In Lion City, the Coworking Industry of Singapore Begins to Roar

Singapore is known around the world for many things. Whether it be the award winning Singapore Airlines, the “best in the world” Changi Airport with a full size movie theater and shopping mall or the “Easiest place to do business” per the World Bank for ten consecutive years, Lion City as it’s called is considered to be a global commerce, financial and transportation hub. Founded in 1819 as a trading post for the East India Company, ceded to Britain after the company’s collapse until 1963 when it joined a collection of former British territories to form Malaysia, it was expelled two years later, and is the world’s only island city-state. With better climate than Los Angeles, the technological advantages of San Francisco, pedigree, polish and financial offices of London and cleanliness of Washington, DC it ranks number 11 and leads all of Asia on the Human Development Index, with particular focus on education, healthcare and quality of life.

 

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Flexible desks at The Working Capital

The cost of living in the city-state is not cheap: the average price of a one bedroom apartment in the city center is $2,180 USD and a Toyota Corolla will set you back $80,412 USD. Commercial real estate is considered among the world’s most expensive and rightfully so with around a 4% vacancy rate. The largest companies are in the telecom, banking, transportation and manufacturing sectors, all of which heavily rely on knowledge based workers, compared to other Asian markets more heavily reliant on a manual labor force. The trifecta is it’s position as an education hub, with over 80,000 international students who consistently rank in the top five in the world in the top two international assessments.

 

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Collective Works, one of Singapore’s premier spaces, delivers its members a brand of fresh yet luxurious space design.

It’s no surprise then that the coworking scene is as hot as it is in Singapore as the economy and business climate provides most of if not all the elements driving the global demand for shared office space. In fact the serviced office industry has been around for quite some time and is quite large, compared to other markets, as many corporations who had to have a presence in the region opted for a suite rather than independent space. With a highly educated and wealthy population made up primarily of knowledge based workers, in such a business friendly environment it only makes sense that a growing number of consultants, freelancers and entrepreneurs in need of working space are now demanding more open office space. Less walls; more collaboration. Such is the case for The Co, a traditional serviced office space that has pivoted by adding coworking to select floors of it’s space

 

The renovated interior of a historic shophouse, The Co-Foundry has a hanging garden in its open air space.
The renovated interior of a historic shophouse, The Co-Foundry has a hanging garden in its open air space.

The coworking spaces found in Singapore for the most part all reflect the population and target demographic: premium spaces in class A locations with luxury amenities and design elements like The Working Capital and Collective Works. There are a fair share of rough around the edges incubators or tech start up hubs, primarily housed in the city’s famous and now historically protected shophouses, such as The Co-Foundry. Additional well known spaces are The Hub Singapore, one of the first in the city and Woolf Works, Singapore’s first women-only coworking space, named after literary icon Virginia Wolf. Dedicated desks range in price from $500-800 USD/mo.

 

The Co's lower level includes modern, sleek and intimate meeting rooms and huddle spaces.
The Co’s lower level includes modern, sleek and intimate meeting rooms and huddle spaces.

With WeWork rumored to be shopping around for an entire building similar to the expansions they’ve executed in other markets, the independent local operators show no fear and are almost all currently working on opening up additional locations themselves. The next space to open is The Hive, a Hong Kong based space with an additional location in Bangkok, set to begin accepting members in the next month or so. Competition seems to be healthy, but not a problem. Almost all spaces were close to max capacity, if not operating a waiting list or turning members away. Even with a battery of corporate run spaces that include the Samsung Hub and the Infiniti Accelerator. WIth all the elements previously mentioned and the fact that the city-state has the 3rd most dense population with just over 5.5 M people, the coworking market seems to be roaring ahead, with no end in sight to its growth potential.

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