The 10,000 sq ft extension of The Great Room at One George Street has been 100% taken up even before its opening at the end of this month. The Great Room co-working space will therefore occupy the entire floor plate of 25,000 sq ft on the 10th floor of One George Street.
This is a far cry from a year ago when The Great Room first started operations. Occupying half a floor of about 15,000 sq ft, it opened with just 30% occupancy, according to its co-founder and CEO Jaelle Ang. “[Occupancy] was much lower than we had projected.” However, the space was fully taken up within four months, she adds.
The Great Room has secured a second location at Pontiac Land Group’s Centennial Tower in the Marina Centre area. The 36,000 sq ft space spans two floors and is slated to open before end-4Q2017.
On Sept 20, The Great Room announced its first overseas location — 30,000 sq ft located at the newly built Gaysorn Tower in the heart of Bangkok’s CBD. It is scheduled to open in 1Q2018.
The co-working operator has closed its Series-A funding, having raised more than $5 million. The funding round was led by CapitaLand’s corporate venture fund, C31 Ventures, with participation from iGlobe Partners and the family office of Goldbell Group.
The funds raised will allow The Great Room to expand its footprint across Asia to pursue “synergistic partnerships” with developers that own prime commercial real estate assets in Asia.
“It is crucial to find the right partners,” says Ang. “In addition to capital, partners can also offer access to their portfolio of assets. We currently have a lot of interest from asset owners.” For example, Ang is in talks with a developer in Hong Kong with a portfolio of commercial real estate.
She intends to grow the number of co-working sites to seven by next year. Besides Singapore and Bangkok, she is planning for The Great Room to be in Hong Kong and Jakarta as well.
Ang conceived the idea of The Great Room three years ago. She was then head of development at Thai Stock Exchange-listed property company Country Group Development and based in Bangkok. She continues to sit on its board of directors today. Country Group Development is the developer of the Four Seasons Hotel and Four Seasons Private Residences, as well as the Capella Hotel Bangkok.
It was while she was looking for an operator to manage the group’s portfolio of commercial properties that Ang realised there was a gap in the market. She felt there was a need to create a “hospitality-inspired workspace”. She predicts that “co” will soon be dropped over time, and it will just be “working”. “Co-working will become a critical component of many companies’ real estate strategies, for office occupiers and building owners alike,” she adds.
Incidentally, the other co-founders of The Great Room are Ang’s husband and CFO, Yian Huang, and his sister, Su Anne Mi, who is COO. According to Ang, the co-founders visited more than 60 buildings before deciding on One George Street, which is 50%-owned by CapitaLand Commercial Trust in a joint venture with insurance giant FWD Group. The latter is part of Hong Kong tycoon Richard Li’s Pacific Century Group.
Targeting grown-up start-ups
The Great Room at One George is now at full capacity. Ang also tries to curate the members by attracting “marquee tenants”. Today, about a third of the members are tech companies, another one-third are in finance and the remainder are in the creative and lifestyle industries. The target market segment is “grown-up start-ups”, says Ang, who defines them as companies that are funded and on a growth trajectory.
Existing members at The Great Room at One George Street include Thailand-based fintech start-up Omise, famed for raising US$25 million ($33.6 million) in an Initial Coin Offering; New York-based Sprinklr, which provides social media management to companies; and Berlin-headquartered Design Hotels, which provides hospitality servi ces to boutique and luxury hotels in more than 50 countries.
Services beyond space
The Great Room is also receiving requests from MNCs and banks looking to accommodate 200 to 300 of their staff at its premises. “Previously, MNCs and banks housed their marketing or innovation teams in co-working spaces to have them close to the pulse of the market,” observes Ang. “That has since changed. Now, they want flexibility and are looking to partner co-working operators for up to one-third of their space requirement and, ideally, in the same building.”
Increasingly, co-working space will be a “must-have amenity” for office landlords, as a service to their other tenants, she adds.