theDesk is a flexible co-working space with private offices, meeting rooms, hotdesks and event spaces in top locations, at the heart of the community.
theDesk is a community that promotes and supports its tenants through information and services, because if the business grows, theDesk and all the neighbourhood, and beyond benefits from its growth.
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The opening of theDesk at the Leighton Centre in Causeway Bay was an exceptional experience that brought together different artists to exhibit in the different rooms. The concept of theDesk as blank canvas to host ideas materialized in one night, celebrating art and creativity with over 650 guests.
To understand more about theDesk, its business development, but also about the co-working space sector, Retail in Asia met Oscar Venhuis, Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer at theDesk.
RiA : Retail in Asia has been following the evolution of co-working spaces in Hong-Kong, what is the current status?
Oscar : We have conducted some research in 2017 on the total market space in Asia. According to the report, there is 27 million sqm of market space, within that only 2.8% is flexible space.
We all have the feeling that co-working space occupies a big part of the pie, but the actual numbers and percentages prove that it is a very small percentage. However, by 2030, we are expecting a growth of 30% in the demand for flexible space (Colliers 2017).
Currently, I think it is the industry with the highest expected growth in the market. For us, we already have three sites locally in the span of 1.5 years, the latest being 15,000 sq.ft. space at Leighton Centre, Causeway Bay.
RiA : How is co-working space experience changing?
Oscar : Co-working space is a whole new concept catching momentum on the sharing economy trend. However, a bit behind the curve if we compare it to the rest of the sharing industry.
Co-working space as co-experience is a new experience, we are foreseeing a shift from a very general experience towards more industry-tailored innovation programmes across all our spaces.
Can we actually sell experience? We are working on it. We are working on a product suite which can be defined as a business experience able to empower the whole community.
RiA : As you mention the XaaS (eXperience-as-a-Service), what does theDesk offer as co-working space 2.0 experience?
Oscar : It is the next generation of co-working space experience.
What we are looking at is how we can scale experience. Experience is an intangible concept. What we really try to do for people it is to make it more tangible and put it in a product.
The product that we are developing is XaaS, which transforms experience in a service.
Our aim is to build a platform through which we help businesses to solve their business problems.
We do that by bringing together our members and their businesses. We are creating a co-working space to host a community, and this community will bring value to all businesses.
For us, we have been actively spearheading the sharing-economy movement by connecting members with the community. Even with just a little push of proactive effort from our team, we’ve seen many partnerships grown organically within our community across our Sai Wan and One Hysan Avenue spaces.
We are still at an early stage, but we believe that at the end of the day, the root of businesses are made by people and bringing creative minds together can provide ideas to all of them, and they can all benefit from each other.
A collaborative environment with creative people working together can create better outcomes.
RiA : Since we are in your new branch in CWB, why did you choose CWB?
Oscar : The main reason is that we have a close relationship with Hysan Development.
Similar to us, we share the same value in the focus on promoting a tight-knit community in Causeway Bay. That’s why they readily offered us two strategic spaces — a 5,000 sq.ft space in One Hysan Avenue and our latest 15,000 sq.ft space in Leighton Centre.
We see a benefit in drawing the community together beyond just our two spaces in Causeway Bay. One of our main focus is to gather retail professionals as Causeway Bay is home to many retailers.
Among the activities planned for this year there is a Retail Mixer Networking Cocktail to bring together practitioners in and around the retail industry. For this event we are partnering with Retail in Asia.
We are basically looking at the main stakeholders in this area and trying to serve them in a way that we create a community for the proliferation of new ideas.
RiA : In terms of space, what is the role of design in branding in the co-working space and what’s the role of sustainability?
Oscar : Design and branding play an important role in the definition of a co-working space. I would say at least at two levels.
At a functional level, we look at the layout of the space, and we aim to have clean and consistent infrastructures. We focus on functionality because a working space needs to be practical and enhance productivity.
At the branding level, instead, we need to offer our tenant a blank canvas where they can build their own space.
If we were providing an overly branded and colourful space, that would push away companies that necessitate of their own branded environment.
Our logo is another great example of simplicity. The logo is the combination of two basic shapes: the circular desk and the rectangular desk. The overlapping area represents sharing, collaboration, and transparency. The two basic shapes combined create the letter ‘D’ of theDesk.
RiA : How about sustainability?
Oscar : Sustainability is an intrinsic part of our business. We start from the design aspect by engaging with local award-winning designers and contractors, to enhance the resources of the community.
Here at Causeway Bay, we are lucky to be located in two buildings with many windows all around. We fully optimize this in our design by letting plenty natural light stream in. Over at our flagship site in Sai Wan, we tap on our local community in terms of recycling efforts.
In addition to sustainability in a green sense, we look at cultural sustainability, we engage and include our neighbours. An example of cultural sustainability is our art exhibitions where we work together with local Hong Kong based artists.
RiA : Besides providing space for work, what other initiatives are taking place in co-working spaces and in which innovative ways your tenants use the space?
Oscar : Our approach to events for instance is a little bit different nowadays.
We looked at what was not working in the past, why participation was low and we wanted to change.
In general, startups are more open to engage in events of different kinds to establish their network. At the same time, our spaces attract more established businesses and they are very selective in terms of events since they have an existing network.
SEE ALSO : Why do we need to embrace Experiential Retail?
So what do you offer to an established business? To connect our members, our in-house activities are micro-event which span from very business-focused gatherings to wine nights.
Bigger events are instead more sector-oriented such as tech and retail, like the one in collaboration with Retail in Asia.
Stay tuned to know more about theDesk community!