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Startups in the Philippines find new home in co-working spaces

Adrian M. Reodique | Sept. 13, 2017
The notion of workplaces for startups and nomad freelancers has expanded since 2011 when the concept of co-working space was first introduced.

co-working spaces in Makati
Penbrothers' office space in Makati City. Credit: Penbrothers

Since 2011, the concept for custom workplaces for startups, budding entrepreneurs, and nomad freelancers in the Philippines has expanded - from traditional offices to condominiums and nearby coffee shops - when the co-working phenomenon first entered the commercial real estate market.

Co-working offices, similar to other flexible workspaces, allow tenants to procure short-term leases for fully-furnished, ready-to-use rooms that come equipped with air conditioning and internet connectivity.

But what separates co-working spaces from serviced offices and hosted service firms is that they promote collaboration in a shared working environment, according to global real estate company Colliers International Group's (CIG) report titled Mining Millennials: Finding Gold in Co-Working Spaces, published on 22 March 2017. 

For the past six years, co-working spaces have sprouted across the country. In fact, local co-working spaces (61 percent) have grown more than its predecessors [ie. hosted service firms (19 percent) and serviced offices (18 percent)] over the last four years, the CIG report found.

Currently, Metro Manila alone has 30 co-working spaces, with majority located in Makati (14), Bonifacio Global City (8), and Ortigas (3), according to property consultancy firm Santos Knight Frank.

"In today's world where people are always on the go, the need to access your e-mail, print proposals and surf the net happens anytime and anywhere. Business transactions and negotiations are now done outside the office. High-level executives, young professionals and startup entrepreneurs used to work in coffee shops and hotel lobbies. With co-working spaces, they now have an alternative venue to conduct business activities," said Rick Santos, chairman and CEO of Santos Knight Frank.

In line, CIG expects co-working spaces to be the primary growth driver of flexible workspace stock in the country, which is projected to increase by at least 10 percent annually in the next three years.

Despite the positive forecast, CIG believes that co-working operators and developers will have to adapt "to the demands of the market to either remain competitive or participate in this growing segment."

In response, some co-working operators have expanded their service portfolio; from a simple shared working environment to offering enhanced support and services for their clients.


In the shoes of startups

In the case of Makati-based co-working operator, Penbrothers, it stepped up to the challenge by adding human resource and payroll management to its service portfolio.

The business idea was inspired from the experience of one of its founders, Gui Faria, when he was looking for a photo editor in the Philippines for his foreign startup, Uncloset - an online subscription service for luxury bags.


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