THE concept of a workspace is rapidly morphing into a facility that would surpass any conventional office space, putting an end to the usual cubicles, fluorescent lights and stark white walls.
It’s an eye-opener that nudged the game changers to venture to this new business concept, which is now known as the coworking industry. In the Philippine market, the term coworking is a reverberating trend that is still misunderstood by many and a challenge for the players to define.
So what’s coworking?
“It is a flexible space where end-users are encouraged to be involved and engaged with one another, thus, producing dynamic results,” said Mikko Barranda, cofounder and CEO of Acceler8, one of the leading coworking spaces in the Philippines that continues to pave the way for growing businesses. “eighty percent of our community is under the millennial bracket. This generation is very supportive and receptive to new ideas and suggestions.”
It’s a challenge to early investors who tackled without having the right insights about the market. A common misconception of coworking spaces is often compared to a café with a few added benefits such as flexibility, collaboration and community—benefits which turned out to be among the top reasons employers are gradually shifting to coworking spaces.
The flexibility of the space is the main determinant of its clients’ profile and business requirements. The workspace must be modifiable to cater to the clients’ needs. It is also reasonable to at least provide the basic necessities of a business, such as a ready-to-use workspace, reliable Internet connection, telephone lines and air conditioning. Moreover, the facilities whether it be a shared space, private office, meeting rooms, dedicated desks or events space must be available on an hourly, daily or long-term basis.
“Acceler8 is the perfect place to start this kind of business because we needed flexibility in terms of space and run some tests with users,” said Denise Luchangco of Quiddity Usability Labs that specializes in UX/UI design and digital solutions. “Cost-wise, it helps us because we don’t have to worry about the utilities, like electricity, Internet connection, water, etc.”
Embracing flexibility was one of Acceler8’s challenges when they kicked off in 2015 with only two employees to handle the entire space—built with a classy bar, a pantry, six fully furnished private offices, a meeting room and a coworking space that is also venue for events, like small seminars and workshops. Every corner is aesthetically pleasing from their choice of scent to the SoHo, New York vibe of the space. It was no wonder that, in less than a month, they were able to lease out their serviced offices and sign up a handful of coworking members. “Ever since, we make sure that our team is involved and very hands on in providing genuine service. We knew that our community had finally sprung to life when everyone started to get along with each other and became friends even outside of the Acceler8,” Barranda said.
As the demand grew, it did not take long before they took the leap to expand the community in another prime location just within the Central Business District (CBD). They were very particular with the address since Acceler8 also provides virtual office plans. “Location is everything. It says a lot about us as a workspace provider and having it in a prime location signifies your status in the industry,” Barranda explained. For instance, their coworking space in Paseo de Roxas is just a few steps away from the landmarks, hospitals and banks in the CBD making it accessible to their clients.
What sets Acceler8 apart from the others is their commitment to their community and remaining true to their core message, create real connections. It is an ongoing campaign integrated to their social-media channels, business partners, events and community-building activities that’s been successfully capturing their target market. “It is a rewarding feeling whenever I get see our members hang out. Some of them even travel or have incredible nights out during weekends or after work. It’s a kind of synergy that is organic and made possible by our team, through simple birthday presents to free-massage day that we’ve prepared for them,” Barranda said.
Preparing for the big players
The emergence of coworking spaces in the Philippines is a signal for the big players to dive in and, in due time, to saturate the market. Real-estate developers are also exploring the business and eventually will establish their own. In fact, Ayala Land offices has recently tied up with Acceler8 to manage their workspace reaching another milestone when they leased out all 15 serviced offices within two months. It is undeniably a move that could open more sustainable opportunities for Acceler8 since they’ve been accommodating multinational companies and start-ups combined providing them an easy solution that could cut down their capital expenditure.
“We’ll keep on growing in terms of community. There is always a collaborative effort in between our community, partners and our team, and it’s something that you don’t see in a typical company,” Barranda explained, saying it is possible for coworking spaces to collaborate and work together.
It’s a fast and progressive sector, and if these existing coworking spaces are persistently pushing the right buttons before the big players enter the market, there might be better chance for them to position their brands along with the topnotches.