8Spaces CEO on being brave and following your vision, regardless of mentor advice

  • Joining a competitor with better resources to execute, with aligned visions
  • It’s ok to start with wrong product to figure out what market wants


8Spaces CEO on being brave and following your vision, regardless of mentor advice


AN INFLUENTIAL ecosystem shaper in Malaysia, Brazilian Lais de Oliveira is now hitching her dreams of building a regional commercial/office space powerhouse on to competitor FlySpaces’ cart, having agreed to sell her startup of 15-months, 8Spaces to the Phillipines-based startup that now adds Malaysia to its fast market expansion across Southeast Asia.

She shares with DNA that the decision to sell was motivated by a variety of reasons. First, there was the realisation that the business needed strong partners, required at least three years runaway to build meaningful traction, with her home market of Malaysia exhibiting low market appreciation of shared spaces.

And beyond the financial terms of the FlySpaces offer, she saw an alignment in vision and focus with a player that was already positioned in five cities across the region within just 12 months and which had built a strong team with Oliveira describing FlySpaces CEO Mario Berta as “among the strongest sales persons in the region”.

Meanwhile, Berta tells DNA that the 8Spaces deal signals the clear growth trajectory and regional goals of FlySpaces. “We are a very lean startup and are able to swiftly grow and expand across the region with efficiency and this represents a clear step in this direction. More to come!” he hints.

Oliveira now joins Berta’s team with some equity for her with a three year vesting period.

In the following Q&A with DNA she delves in deeper into her reasons for joining FlySpaces, some key learnings, the need to be brave – which includes following your vision, regardless of any mentor advice.

Digital News Asia: Is this an acquisition in the sense you and your co-founders had a cash out or is this an acqui-hire?

Lais de Oliveira: It is an acquihire, even though there is a portion of cash out to it.  Most important, I am joining their team with a portion of equity under vesting which represents my willingness to join a player for the long run, still focused on making this business model work in a regional level.

DNA: What did you find compelling about the Fly Spaces offer?

Oliveira: 1. Their alignment with 8Spaces vision and focus in terms of business model: Flyspaces is definitely the most serious player in the marketplace for commercial/office space in Asia, which has managed to position themselves in 5 cities across the region in only 12 months with a solid, strong team

2. It is a moment of consolidations - from my personal point of view and experience running 8spaces for 15 months, businesses like ours are not bullet proof, meaning we do not have yet a strong comparable to look up. We strongly believe in this business model and I am aware I will need at least 3 years to make it happen, which requires strong partners and regional participation to build a strong GMV while the local markets in Asia evolve.  

3. Malaysia is a challenging market for commercial real estate. Price per square feet is low, which makes it more attractive for people to rent their own office than to go for higher value options: which means I'm facing a long-sales process. It explains why 8spaces evolved into a boutique event spaces platform, where most of our clients are corporations (like Heineken, GSK, Google, Swift, AWS etc) looking for unique spaces for their meetings and events. Still, the "boutique spaces" platform has always been just a stepping stone for the "real business": the future of 8spaces has always been to drive it back to higher GMV products, coworking and short term office spaces, but it will require time and resources to grow it faster. 

Flyspaces demonstrated outstanding execution and is in a better position than 8spaces in terms of platform, team and resources. Joining them now means being able to follow the right strategy immediately, while partnering with an executive team who clearly complements my skills (Mario being one of the strongest sales person I've seen in the region, Guillaume being a strong financial mind and the whole team being ready to deliver fast).

DNA: How long is your lock in period?

Oliveira: Three years if I want to get it fully vested.

DNA: What have been some of the key lessons you have learnt in your journey?

Oliveira: 1. It is OK to start from the wrong product in order to figure out what the market wants. I would never learn so much about this market if I didn't put the platform out there, establish a business and talk to clients; even though I pivoted 8spaces from a commercial/office spaces marketplace to a "boutique events platform", I learned a lot about the business that now I am on to build.

2. Do what is right for your business, not what is sexy. Have a clear vision and follow it, regardless of mentors advice. My vision for 8spaces is to be better achieved by joining Flyspaces. 

3. Have partners, but also be brave to give up when you are not with the right people. There's an expression in spanish which says "in a train with the wrong destination, you travel slower than by feet". That's it: Find the right people and know your skills, as well as your gaps.

DNA: The shared workspace is already crowded and it seems like everyone has the same concept with customers often choosing based on cost and location .. never because the concept or facilities or mentors etc were better. Do you agree?

Oliveira: As per the comments before, specifically in Malaysia, we are talking about extremely price-sensitive customers who do not understand the value of shared spaces yet, true. Community doesn't matter, in most cases, even though this is part of the deal. But this isn't something we are fighting against: we understand most of countries in Asia share an interest on having a private office, rather than a shared space - and we can profit and thrive on this. 

What the market is missing is that the concept of short term office, coworking spaces and serviced offices will save you costs in the long term.

Specifically in Malaysia, customers tend to think on a short term price comparison: if you compare the monthly rental of a bare office in Puchong with the price of a serviced office in KL Sentral, the first will obviously be cheaper, but the latter will save you 25% of your investment and save you a lot of headaches if you are a fast growing business.

Our economy is fast changing: either you're growing or shrinking fast, a short term office will adapt to your needs and save you months of deposit, building hassles and long term investments in traditional office space. But the market doesn't know that yet.
Related Stories:
FlySpaces acquires 8spaces
Coworking in Southeast Asia
FlySpaces, the ‘Airbnb of office spaces,’ lands in KL
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