Co-working space: new attraction for big companies
Co-working space in Hong Kong, which started to flourish in the early 2010s, has attracted not only startups and freelancers but also professionals and big corporations such as IBM, KPMG and HSBC. These big names have caught up with the trend and rented co-working places on hopes to enhance their employees' creativity and build relationships with start-ups to extend their business into this new customer base.
In 2016, HSBC Hong Kong made headlines by moving its approximately 300 digital innovation department employees to a WeWork co-working site in Causeway Bay. Through shared workshops, big companies can better understand the development needs of start-ups. These kinds of interactions and engagement in co-working space are beneficial to startups, as well as big companies.
The New York-based co-working space WeWork arrived Greater China in 2016 and has 40 locations in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, providing office space for 20,000 members. It has three locations in Hong Kong and is planning to open a fourth location at Lan Kwai Fong, a popular expatriate drinking haunt in Central.
Catherine Leung, a spokesperson at HSBC news and media department, explained that when it comes up to ‘HSBC’ and ‘Startup’, almost everyone thinks of the difficulties in opening an account. Since the United States has tightened its control over money activities in recent years, banks have to tighten account applications from new companies, especially those with unclear business nature. This problem has plagued many start-up companies because the nature of their business is often innovative and unique, bank staff may not understand their actual operation. However, by increasing the chances of contacting with initial companies, hopefully, the banks will gradually open up. "Seventy percent of new (company) accounts come from startups, it’s a quite surprising proportion," she said.
"The development of startups will not only bring new impetus to Hong Kong's economic growth, but also strengthen Hong Kong's competitive advantage. HSBC actively participates in the startup ecosystem and offers a variety of innovative solutions. We work in shared workshops to better understand the needs of startups, and their development plans," Ms Leung added.
Renting a shared workspace actually might not be cost-effective for big companies. According to the Hong Kong website of WeWork, a working space for an 8-person team charges a minimum rent of about $50,000 a month, and the same rent is sufficient to pay for an office of nearly 1,500 square feet in the same district, which can accommodate about 16 to 20 people. Furthermore, some shared workrooms will charge additional fees for services such as photocopying and renting conference rooms.
Despite this, WeWork's community management team manager Pinki Fung said their vice-president once revealed that large enterprise clients are currently the fastest growing customer base. In the United States, they uniquely set up a team to offer dedicated customer services to attract Fortune 1000 large companies.
"WeWork designs each space into a stylish, vibrant and creative ‘Silicon style’ office, and makes the space more visually spacious with a transparent interval, encourage tenants to get to know each other. They will likely become a ‘big family’ masterly," Ms Fung explained.
The shared workspace not merely provides a relaxed environment for large companies to attract creative elites but also serves as a platform for expanding a business. For instance, Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG), one of the Big Four accounting firm, has started to let employees work in shared workplaces.
Graven Ng, a KPMG property managing partner, believed that it helps to build extraordinary relationships with start-up companies and extend into new customer bases. When start-ups are rapidly expanding, they need special services such as auditing, consulting, and banking to gain the trust and investment of investors, while the company is looking at the business opportunities in this entrepreneurial trend.
"When the working environment becomes fashionable and convenient, surrounded by relaxing facilities, it is no longer dull and boring to work. To attract companies to ‘check in’, the shared workroom combines office, entertainment and socializing, where employees can interact with versatile ‘neighbor’," Mr Ng added.
"Everyone in co-work space comes from a different background, yet has the same enthusiasm for work and entrepreneurship. Through shared workspace, people are likely to make like-minded friends, find partners, and even know future bosses or investors. The essential benefit would enable those large company to get familiar with the potential (of) startups. Thus, co-work space probably a new trend for them," he concluded.
《The Young Financial Post 新報人財經》
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