Ireka | COMMON GROUND – The Future Of Work Is Here!
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COMMON GROUND – The Future Of Work Is Here!

The growth in demand for flexible coworking environments has increased remarkably over the last few years and continues to grow. Among other things, the lure of connecting with fellow entrepreneurs and potential business partners, and autonomous working are pull factors. As estimated by Knight Frank (international property experts) in 2018, over the past decade the number of flexible office spaces in the world has grown by 3,500 percent, while the number of people working there increased by 8,000 percent. According to the same data, at least 18,000 of such spaces exist around the world and they are able to accommodate at least 1.7m people.

Juhn TeoCommon Ground which has its roots in Malaysia is all about the office of the future and in this issue, cofounder, Juhn Teo tells us, in his own words, all about their successful brainchild in an exclusive interview.

What is Common Ground?

Common Ground is Malaysia’s largest and leading coworking space operator that redefines and disrupts the “office space” industry through promoting business synergy. We do this through our hardware (our collaborative workspaces) and software components (our weekly events, our hundreds of partners offering benefits to our community, our proprietary app), as we strive to be much more than just a physical space. This is one of our core differentiators from other coworking spaces that focus solely on their facilities. Common Ground’s flexible and focused coworking space and community is home to an ecosystem of diverse resources, personalities, and ideas, creating Malaysia’s most powerful business network.

Common Ground also caters to everyone – from part-time freelancers looking for hot desks or fixed desks, to small businesses searching for private offices. We even cater to corporations through our Enterprise Solutions – designed to power large teams of 50 or more. These tailored solutions give corporations a dedicated and custom built space to call their own. Companies can benefit from modern and fully-serviced satellite offices, swing spaces, or even main HQ’s, without the worry of long-term contracts or upfront costs impacting their cash flow.

How did Common Ground Start?

The Common Ground story started in 2016 with two people – Juhn Teo and Erman Akinci. We saw the potential in a growing market in Malaysia, and after visiting coworking spaces around the world for inspiration and research, we eventually buckled down and registered our own company in October of 2016.

With a small team of 8, Common Ground launched its first venue in March 2017 at Wisma UOA II in Damansara Heights. Through establishing venues in strategic locations, building a dedicated operation and branding team, looking for the right landlords, and growing its network of partnerships, Common Ground was able to grow substantially.

Today, there are more than 3,000 members and 16 venues across major city hubs, both locally and internationally. In the short span of 2 years, Common Ground has become Malaysia’s largest coworking space and community and is looking to be one of SE Asia’s biggest players, with plans to have 36 outlets accross SE Asia by the end of 2019.

Common Ground has grown exponentially, from 1 location in March of 2017 to 16 locations today across SE Asia. Additionally, we are planning to double our number of locations by the end of 2019. We have already raised $20M USD through Series A funding, and are currently in the middle of Series B.

Common Ground partners with established local companies in each country, such as Central Group for Thailand, and MVP Group for Philippines. Having them as partners with their extensive portfolio and track record of entertainment and lifestyle businesses enables us to offer a deeply localized product.

How Did You Come Up With the Name?

We came up with ‘Common Ground’ to embody and drive forward the notion that our community is a space for diverse individuals and industries to find something in common, irrespective of their differences. People have the potential to reach greater success if they can capitalize and leverage off each other’s different resources and collaborate together. For example, we have already seen what great things can happen when finance and technology intersect and exchange resources. In other words, Common Ground’s synergistic community helps us shift our perspectives to see that those differences could actually be our “common ground”.

How Did You Come to Work Together?

 

We were both analyzing the industry from different angles before starting this business a little over two years ago. Juhn comes from the real estate industry, whereas Erman spent most of his career working for a tech investment company. As coworking is at the crossroads of real estate and technology, both of us saw the opportunity in Malaysia for large format coworking spaces focusing heavily on the community, lifestyle, and business support that entrepreneurs and small businesses need. At that time, coworking in SE Asia was considered ‘small format’ and didn’t offer much beyond the basic desk, chair, and internet connection. We both could see driven coworking in being a scalable business in SE Asia, if done properly.

What is the Reason For the Growth in Coworking?

Coworking is growing in popularity worldwide, not just in Asia. This is because our culture of working and entrepreneurship has monumentally shifted. With recent technological advances paving the way for untethered communications, against the backdrop of our ever-booming globalization, the way in which we work has drastically evolved. Building a business is no longer just a vertical climb, but also a horizontal sprawl across industries.

Companies are no longer strictly skill-compartmentalized, geographically-localized, or industry-confined – in fact, both large and small businesses have organically shifted into a new era of connective entrepreneurship, dipping their toes into the diversified pool of nuanced and intersectional professions. Even companies that previously specialized in specific and traditional industries have adopted and integrated new approaches and components from other industries (hence, the birth of FinTech, Ride-hailing services like Grab, and even coworking spaces like Common Ground).

What is the Reason For the Growth in Coworking?

 

Coworking (3)Coworking is growing in popularity worldwide, not just in Asia. This is because our culture of working and entrepreneurship has monumentally shifted. With recent technological advances paving the way for untethered communications, against the backdrop of our ever-booming globalization, the way in which we work has drastically evolved. Building a business is no longer just a vertical climb, but also a horizontal sprawl across industries.

Companies are no longer strictly skill-compartmentalized, geographically-localized, or industry-confined – in fact, both large and small businesses have organically shifted into a new era of connective entrepreneurship, dipping their toes into the diversified pool of nuanced and intersectional professions. Even companies that previously specialized in specific and traditional industries have adopted and integrated new approaches and components from other industries (hence, the birth of FinTech, Ride-hailing services like Grab, and even coworking spaces like Common Ground).

If our understanding of what a business is has drastically expanded and become complex, we simply cannot continue using our outdated workplace models. It was this fundamental concept that sparked the ambition behind the vision for Common Ground. The Malaysian homegrown coworking operator that has swept across cities and suburbs alike in the last two years serves as a testament to its genuine alignment with our ever-changing business dynamics and needs.

What do You Offer Common Ground clients?

We offer our clients (members) more than just a workspace – more than just a desk or a private office. Beyond our premium facilities and amenities, the real reward is actually in the community we build to elevate and connect our members. That’s our differentiator.

Common Ground members have access to all of our venues. This is great for on-the-go workers, especially ones who travel frequently for work or need to meet clients in different areas of the city on a daily basis.Soon, we will also be releasing Common Ground Prime – a membership that caters to those who want to participate in and benefit from our events and partnerships, but do not need a physical workspace. You can think of it as a membership for our “software”.

CommonGround Collage

Common Ground - Benefits of Coworking