These young Korean entrepreneurs turn vacant spaces into co-working spaces

According to the second quarter report of the ‘Commercial real estate leasing trends’ released by the Korean Appraiser’s Office, the vacancy rate in office areas rose 11.3% from the previous quarter due to the increase in office supplies and the relocation of businesses. Mi-Sook Woo, who runs a design-related business said, “there are a lot of good office spaces but they are too expensive for a company with a single founder and small office spaces have too many limitations, so it is hard to find an office that seems just right”. As an alternative, she said she is looking for a co-working space.

‘Space Cloud’, an office-sharing platform, mentioned that the number of co-working spaces is increasing by taking advantage of vacancies in the commercial real estate market, introducing a new trend set by the young generation. Moving from city-centered to local, large-scale to small-scale, high risk to low risk, and highlighting individual uniqueness, this co-working space represents these recent trends. They not only provide practical services with only USD 100-200 per month, but also have attractive interiors that represent the distinctive identity of the different groups residing in the space.

Young entrepreneurs changed idle space into sharing space in their neighborhood

The ‘Blank’ team, which transforms idle space into living space, created a co-working space called ‘Youth Camp’ in Sangdo-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul. They transformed a closed PC café on the second floor of the building into a collaborative working space for young people. Usually, office spaces are located in the center of the city, such as in the Gangnam area or in Yeouido. They felt bad that everyone was leaving their neighborhood for other areas during the day, so they built this local collaborative working space.

Yo-Han Kim, manager at Youth Camp, said, “there are a lot of empty spaces around us that are located in the blind spots of the real estate market, but if we change these vacant spaces into a shared space, we believe that the neighborhood will become both a living and working area”.

‘Youth Camp’ is open 24 hours with a reasonable price of only $100 per month. Users can also seek ‘collaboration’ opportunities while working in this space. In fact, as they begin to have more people from various backgrounds, they have been able to publish local magazines such as Sangdo-dong young man and Sangdo-dong store. They also produce artworks for local walls and local maps.

A shared office space for young entrepreneurs launching startups

The video media startup, ‘Viewfinder’, opened a new co-working space called ‘View Lab’ in April, at Apgujeong Rodeo Station. The five co-founders of Viewfinder looked for an office space in the early days of their startup but it was too expensive, and the rooms were too closed off. This inspired them to create their own ‘open shared space’, which they could also use as their office space. The benefits of sharing an office space include reduced maintenance costs, as well as ‘synergy’ between single founders or creators produced by collaborating and sharing ideas together.

Jang-Won Lee, Manager at View Lab, said, “The hardest thing about startups is that there is nowhere to ask questions or share your thoughts. If you co-work and collaborate with each other you can grow beyond your skills and this process can produce a better outcome than working alone”. View Lab provides a desk and access to the photo studio for product photo-shoots at a reasonable price of USD 250 per month. There are also networking parties where people can get to know each other, ‘talent share’ sessions where members can share their talents, as well as seminars on legal or accounting information. Therefore, a lot of information is exchanged between co-workers, and collaborations happen between video producers, translators, website development teams, and online shopping mall operators.

‘Creative space for young generation’ built from sharing workrooms

In June last year, ‘Dotwin’, the brand that sells heartfelt leather goods with a braille message, opened up a design studio in Seongsu-Dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul. They worked on making the space themselves, from the planning and design to the wooden window frames and the interior construction work. At the entrance of the space, they wrote, “We make real things. We work on things that will not shame us”. In the space, they tried to establish the identity of Dotwin by making it feel like a nest, that gives it a sense of security and provides inspiration.

Jae-Hyung Park, Co-CEO of Dotwin, said, “We created a space that we dreamt of, that provides creative inspiration to the people that stay in the area, where people can take a nap during working hours, and which is open for meetings where people are warmly invited. When we finished building this space, we thought it was a waste to only be used by us, so we decided to share it”.

Dotwin offers two types of workspaces, USD 120 and USD 170 per month. Registered members can freely use the studio, where they can take photo-shoots of the products and also gain access to a hall with a projector. They can even use it for private parties.

Storytelling of space sharing through platforms

According to the co-working space specialist research group, ‘Desk Mag’, co-working spaces based on ‘shared culture’ are rapidly growing, already numbering more than 14,000 globally. This is also creating a new market: synergizing with shared platform services.

Space Cloud, which is a lifestyle space platform, opened up a new professional shared office channel so it can lower the barriers to entry. They made it possible by changing the reservation system so customers could reserve on a daily or weekly basis. Customers can also use the Naver payment system, which makes it more convenient.

The Space Cloud team stated, “The existing design studio was good but it was closed off from the external environment, and the co-working space was run on a monthly membership, so there were a lot of limitations. Through this platform, space sharing became an active market and also became convenient for consumers”. It will be good to transform idle space into co-working space for young entrepreneurs in the current real estate market, which has such high vacancy rates. The demand is evident in co-working spaces for startups such as ‘Peach Tree’ and ‘Domarang’, both co-working spaces for creators.

(Top photo from Platum)

This article, entitled “These young Korean entrepreneurs turn vacant spaces into co-working spaces”, was written in Korean by Minjung Kim of Platum, edited by AllTechAsia.

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