Singapore-based JustCo, Asia’s leading flexible workspace provider, is rapidly expanding into the Australian market, targeting a number of Sydney and Melbourne sites for its upcoming operations.
Co-working has rapidly changed the commercial landscape, with an appeal that spans the social media generation to fortune 500 companies seeking flexibility, community engagement and collaboration.
The sector — now estimated to comprise about 20 per cent of the global office leasing market — has become a battleground for main players WeWork, Hub Australia, GPT's Space & CO, Wotso, Servcorp and new entrant JustCo.
JustCo is backed by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, GIC, and leading Singapore developer Frasers Property which jointly invested $256 million to grow the Asia-Pacific co-working platform.
The co-working giant currently has a presence in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, China and South Korea with plans to build on its offerings in other Asian markets, including India, Japan and the Philippines.
The eight-year old company is now targeting a tripling in its regional footprint within Asia Pacific within a year to 140,000 square metres, aiming to attract companies wanting flexibility to adjust to space requirements without being tied down to long leases.
JustCo’s founder and chief executive, Kong Wan Sing, told The Urban Developer the scale of JustCo’s offerings in comparison with what’s available in the Australian market would be its major differentiating factor.
“The response to JustCo in Australia has been extremely positive,” Kong said.
“Our brand new offices that are ‘move-in ready’, coupled with all the benefits co-working has to offer, such as spacious hot-desking areas, casual meeting rooms and ample collaboration areas of an open concept – all these to meet the local culture.”
“Our first centre in Sydney is over 3,700sq m versus the typical serviced office centre in Sydney which averages around 900 square metres.”
Co-working spaces have spiked from about 80 locations in 2013 to more than 400 in Australia's two main capital cities as employers respond to growth in the gig economy and the changing demands of millennial workers.
Unlike many co-working brands, many of whom are losing money to establish and grow their businesses, JustCo has strengthened its foothold in the sector, boasting a 90 per cent-plus occupancy across all its locations.
Kong, with 15 years of experience in real estate, working first for his family business Sing Long Group in Malaysia, then at Temasek Holdings’ Mapletree Investments as senior associate director, learned about the real estate industry from “ground-up”.
“I had the opportunity to learn and transform empty lands into desirable properties for sale, spearheading the projects from start to end.”
Kong was offered an opportunity to work at Goldman Sachs New York before passing and deciding to start his own finance firm in Boston.
“I knew I wanted to give entrepreneurship another shot. I took a leap of faith in 2011 to set up JustCo.”
“With learnings from my first unsuccessful venture in Boston, I took on challenges of the new business head on, with a lot of help from my family and team, and continued to build expertise and improve our product. We believe a good product would speak for itself.”
Kong now serves as chief executive of JustCo, which he co-founded alongside his wife Lu Liu, who is chief operating officer, and his brother Kong Wan Long.
“In the western countries, this new concept was disrupting markets and changing the way corporates and individuals work.”
“We saw this market gap in Asia as an opportunity to provide a shared workspace for businesses of all shapes and sizes.”
JustCo has since made its official Australian debut, opening its first centre in the heart of Sydney’s CBD on 175 Pitt Street in May offering 4,200 square metres. Its second Sydney location, on 60 Margaret Street is due to open in July with 2,700sq m across two levels.
In Melbourne the co-working operator has two co-working offices opening, the first of which located at 15 William Street across four levels.
The property is across the road from Cbus Property's $1 billion Collins Arch mixed-use development which is currently under construction and close to Mirvac's 40-storey office tower at 477 Collins Street.
It's second Melbourne location, 276 Flinders Street across four levels offering 4,000sq m, with a third site on Collins Street across 2 floors offering 4,800sq m, recently announced, and due to open mid-2020.
“We're investing and ramping up on several technology solutions to enhance service offerings that will power up our current flexible workspace and community program.”
“We will look to go beyond physical spaces and aim to build the 'future of work', by creating a smart digital workplace to enhance experiences and encourage collaborations among members.”
While flexible, or co-working offices have been in operation since the mid-1980s, the change of working lifestyles with hot-desking, improved technology and demand by younger staff to work away from the office, continues to fuel demand in the expanding sector.
“Millennials today thrive in a community that has a shared purpose, and value interactions with other like-minded individuals with whom they can have meaningful collaborations with,” Kong said.
“Within the co-working realm, we have already seen a shift in relationship between co-working space providers and building owners.”
“Property owners are beginning to appoint flexible workspaces operators like JustCo to manage its space.”
Last year, JustCo was also appointed by Verizon to help curate and manage their first Asia innovation-community space, named Verizon Innovation Community.
This first-in-Asia initiative has a bespoke programme that connects the vibrant technology and fintech community.
The company is also looking at Brisbane and Perth for potential new sites, but are unlikely to come to market before the second half of next year.
“We have more in the pipeline for Australia and New Zealand, as the market further develops and demand for flexible working spaces increases. This will be shared in time to come,” Kong said.