The shift towards Space As a Service and the gravitation towards flex space has created opportunities for a new breed of tech-enabled providers. I caught up with Ginny & Ben Eckblad, Co-Founders of GorillaSpace, to discuss the start-up that’s disrupting traditional brokerage.
Neall De Beer (ND): In BWT tradition, please start by giving me the GorillaSpace elevator pitch.
GorillaSpace is the marketplace of choice for workspace. We are the first online platform to offer both flexible space, which includes coworking spaces and serviced offices, and long-term, traditional offices. We help businesses find their best workspace based on their needs from a full range of options. Unlike other websites, we offer a personalised, curated approach to quickly match businesses with spaces for their specific requirements. A typical SME saves between 45 to 75 hours in their search. Working with us, space operators, landlords and brokers focus exclusively on qualified leads.
ND: What do you see as the core challenges that corporate occupiers are facing?
Corporate occupiers face two main challenges; the need to test new markets and ideas without incurring a large initial time or cash outlay on premises and setup, and the need to attract and retain talent.
For both these challenges, GorillaSpace provides the transparency and clarity in the workspace market to corporate occupiers, enabling them to find and design the right space for their needs.
Companies seeking to meet the demands of a more mobile workforce are reconsidering traditional office setups and leases, turning more to flexible spaces to house their workers. In order to stay ahead, corporate occupiers must be able to address local market needs in a relevant way that adapts technology, attracts talent and manages their real estate overheads.
ND: What are the biggest benefits of flexible spaces?
In the Asia Pacific region, the demand for flexible spaces has been increasing 10-15% year on year. This comes as no surprise. With the added pressures of economic turbulence and strains in international trade relations, even established businesses must account for uncertainty in their real estate decisions. Flexible spaces helps to cushion this uncertainty, allowing businesses to take up space that scales up or down with them as their headcount changes. On a flexible lease, companies only have to pay for what they use and can make adjustments to their lease in the short-term.
Furthermore, flexible spaces offer convenient “plug-and-play” solutions for all kinds of businesses. Offices are already fully-fitted with desks, wifi, and other amenities that allow members to just sit down and start working immediately. On top of that, businesses no longer have to worry about overhead costs. In fact, in the region’s central business districts, flexible space turns out to be 10-30% less costly than traditional offices, on average. For small businesses, in particular, having access to ready-made meeting rooms and event spaces becomes especially useful.
Because flexible space operators often manage different regional centres, businesses can also benefit from access to regional networks. This opens up opportunities for employees to network and learn from like-minded individuals in the same industry or sector. Social events are also common at coworking spaces, enhancing employee wellness and satisfaction.
We are also starting to see corporate profiles utilizing flexible space as a way of complimenting their existing core headquarters. In this core-flex setup, businesses might rent out additional flexible space to test new markets, set up specialised teams or departments, or to simply give employees more options to move around. Flexible workspaces aren’t just for startups anymore.
ND: What led you to found GorillaSpace?
We have first-hand experience helping businesses find the office space that best fits their needs. We’ve seen how difficult it can be for large and small businesses — from Australia to China to Europe and the US — find the right office space The process has traditionally been very long and tedious — you would have to look at different sources for information, communicate with different parties, and so on. Moreover, businesses wouldn’t be able to see the full range of options that could meet their requirements.
With this problem in mind, we are building a marketplace ecosystem that supports firstly businesses looking for space, secondly space owners with office space for rent and also thirdly brokers who help fill empty spaces. Our mission is to provide a one-stop platform for businesses to experience spaces, reduce the time spent visiting spaces that don’t fit their needs, as well as helping operators, landlords and brokers fill their empty offices.
ND: How do traditional brokers view your business?
Traditional brokers” love our approach and technology. In fact, we are partnering with several forward-thinking brokers in Singapore to help market their spaces. Even at our early stage, we have brought them warm leads and closed deals. We look forward to having more partnerships as we continue to grow.
ND: What's been your funding model so far, and are you currently raising capital?
After spending two weeks conducting user studies, where we collected feedback from over 100 users with our prototypes, it became clear that there was a real need for an effective marketplace for workspace. It was then that we realized GorillaSpace would not be just a hobby or weekend project. With that in mind, we sold our apartment and car and put our savings towards starting GorillaSpace. We were also very lucky to have met some angel investors at a startup trade show who saw our potential.
We are currently closing our seed round with a large property developer and significant strategic investors.
ND: What's the next big step in terms of growth?
We are focused on being the one-stop marketplace for workspace. We are building the best product to help businesses find their best workspaces. By working with landlords, space operators, as well as brokers to help market their available spaces, we aim to build an ecosystem where there’s a place for everyone.
Of course, our clients are asking us to expand so that we can provide the same kind of ecosystem outside of Singapore. We are certainly considering regional expansion down the road.
GorillaSpace was a Featured Technology of BWT Asia 2019
Interview conducted by Neall de Beer, Director, Built World Technology Alliance.