaces

Forget happy hour hobnobbing at the nearest bar, or on the golf green. As more co-working spaces mushroom across Singapore, housing promising start-ups to dynamic tech unicorns, the shared workspace looks set to be the new CEO hangout.

With nearly 40 providers having popped up in Singapore since 2009 when the concept debuted here, co-working spaces or shared working environments are fast replacing actual offices in the corporate world. Not only do companies have more flexibility in terms of increasing headcount with minimal fuss – since the infrastructure already exists – they also do not have to face high overheads and commit to long-term leases.

But what is most attractive about co-working spaces is that, with their diversity of start-ups and entrepreneurs, they encourage opportunities for business and collaboration among members, thus creating a wholistic eco-system. After all, in business, one’s network is his net worth. 

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ADVICE ON DEMAND: The Hub has an investor-in-residence programme to support start-up

For Tyson Hackwood, who is head of Asia at payments processor Braintree Payments, working from such a space “takes the ‘thinking’ out of running an office, as the management looks after all the tactical facilities management”. Braintree’s local office of eight staff operates out of Impact Hub and some of its clients include Uber and Airbnb. Hackwood says: “Impact Hub is also keen on attracting and engaging participants in the innovation community, and often run events for the industry, thereby providing more platforms for us to meet our key audience and like-minded people.” 

From an employee’s perspective, one in five people want to work in a “virtual” place where they can log on from any location or use collaborative workspaces, according to PWC in its 2014 report titled The Future of Work: A Journey to 2022. As a result, companies may find themselves restructuring into looser networks of autonomous, often specialised operations, with technology bringing people together to complete tasks. These results were gleaned from a survey of 10,000 workers and 500 HR professionals globally. 

Statistics also show that employees benefit from collaborative workspaces. In a 2012 global survey by German online magazine Deskmag, 71 per cent reported a boost in creativity, since joining a co-working space. Sixty-four per cent are better able to meet deadlines and 62 per cent say the standards of their work improved.

Jonathan Tanner is a proponent of this office style. The co-founder of recruitment agency Mitchellake Group, which has set up shop at The Working Capitol, says: “Being surrounded by like-minded, creative and motivated people is energising. It really helps to have your team be part of a ‘buzzing room’ to keep up the level of motivation and tenacity it takes to be successful.” 

Here are three co-working spaces in Singapore that are transforming the definition of “office”

Buzz Around Town: Impact Hub

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ENTREPRENEURIAL ENERGY: Impact Hub houses three unicorn tenants.

Two hundred and twenty ventures. Three Unicorn tenants: Braintree, Survey Monkey and Twilio. A global connection network of 75 hubs worldwide with 11,000 members across 48 territories. If the proof is in the pudding, Impact Hub’s statistics speak for itself. Since its founding in 2012, it has firmly established itself as a pioneer in the co-working arena, as well as in the wider start-up community in Singapore. Last June, it raised $1.5 million, a testament to its impact and reputation in the community. 

Home to a diverse pool of businesses in professional industries such as tech, art and design, consulting and coaching, and education, the Hub, which is in Prinsep Street, boasts the largest community of entrepreneurs in the city. It prides itself on being a one-stop platform that helps members, who are known as Hubbers, to scale up through mentorship, incubation, and learning and networking events. An alumni fund, in which Hub members invest in other members, and an investor-in-residence programme help start-ups turn dreams into reality.

Aside from its convenient location, Hubbers cite the environment and community that the Hub has fostered as one of its most appealing factors. Hackwood says Impact Hub’s facilities and event space are pluses. He says: “We wanted our office to be located in a co-working space to pay homage to our start-up roots and to be closer to the start-up community who makes up a large part of our target audience. We have made many great connections, and have also been able to offer our services to businesses that are actively involved in the digital economy.”

Collaboration Capital: The Working Capitol

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QUEUE: There’s a waiting list for The Working Capitol’s facilities.

Smack in the middle of Chinatown, amid the city’s trendiest restaurants, boutique hotels and craft cocktail bars, lies one of Singapore’s most talked-about co-working spaces. Occupying a row of five restored heritage shophouses in Keong Saik Road, The Working Capitol calls itself a hybrid of open co-working spaces, which include work desks, private offices, event space and F&B establishments on-site such as Lollapalooza, Neon Pigeon and Luxe Singapore, and an outdoor beer garden.

It currently houses 300 people across 150 companies that are mostly in the technology and digital sphere, such as Hootsuite, Cloudflare, Stripe, Astronaut Technologies, and General Assembly.

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The Working Capitol also features space breakout areas

 Tanner and his team recently moved to The Working Capitol. He says: “It has a great operating team and runs many fantastic events around technology and innovation. It has established some great industry partnerships as a result and we believe events and partnerships are critical to the success of the broader start-up ecosystem.” Networking events include members’ lunches and members’ mixers, which are targeted at tenants and their guests.

Ben Gattie, director and co-founder of The Working Capitol, says: “We see workspaces of the future becoming a one-stop shop, with the integration of lifestyle and domestic elements, and offering more specialised equipment like gyms and podcast rooms. That said, hardware alone isn’t enough; it’s about the community too.” 

Given a sizable waiting list for the co-working space’s desk and office offerings, The Working Capitol appears to have struck a winning formula. 

New Kid On The Prime Block: Justco

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PRIME LOCATION: Justco is situated at Raffles Place.

Occupying 20,000 sq ft across four levels at 120 Robinson Road, Justco, which was launched last September and is owned by home-grown serviced office provider Justgroup, is the largest co-working space in the CBD. Despite being relatively new to the market, occupancy rate for Justco is at 80 per cent. It has secured key tenants, including communication app Line Singapore, media company DD8 and cloud computing firm Deskera. Besides enjoying a dynamic office environment with contemporary design and expansive views of the business district, users get a prestigious Raffles Place office address. Unique additions in the form of workshops, networking sessions and talks, as well as interactive corners featuring ping pong tables, foosball and arcade machines for downtime and creativity, top off Justco’s offering.

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SCORE!: Justco’s social areas encourage conversation and exchange of ideas.

There are plans for two more Justco workspaces in the coming months. Justgroup recently received capital injections from asset management firms Tikehau Capital Partners and Pinetree Capital Partners to expand locally and in the Asia-Pacific, kicking off with Shanghai. 

It seems Justco is off to a good start. Rachel Hoon, marketing manager of Line Singapore, says: “The creative, edgy office decor definitely suits Line and what we stand for as a company. Not only is this space well located and offers a window view, the services rendered are impeccable. Coupled with an amazing pantry, meeting rooms and reception area, it far exceeds our expectations.”

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