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Metro Workspace is primed to take the lead in Hong Kong’s embattled flexible workspace market
On a fateful day in 2014, while Joe Chan and Bobby Yu were selling units in a building in Hong Kong’s Kwai Chung district, the two friends decided they wanted to create a flexible workspace solely for the media industry.
The duo’s past ventures complemented each other perfectly for this endeavor. Chan, having started his own hedge fund in 1998 and subsequently launching the lifestyle brand Metropolitan Lifestyle, was highly familiar with the demands faced by small business owners and founders. Furthermore, he had valuable experience in the real estate field, having started a property company in 2010 which acquainted him with the day-to-day practicalities of starting a flexible workspace.
Yu possessed a wealth of knowledge in the financial realm of the project, owing to his experience as an equity analyst for multiple companies. He, too, had experience in property from Pacific Century Premium Developments Limited Hong Kong.
The two decided to convert the ground floor of the Kwai Chung building into a co-working space, and to their surprise, it turned out to be enormously successful. Intrigued by the demand for flexible workspaces, the two ventured further into the field, and over time, Metro Workspace was born.
A glimpse into Metro Workspace
Metro Workspace aims to provide entrepreneurs and small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with an environment that is conducive to brainstorming ideas, and turning them into reality. The partners’ goal in creating Metro Workspace was to support these companies in multiple impactful ways.
“As Metro Workspace is a brand that has been bred in Hong Kong, it means everything to us to help small businesses in our home city,” says Yu.
Keeping in mind the ever-evolving nature of small businesses and early-stage companies, the packages offered by Metro Workspace are affordable and tailor-made to suit customers’ needs. The option for ‘Cross Site Membership,’ for instance, enables members to build a network across Hong Kong, and provides them with a number of workspace options that can fit in conveniently with a full schedule of meetings.
In the span of five years, Metro Workspace has expanded to seven locations in Hong Kong, each of which averages about 5000 square feet. As one of the few co-working operators in Hong Kong that also enjoys ownership of the properties it manages, the company assures customers of their stability as a brand – a true asset in a place where the co-working industry has been set back by civil unrest, a pandemic, and shake-ups like that of WeWork and WorkTech.
“Metro Workspace intends to establish itself as a long-term business; stability is important so clients don’t need to worry about being forced to move any time soon,” says Yu.
What sets it a class apart?
The company also places great emphasis on diversity, a philosophy that has led the founders to open spaces even in slightly unconventional locations.
Keeping in mind the needs of freelancers and startups based in the New Territories, the company opened its newest location, ‘Always On My Mind,’ in Yuen Long. This ties in with the company’s goal of providing ‘mobility’ to its customers, as they can now enjoy a private workspace in Yuen Long, a suburban area, while also having access to branches in business districts such as Central and Wan Chai on days when they need to be in the city.
“We believe that flexible space should be made available for everyone, not just those in the heart of major business districts,” says Chan.
Though many co-working spaces offer basic facilities to cater to the bare necessities of a tech startup, Metro Workspace takes care to acknowledge that the small business ecosystem goes far beyond technology applications. Each Metro Workspace location has a unique identity, and is specially outfitted to be an optimal co-working space for a specific field.
For instance, ‘Studio 52,’ the location in Kwai Chung, is best suited for professions in creative spaces, and even has a production studio with the industry-standard equipment and technical staff. Other locations like ‘Despacito,’ ‘The Golden Boy,’ and ‘Cafe le Louvre,’ also have their own distinguishing characteristics, providing companies with great diversity in terms of their work atmosphere as well.
The company also aspires to be more than just a co-working space. In line with this vision, Metro Workspace offers membership discounts and special privileges for members across all Metro Lifestyle brands, such as ‘Metro Apartment’, ‘Metro Storage’,‘Metro Wine’ and ‘Metro Kitchen.’
The company aims to start a members’ portal to provide clients with added benefits such as accounting, health, secretarial and legal services, as well as providing discounted rates at partner restaurants for conducting meetings.
“We want to create a lifestyle brand that takes care of [customers’] needs, from work to an enjoyable lifestyle,” says Chan.
Metro Workspace conducts events such as annual members events at China Club, to “let people understand and get a feel of what the flexible space industry is all about.” Despite having forged noteworthy partnerships with Alibaba and Betatron, the company keeps the needs of early-stage businesses top-of-mind.
Yu says the founders are fully committed to seeing their vision through and supporting startups and small business enterprises, the latter of which makes up 45% of private-sector employment (Hong Kong Trade and Industry Department). For this reason, the company is also open to sponsoring events and other opportunities within the SME ecosystem, such as partnering up with HSBC to host Startup Sharing events with companies like UberEats, HelloReporter and Vfluencer.
What’s next for Metro Workspace?
With social distancing measures enforced by the Hong Kong government in light of the COVID-19 crisis, Metro Workspace took a hard hit financially in January and February this year. In line with changing norms, they have undertaken various measures to provide future customers with a safe working environment, such as increased sanitization and the creation of hygiene guidelines.
Despite a slump earlier in the year, as conditions improve in Hong Kong, Yu and Chan are optimistic about the future and upcoming opportunities–among them, closer ties with the corporate sector.
“Corporates intend to make greater use of co-working space as ‘Business Continuity Planning’ space after the pandemic,” says Yu.
In addition, Chan says that five years into running flexible workspaces, he and Yu are considering requests from landlords to manage their spaces. This will also have the effect of diversifying Metro Workspace’s activities. The founders are eager to prove that flexible workspaces are great options for businesses, no matter their size, and to push back against the tried-and-tested co-working model to build a sustainable and long-lasting brand.
The company is now eyeing a global presence; the founders hope to launch in Japan and South Korea in 2021. Through all the ambitious planning, however, the company is staying true to its roots in a constant endeavor to increase the benefits it offers to its clients.
“We are constantly growing the perks offerings to our tenants,” says Chan. “We hope to let our customers know that they are renting beyond just a deskspace for work.”
This article was written in partnership with Metropolitan Lifestyle.
Top: Metro Workspace Co-founders Joe Chan (L) and Bobby Yu (R).