Not just a start-up space: Foreign firms embrace co-working in Singapore

By Tang See Kit | Channel NewsAsia | 20 September 2016
JustCo Foreign Firms

Flexible rental agreements for working spaces and a vibrant collaborative culture are some of the reasons why foreign businesses are filling up desks at some of the shared offices in Singapore.

Content delivery network and Web security firm Cloudflare was on the lookout for a new office in Singapore earlier this year and even though there were cheaper office spaces available in the rental market, it decided to move into JustCo – a co-working space located in the Central Business District (CBD) along Robinson Road.

“It was just much easier without having to deal with getting furniture and outfitting the office,” general manager of Cloudflare’s Asia operations, Grace Lin, told Channel NewsAsia. “The time spent on doing all that will also mean that I’m not expanding the company, or meeting potential partners and clients.”

“There were cheaper office options for sure, but a co-working space saves us time and allows us to continue growing quickly,” she added.

The San Francisco-based company has been swiftly expanding its team since venturing into Singapore last July, growing its headcount from just one person to 16 within a year. With plans to double the team’s size over the course of 2017, the firm needed a new space that could accommodate that growth flexibly.

Given its hiring spree, renting a traditional office which typically comes with two-year leases, would not have made sense, Ms Lin said.

As such, Cloudflare has decided to take up half a floor at JustCo for now, but should it decide to grow its team in Singapore further, it would be able to do so comfortably as an entire floor at the shared office accommodates up to 64 people, she explained.

" space saves us time and allows us to continue growing quickly,"

Grace Lin, General Manager of Cloudflare Asia


Even though co-working spaces – premised on the concept of having multiple companies or individuals sharing the same working environment – have typically appealed more to start-ups and freelancers, bigger enterprises, particularly from overseas, have latched onto the trend.

For example, Japanese messaging app provider Line Corp and popular cloud storage firm Dropbox are understood to be working out of JustCo.

According to Cushman and Wakefield's research director Christine Li, foreign companies tend to opt for co-working spaces during the initial stages of venturing into a new market. “They are not prepared to take a long-term lease in a traditional office yet as their businesses have yet to stabilise and the workforce is not sizeable enough to push them to rent a traditional office space,” said Ms Li.

Apart from being able to enjoy flexibility as they expand into Singapore and the region, bigger companies are also attracted to the open-concept, vibrant collaborative culture and easy accessibility to other businesses at these trendy shared offices.

Said Cloudflare’s Ms Lin: “In Singapore, a lot of the traditional offices for rent don’t have an open concept … and that doesn’t work for us because we have a Silicon Valley culture where no one sits in separate offices. Even our CEO sits next to an employee, and we are able to sit together, talk and work.”

And this culture of collaboration extends to partnerships between members of a co-working space. For instance, Cloudflare has been in discussions with a recruiting firm on the same floor at JustCo, to lend it a helping hand in its expansion plans.

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