Co-working spaces are becoming a serious business in Asia. WeWork entered the region via China earlier this year, but there are numerous others across the continent. Singapore-based Spacemob is one such contender, and today it announced a $5.5 million seed round to expand its reach across Asia Pacific.
That’s a huge seed round for any company in Southeast Asia. It was led by Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia, a venture arm of Singaporean sovereign fund Temasek Holdings.
Spacemob was founded by Turochas “T” Fuad, who sold previous company Travemob to Airbnb rival HomeAway in 2013. It currently has one ‘flagship’ space in Singapore, with a second in Singapore under development alongside another in Jakarta. Early tenants include General Assembly and Survey Monkey.
Fuad told TechCrunch that he plans to expand Spacemob to 30 spaces across Asia Pacific over the next three years. In particular, he is focused on Southeast Asia, North Asia, Australia and Hong Kong in the future. Beyond the two new spaces in development, he said others in the more immediate pipeline include Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
That’s hugely ambitious on paper, but he believes that the ‘operator’ model that the company uses makes it asset-light and able to scale quickly.
“It’s similar to the hotel model, we come in as operator to work with property developers or owners to optimize their yield, [we] maybe sharing revenue or with no rent. We form large partnerships with operators across the region, in the same way [as hotels] license to Marriott or Accor… we’re able to scale much faster,” he explained
Like others, Spacemob focuses on giving its tenants a thriving community with services on hand, while it has developed its software that allows members to book rooms, network and more. The membership package includes health insurance, payroll and a payment gateway, with specialists like content writers, search engine marketers and developers on hand at extra cost if needed.
“We’re building an ecosystem,” Fuad said. “So that the space itself almost becomes secondary. Instead of meeting someone on Freelancer.com, [you can] walk five steps and find someone you can trust.”
WeWork hasn’t expanded outside of China in Asia yet, but it intends to do so sooner or later. That means Spacemob will come up against its well-financed U.S. competitor, which has raised more than $1.3 billion from investors and is valued at $16 billion.
“We want to be one of the cheapest, and the perks are key, we’re trying to make this value for money for startups,” Fuad said.
Some believe that co-working is limited to the startup bubble, but the Spacemob CEO sees potential beyond small companies, and with multiple players.
“We’re talking to a lot of MNCs who would rather put 200-300 employees in our space” than get their own office, he added. “This play is very similar to hotels, there will be multiple different players across the globe.”
Spacemob has made investments itself, too. The startup was an investor in Southeast Asia tech blog E27’s $2.2 million funding round this summer, and Fuad believes that there can be plenty of synergies between the two organizations to help promote the tech community and promising startups.