Colony’s serviced office space aims to increase employee wellbeing
By Anushia Kandasivam August 8, 2017
- Combining a lifestyle factor with office space
- Mindset change required for co-working to be successful
NEW co-working space Colony officially launched in Kuala Lumpur on 27 July, offering what it calls serviced office space – called Colony Space – to its tenants. The 18,000 sq ft space can accommodate about 300 people and is located in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, a stone’s throw away from the Petronas Twin Towers
Colony’s concept is to offer a space that combines a lifestyle factor with an office space, which is reflected in its physical design. There is a nap area, a massage room where a certified masseuse can be hired on an ad-hoc basis, a lounge with high windows, and access to a rooftop gym and swimming pool.
Tenants will also be able to use in-house café operated by home-grown coffee chain Espressolab and access healthy food by Bold Grains.
Open co-working areas on Colony are split into a hot-desking area and a reserved desk area and there are various sizes of private serviced offices. Virtual offices and time-based passes are also available.
Colony recently raised more than RM8 million (about US$1.8 million) in a fundraising round led by Oak Drive Ventures, the family office of the Philippines’ Singson family. Other investors comprised family offices and angel investors from around the region. According to co-founder Timothy Tiah (pic), Colony also obtained capital contributions from deals worked out with landlords.
Tiah, who founded Nuffnang and led it from startup to IPO, reveals that he moved from an internet entrepreneur to a brick and mortar business landlord because he has always liked businesses that have a clear way to generate revenue and eventually make money.
“I like the co-working space business model because it's really simple. We rent space from a landlord, divide it up and then rent it to other tenants.”
After leaving Netccentric last year, Tiah considered leaving entrepreneurship completely and getting a ‘real’ job, but after some self-reflection he realised that all he knew how to do was build companies. He says that his experiences with his previous businesses and digital marketing have been beneficial and useful for Colony.
“If I'm going to be honest, going into property does come with its own really steep learning curve. I'm still learning every single day.”
Colony is leveraging on the gig economy, targeting office millennials who see workplace quality as an important factor of their employment and companies that place a strong emphasis employees’ wellbeing.
With this in mind, Tiah says that Colony’s biggest challenge will be convincing traditional companies that their staff need better work environments. “Our lifestyles have improved so significantly in the past 20 years but very little of that has gone into our work experience. We still go to the same office cubicle settings with the same amenities.”
In matured labour markets such as Silicon Valley, where competition for talent is high, companies are build offices with amenities that feed employees’ lifestyle because this contributes to attracting and retaining talent, he explains.
“That's great if you're Google and Facebook but what if you're a 5-10 man team in KL that want the same? Even if you could afford to spend a bomb on renovations, you just don't have the scale for it to make sense.”
This is where Colony comes in, he says. Tenants have access to that lifestyle just by renting workstations.
“We have a strong belief that work doesn’t need to be all drudgery, and that motivated employees perform best when they are happy. Work takes up at least 40 hours of our lives each week and it needs to feel great for us to do great,” says co-founder Audrey Ooi.
Tiah emphasises that Colony does not just sell real estate; instead, it sells a solution to staff turnover and attracting talent. Selling this solution successfully, however, requires a mindset change on the part of traditional companies. “I don’t think that change is going to come easy.”
This makes for a tough gig for a new co-working space, especially with so many other already existing co-working spaces in the market and even more opening up, plus projects such as the Kuala Lumpur Internet City, which is looking to attract 1,000 startups.
Tiah does not see other co-working spaces or serviced offices as competition for Colony but rather traditional offices. He does, however admit that there may be something of a glut in the market.
“I don’t think there are enough startups in Malaysia who can afford to fill up all this space and that's even before the Internet City comes up,” he says.
But, Tiah says that because Colony is not just focusing on startups, there is still hope and, perhaps, potential for growth.