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Rent a start-up space for as little as $15 a day

This story was first published in The Straits Times on March 28, 2013

Published on Mar 30, 2013 5:30 AM
 
Hackerspace in Bussorah Street (above), which paved the way in 2009, was initially a place for geeks to gather and network but soon evolved into a co-working space where people asked for fixed desks. -- PHOTO: HACKERSPACE

MORE than 25 special offices for start-ups have been set up in the past four years allowing entrepreneurs to rent space for as little as $15 a day.

They are located across the island at rents between $200 and $2,000 a month. This includes a desk, free wireless connectivity and meeting rooms.

They are called co-working space because the entrepreneurs and their teams sit together in a common area, making rents lower - crucial for start-ups on a shoestring budget.

Co-working spaces are large. The cowork.sg office in Waterloo Street is 8,000 sq ft - about the size of seven five-room HDB flats - while small outfits are about 1,700 sq ft.

One of the biggest offices is The Co, which has an eight-storey building with about 26,000 sq ft available.

The mother of co-working space here is Hackerspace.sg, which paved the way in 2009.

When founder Wong Meng Weng returned to Singapore in 2008 after spending several years in the United States starting and selliing a tech start-up, he found there was no place where geeks like himself could gather.

That led to Hackerspace in Bussorah Street. Initially, it was a place for geeks to gather and network but soon evolved into a co-working space where people asked for fixed desks.

"We're selective, we cater only to tech start-ups. Our focus is networking, being experimental and creative. We see ourselves as the larval stage of a start-up," said Mr Wong.

"Tech developers come here, meet others, hook up, quit their jobs and start their own projects at Hackerspace."

Plug-in@Blk71 is right in the heart of tech start-up land. Block 71 in Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate hosts many start-ups and is one of four co-working outlets there.

Unlike similar spaces, it is free to any start-up in the interactive digital media and the tech industries for three months only.

Its strategic location in block 71 makes networking easy, helping create a community where developers can collaborate.

Plug-in@Blk71 is a collaboration between the Media Development Authority and SingTel's venture fund called Innov8.

Other co-working spaces include TNF Venturespace, The Hub, WorkspaceDesign Studio and Innovation Campus. They offer space to tech start-ups as well as social entrepreneurs, creative industries and small businesses.

Mr Joel Ko, managing director of Waha Office, which operates WorkspaceDesign Studio, said it is aimed at new start-ups and small businesses from Europe.

Its rates are high - between $2,000 and $4,000 a month. It offers services such as fund raising, office rooms instead of desks and company incorporation.

With so many co-working spaces, the firm is starting to differentiate itself.

Joyful Frog in Block 71, for example, is an innovation campus where investors can meet young founders. Members pay a small fee but get a cafe, meeting rooms and priority access to events.

Smartspace founder Mike Zhan positions his firm as a small business development centre where he helps entrepreneurs grow their enterprises.

It is about providing not only offices and meeting rooms, but also legal and accounting advice.

"I'm putting the entrepreneur first. I try to help where I can," said Mr Zhan, a lawyer turned entrepreneur.

Smartspace has four cowork.sg offices - in Waterloo Street, two at Block 71 at Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate and Joo Chiat Road.

Mr Wong said: "The co-working space is evolving. It used to be focused on start-ups; now they're offering rooms to firms which don't make them any different from the leased offices run by companies such as Ascendas."

chngkeg@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on March 28, 2013

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