Today, finding a co-working space in Hong Kong isn’t difficult anymore. However, finding the right one for the situation you’re in, is a very different story. Having been in Hong Kong for almost 2 years now, I have a much better perspective today than when I first came here, so this article is simply about sharing some experiences and thoughts and maybe give some impressions of some of the co-working spaces I’ve been to recently.
Before I get started, just as a disclaimer, I’ve been at PaperclipHK in Sheung Wan ever since I came to Hong Kong. I like it a lot here and it’s ideal for the current situation I’m in. However, there are also other great co-working spaces in Hong Kong, I just want to make sure you know where I’m coming from.
Things you might not know about Hong Kong
Important things first: Let’s immediately get to the things I would have loved to know before I came to Hong Kong and that you probably won’t know before you actually come here.
In my opinion, this is probably the most important point to consider. In summer, it gets really hot in Hong Kong, so without air conditioning you’re pretty much screwed. At the same time, when you’re a start up, you’re not working the normal 9-to-5 shifts most people do (even though 9-to-5 is an illusion for mostly anybody in Hong Kong anyway – but that’s another story). Most co-working spaces offer 24/7 access, either as a priced in feature or as an add-on.
So where is the problem you ask? The problem is, that in many cases, the air conditioning gets turned off in the evening and won’t be turned on until the morning. Depending on the co-working space and building, air conditioning isn’t turned on at all over the weekend. So if you’re working early morning, late night or weekends, this is crucial to bear in mind, as it might mean that you can’t use the space you’ve booked during that time because during summer it might simply be too hot, not much unlike a sauna at times.
This isn’t the fault of the co-working spaces themselves but rather common practice in business buildings around Hong Kong. A way around that are industrial buildings. Those are usually quite old buildings which used to be used for production of goods and as warehouses but are nowadays often turned into office space for smaller companies or co-working spaces. Examples for such co-working spaces would be The Loft, the Hive Kennedy Town or Maker Lab. Because those co-working spaces are in industrial buildings, they can actually have 24/7 air-con which means, your 24/7 access is really a 24/7 access, even in summer.
Location is important in many ways. Of course it’s great to be in the city center and close to the big businesses and this is why the area between Sheung Wan and Wan Chai is the logical place to start for most people new to Hong Kong. Because of that, this area on Hong Kong Island is also the place where most co-working spaces are located. But there are a couple of more things you might want to consider before choosing one of the spaces.
One thing is price. Co-working spaces further away from Central and Wan Chai often have great rates, The Loft and Cyberport are two examples for that. But working farther away from the CBD also has an impact on your personal expenses, starting from costs for eating out over simple things like getting a haircut to big potential savings in renting a flat. Good access to public transport also means that you might actually be in the CBD within 30-60 minutes; if that’s a trip you only need to make once a month or so, using a co-working space e.g. in the New Territories might be worth considering.
Another example for importance of location could be hiring staff. This might be counter-intuitive, but being away from the CBD might actually make you more attractive for certain groups of people. In IT, for example, a lot of potential employees work or live close to the Hong Kong Science Park (HKSTP), so if you’re an IT start-up with an office in the CBD, this might actually put you at a disadvantage to companies close to HKSTP. The same might be true for other groups of potential employees, especially local ones, who often live in Kowloon or the New Territories where rent is considerably cheaper compared to Hong Kong Island.
When it comes to co-working spaces and prices, it’s worth shopping around and to negotiate. Prices for the same kind of membership in the most expensive co-working space might be five times (or more) the amount of the rate of the cheapest, but prices not just differ from space to space but also within each of the co-working spaces. Depending on contract length, team size, your negotiation skills, etc., the advertised prices can often get reduced significantly, you just have to ask and shop around a bit.
Picking the right co-working space
Now what criteria are most important for picking a co-working space varies significantly from case to case. For me personally, for example, having a space close to the Macao Ferry Terminal was very important, a criteria very unimportant for most other people. However, there are some more general topics that in some way or other affect decisions regardless of business size, business nature or personal situation.
There’s not really much to discuss here apart from that you, of course, have to look for a co-working space that can offer the space your team needs. If you’re a one-man company that’s easy, the bigger the team the more challenging it gets to find a good fit. For teams bigger than 4, some good places might be Cyberport, WeWork or theDesk, each of which are big and usually have the space to accommodate bigger teams. Many of the other co-working spaces do as well, but the bigger offices might be booked out from time to time, so if you’re in the position of looking for a bigger office space inside a co-working space, it might be best to first contact co-working spaces via email and ask if bigger offices exist and are free for rent.
If longer contracts are an option, looking for shared office space providers (simply Google for “shared office space in Hong Kong”) might also be a good option. Alternatively, renting office space directly is also a good and mostly cheaper way to get enough space for bigger teams. Again, if location isn’t too important, space in industrial buildings might be worth considering especially if price is a major factor.
Nature and stage of business
Co-working spaces in Hong Kong differ from one another in that most of them try to differentiate themselves in some way from the mass of providers. PaperclipHK, for example, sees itself as a startup hub, where new businesses can not only find a place to work but also advice and support. The Loft puts more emphasis on providing a nice and quite environment for smaller teams where they can actually get work done. Maker Lab targets companies and individuals that want to create stuff and WeWork brings international flair and support for the traveling business person to the table.
The right choice of location and co-working space can be a boost for your business, especially if you are a young service business. At the same time, it might have the opposite effect if you’re making the wrong choice. When I was looking for a co-working space in 2014, one important factor was, that it is not targeting IT or webdesign agencies. At PaperclipHK my company ended up being the only web development related business. This way, anybody who needed to get something done, came to me first leading to great opportunities which were very important, especially in the early days.
So before making a choice, also think about what you can bring to the community at the co-working space and what the community might be able to do for you. For example, if you are a designer, going to a co-working space full of designers might not be the best choice if you hope to get new work from other people at the co-working space. You might rather look for a place that has members similar to your target audience.
Finally, price is an important but maybe not the most important issue. Before committing to a long-term contract, make sure you have spent at least 2-3 months in the co-working space of your choice. Spaces usually provide 1-2 day free trial periods to test working at the co-working space. After that, maybe go for a short-term contract, even if it means that you pay a little bit more in the short term. But this way you can really experience what it is like to work at the very co-working space on a daily basis. During that period, you probably also get to know the staff at the co-working space better which might strengthen your negotiating position as they will very likely want to retain you as a member and might be willing to give you better rates than what you might have gotten on day 1.
A short list of co-working spaces in Hong Kong
This is a short, incomplete list of co-working spaces in Hong Kong, based on my own experiences. To find more co-working spaces in the Hong Kong area you prefer, simply use Google or Google Maps and you’ll find many more providers of office space.
PaperclipHK in Sheung Wan
As mentioned above, PaperclipHK is the place my own company has been located at for nearly 2 years and still is. It’s a great place for new businesses to get started but also a good fit for smaller companies with teams of up to 6 people. PaperclipHK usually has between 2-3 events a week, paid and free ones, where speakers from various industries give advice and share experiences to help young entrepreneurs to get their business started and off the ground.
The Hive in Kennedy Town
The Hive is one of the bigger co-working space companies in Hong Kong with further offices in Wan Chai and Sai Kung. As one of the first players to enter the market in Hong Kong, the Hive is an established brand in Hong Kong and very popular especially among creative people and small companies. The Hive co-working spaces each focus on slightly different target groups, so simply contacting the Hive team and explaining your current situation to them might lead to very valuable advice on what kind of space would fit you and your business best.
The Loft in San Po Kong
The Loft is a nice and quite co-working space in an industrial building in San Po Kong, five minutes away from the Darling Hill MTR station. It’s a great place for smaller teams with private offices and great rates – the ideal place to simply sit down and get work done. Furthermore, 24/7 access comes with 24/7 air conditioning, something rare in Hong Kong and ideal for start-ups that regularly pull all-nighters or work on weekends.
The Maker Lab in North Point
The Maker Lab is a different co-working space in that it is targeting people and businesses that want to make physical things rather than create the next Facebook or AirBnB. The space has its own fleet of 3D printers that work 24/7 to make members’ and client’s new designs come to live. A great place near Quarry Bay MTR station. Regardless of what your business is doing, this space is definitely worth checking out!
WeWork in Causeway Bay
WeWork is new in Hong Kong and has just opened its new co-working space in Causeway Bay. It is one of if not the biggest co-working space provider in the world with spaces all around the globe. It’s a great fit for business people traveling a lot, as they can also use the spaces overseas. Furthermore, if you have a bigger team, WeWork might also be exactly what you are looking for, as they provide offices of all sizes on 7 floors, so plenty of space to rent out.
TheDesk in Sai Wan
TheDesk is a nice new co-working space close to Hong Kong university in Sai Wan. The space is minutes away from the newly opened MTR station and as a result has great connection to Central and Wan Chai. If you are looking for a co-working space with decent rates and plenty of space, this might be one of the best choices available in Hong Kong.
Cyberport in Pok Fu Lam
Cyberport is a government run office space similar to Hong Kong Science Park with the goal to provide a great environment especially for tech companies to make Hong Kong a leader in areas like FinTech. If you don’t mind having an office further away from Central, Cyberport is very likely what you’re looking for. There are a total of 4 co-working areas in Cyberport itself and bigger companies can rent one of the many offices available, all with great rates and nice working environment.
Making a decision is always a trade-off between many things – picking the right co-working space isn’t an exception to that. However, the problem is, that often, the trade-offs aren’t obvious at the time the decision is made. Hong Kong has some unique features and a still evolving co-working scene, so I hope this article can help you a little bit in your decision process.
The last thing left to say for me is, if you’re new to Hong Kong, WELCOME, and for anybody with a new business all the best, good luck and enjoy the ride!