Birds of a Feather
Inntech brings its interpretation of co-living to Hong Kong
While a strong network doesn’t guarantee success, it certainly bolsters startup growth. The startup ecosystem has already made great strides in community building with the emergence of co-working spaces, but companies like Inntech believe that there’s still more ground to cover.
Inntech provides entrepreneurs with co-living spaces that are not only affordable, but conducive to their professional growth. Founding Partner Ivan Ivanov breaks down his rationale for bringing the Silicon Valley model to Hong Kong.
How did you come to found Inntech?
I lived in a co-living space in Silicon Valley for a while. A couple of investors, a guy sitting on the boards of seven companies–all of them were living in this shared house. When I asked them why, they told me it’s all about the community. They could meet new people, get new projects, and exchange ideas, so it was no longer about sharing the house.
When I came back to Hong Kong, I realized there was no co-living space like this. I talked to people from the startup ecosystem and they seemed excited about the idea, but were skeptical because of Hong Kong’s real estate prices.
Luckily, I found a house with a suitable layout and affordable rental price in Ma Wan, the small island between Lantau Island and Kowloon, and a partner and investor in just three days.
Why would people opt for co-living spaces over traditional residential arrangements?
Anyone can start a co-living space, but what we want to do is to build a community of startups and entrepreneurs. People are coming, not just to live, but to access the networking opportunities, and meet potential partners, mentors, and investors.
We are also planning events and workshops for residents that introduce them to the local ecosystem, and to educate them about the kinds of opportunities and support that can be obtained in Hong Kong. It’s hard to build a startup from scratch; you need a network that can help you.
Why do you think Hong Kong is a good place to introduce co-living spaces?
The concept of the project, which is not only applicable in Hong Kong, is to create co-living spaces in areas where capital flow meets talent flow, and where prices for real estate are high. In Hong Kong, there are numerous incubation and acceleration programs, but not many provide accommodation for their participants, as living costs are really high.
Hong Kong is only a starting point for the global co-living platform and community we are going to build. More locations in Asia–Taiwan, Japan, Mainland China– as well as collaborations with our U.S. partners are coming.
We will also build a platform using blockchain technology, where potential tenants can book rooms and access additional services by purchasing credits or tokens. They can pay for accommodation and the services of local partners using these tokens, regardless of which space in the world they are based. We also hope to use this technology to develop electronic keys to enter the houses and rooms.
What are the challenges of making co-living spaces in Hong Kong?
We were lucky to find the house we did, but we’re also considering spaces in other areas. What we’ve found is that even if the premises are suitable, the prices are really high. This isn’t ideal because we want to provide startups with affordable accommodation.
Do you have an application process or is it a normal tenancy agreement?
Potential residents have to fill out a form and then I interview them to understand their background. We want people that can contribute to the community and are interested in the experience of living together with other entrepreneurs. If it’s just a person looking for accommodation, we tend to reject them. We want to keep the quality of the community intact. –KA