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I remember, when I was first starting out, the whole concept of a coworking space seemed strange.
Why would people pay for a desk at a shared communal space instead of getting their own office space?
Today however, I love the concept of coworking spaces so much that when it was time for my fund, Singapore based Life.SREDA to open its office, I insisted on converting it to a coworking space that would not only service us and our portfolio but also would provide a space for any startup to work, free of charge.
I firmly believe that the existence of multiple, specialised coworking facilities is an indication of a healthy entrepreneurial scene.
There is something about these spaces, an almost tangible aura that just makes working easier and results in a greater results.
The figures, it seem would agree with me as according to Deskmag’s 2016 Global Coworking forcast, 62 percent of coworking space owners said that they are actively looking to expand their spaces as opposed to 59% the year before.
This phenomenon is not an isolated one as no matter where I go, be it the heart of Silicon Valley or the chaos of Metro Manila, you will find a coworking space with eager minds, full of ideas and raring to create the next big thing.
In fact, I daresay that it is away from the startup hubs of California, New York, Singapore, Berlin and the like that you truly begin to see the value of coworking spaces.
Afterall, in the startup hubs of the world, you have all the facilities, networks and resources you need to succeed. A coworking space becomes more a table and chair than anything else. Outside these hubs however, you see a coworking space evolving to become a community of its own.
Being a founder, in my experience, is a very lonely experience with loads of stress and more than a little anxiety. You often feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and it is hard to talk to anyone outside the community about the stresses of MVP’s, fund-raising and equity.
In the less entrepreneurial parts of the world, it is the unique ability of coworking spaces to inspire, comfort and motivate that make them so important.
Deskmag’s report also showed that the communities these spaces build are strong and lasting with the survey reporting that four out of five users of coworking spaces of plan to stay where they are for the next year and two-thirds of members going so far as to say that they haven’t even considered leaving.
The supportive nature of these communities is all the more important given the mental health issues entrepreneurs increasingly face. In a recent study, Dr. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor at UCSF, found that out of the 242 entrepreneurs he surveyed, 49 percent reported having a mental health condition, with the majority suffering from depression and anxiety.
But coworking spaces are only for the budding entrepreneur. Slowly but surely this coworking spirit of collaboration and innovation has come to the attention of the tech giants. Employees from companies like Google and Amazon sometimes choose to work in such places in order to keep their ears on the ground.
I also see a lot of students making use of coworking spaces in order to get that first leg up. Conversely, many of the most high powered CEOs, bankers, and financiers I know are keenly involved with coworking spaces in order to help find that next great company.
As we move into an increasingly connected future, I foresee an even greater reliance on coworking spaces to foster the next great tech startup, especially here in Asia and as we continue to invest in startups in this region, coworking spaces and their alumni will definitely be an avenue we will be looking into.
To entrepreneurs, I say this: One day you will grow big enough and successful enough to require your own space, until then, however, a good coworking space will offer you immense value, both tangible and intangible.
Vladislav Solodkiy is head of Singapore-based fintech VC firm Life.Sreda. With a $100 million fund size, he and his team are dedicated to building a new fintech hub in Asia.
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