Catcha-backed coworking space Common Ground opens in Kuala Lumpur

  • Success ultimately depends on scale
  • Community workspaces should not just be for tech startups


Catcha-backed coworking space Common Ground opens in Kuala Lumpur


COMMUNAL workspace Common Ground officially launches on March 29 in Kuala Lumpur but opened its doors to members and business nomads on March 1.

The largest coworking space in Malaysia at 17,000 square feet, it contains an extensive communal working area, a large lounge area, a communal café, and more than 50 private offices. Part of the communal area can be converted into an event space for seminars, talks and other events.

Common Ground was co-founded by a group of entrepreneurs who saw the effectiveness of communal workspaces and the business opportunity in it: Erman Akinci, who is also director of business development at Catcha Group, former CEO of Guocoland’s Tower REIT Juhn Teo, The Group’s Roen Cian Nagapan and Cisco Security Systems’ executive director Rabin Nijhar.

Catcha has invested into Common Ground, and the workspace has secured its first anchor tenant in Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), a global entrepreneur network with a Malaysian chapter that supports 164 members across the country. As part of the partnership, EO will host events on-site and facilitate mentorship and engagement programmes. According to Akinci, EO will bring a huge amount of talent and networking value to the co-working community. 

The workspace will soon see more large members in the form of venture capital firms, including Jungle Ventures, KK Fund, East Ventures and IMJ.

Common Ground’s stated aim is to create a vibrant ecosystem within the workspace, connecting entrepreneurs, advisors, investors and service providers in one space, and to enable a great degree of work flexibility as people travel across markets.

According to Akinci, the potential success of Common Ground lies in getting its value proposition right.

Selling community and lifestyle

“The more we looked at it, more we started to believe that coworking is not about large open-plan offices where everybody is sharing tables and brainstorming on beanbags and having a bunch of loose tech accelerators that drive a particular community,” says Akinci.

Instead, two things are crucial to getting a coworking value proposition right: having the right mix of spaces and understanding that what you are offering is not the desk and Internet connection but rather community and lifestyle.

And to sell community and lifestyle effectively, says Akinci, scale is essential: “You don’t get a good community without people.”

Akinci splits the current players on the co-working space scene into two categories. The first contains the smaller operations, some of which have been in the scene for quite some time but, he says, have not seen huge success because they have failed to deliver on the core value proposition of community.

“They have tried to some extent but I think they have an uphill battle - they have one arm tied behind their back because they were always small.”

The second category is made up of the big players; the trend of large coworking spaces is playing out in other markets such as Singapore and across Europe where they quickly gain traction over small entries because they are able to deliver on community and lifestyle.

Besides Common Ground, there are a few big players in the Malaysian market now, including CO3 and WSpace. “They all, to some extent, have that value proposition,” says Akinci.

From this reckoning, though there are quite a number of co-working spaces in Malaysia, especially in Kuala Lumpur, Akinci sees Common Ground competing only with the handful of big players. In that sense, he says the market is getting crowded but it is not saturated.

Despite prices being higher compared to those charged by small coworking spaces, the lifestyle and community offering is certainly attractive. Co-founder and CEO of food delivery startup Dah Makan Jonathan Weins says that he sees great value in the potential relationships and opportunities that can come through a co-working setup.

Co-founder and COO of fitness app startup Wanderclass Chris Baradaran agrees: “From a startup owner’s perspective, I can certainly see why there are various new co-working spaces popping up in Kuala Lumpur, and Common Ground does a great job in serving the purpose to help entrepreneurs work away from home surrounded by like-minded people to brainstorm and build a network from, at an affordable price.”

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