Friday, June 5, 2020

A Community Canvas


Discussing the future of coworking with theDesk’s CEO and Co-founder Thomas Hui


By Sophia Li


With the pervasive presence of startup culture, corporations are becoming increasingly eager to break free of traditional mindsets to adopt more innovative ones. With the need for fixed, conventional office spaces on the decline, the demand for co-working spaces has increased dramatically in recent years. 


Though it currently only makes up a small portion of all office spaces in Hong Kong, the co-working industry will continue to grow and accommodate up to 30% of corporate commercial property portfolios by 2030 (JLL). Thus, it has become even more imperative for co-working space providers to differentiate themselves from the competition to stay ahead. 


Boasting a sleek white interior that features lush green accents, theDesk’s space in United Centre embodies modern minimalism. This particular interior design style has helped the company stand out from its competitors and establish a recognizable brand. 


The brains behind this aesthetic is theDesk CEO and Co-founder Thomas Hui. He says that the strategic significance of this design approach is to create a “blank canvas that people add color to.” 


theDesk prides itself on its inclusive community, which not only includes members working from the space, but also the neighborhood. This approach means that the community is not only made up of the startups and SMEs that typically work from co-working spaces, but also incorporates the vicinity, which leads to a diverse membership that theDesk believes will help spark innovation. 


After founding its first site in 2016, theDesk has been quick to expand to other prime locations in Hong Kong. Their newest site, a collaboration with Sunlight REIT, spans seven floors and 29,000 square feet to create what they describe as ‘co-work 2.0,’ defined as a co-working space with a simple design concept which enables members to work productively. 


Unlike its competitors, theDesk has primarily focused on expansion into China instead of SEA. theDesk has been quick to establish a foothold in the country, enjoying considerable success in Shanghai by collaborating with Bridge 8, which is a 600,000+ square foot creative park.  


When asked about the difference between the two regional markets, Hui says that although both markets have a high demand for co-working spaces, the availability of affordable space has made meeting this demand far easier in China than it has been in Hong Kong. theDesk’s main focus in the coming years is to expand regionally.


“Our ambition is still in Asia, but I want to make our foundation strong before we expand too quickly. I think management is very important,” says Hui. “We have a great vision and we think big.” 


Hui likens the co-working industry of today to the PC industry of the 80s, where segmentation will quickly take place. He predicts that there will be many unexpected changes in the industry in the coming years as it continues to diversify. The future will be determined by operators who are willing to take a risk and create something new.


Sophia is Jumpstart’s Editorial Intern. 

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