There is a definite shift in the way companies in Singapore are planning their real estate strategy: moving away from a dependence on long-term rental commitments in favour of a greater proportion of flexible space in their portfolio.
Ben Eckblad and wife Ginny are co-founders of the two-year-old GorillaSpace (Picture: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
“More companies are looking to flexible spaces as a viable complement to their long-term office footprint,” says Ben Eckblad, co-founder of GorillaSpace, an online marketplace for a variety of commercial spaces in Singapore, ranging from meeting rooms to traditional long-term leases. GorillaSpace was founded by Ben together with his wife Ginny.
GorillaSpace’s listing partners include Regus, Ascendas-Singbridge, JustCo, CapitaLand, Distrii Singapore, Keppel Land, Lendlease, The Work Project, and WeWork. It helps its listing partners to lease out their available office spaces. “We do that by helping them articulate how they are different from their competitors, and that is increasingly important in today’s market which has so much new stock in the pipeline,” says Ginny.
The platform operates under a dual system to manage its more than 2,000 unique office listings. About half of the listings are publicly available for viewing on its website. The rest only get served up when they match a company’s specific needs through the start-up’s matching service called GorillaMatch, which is curated, personalised and powered by an AI engine.
Distrii Singapore, which has its flagship co-working space in Republic Plaza, is another GorillaSpace listing partner (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
“The reason for the dual system is some of our listing partners – whether they are brokers representing clients, or institutional landlords with a lot of vacant space – don’t necessarily want the entire market to know how much space they have to lease,” says Ben.
GorillaSpace has attracted attention in the property industry. In May, the two-year-old start-up clinched an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Japanese property giant Mitsubishi Estate. This is the first time the Japanese developer has invested in a non-Japanese start-up at this stage, and in a start-up company outside of Japan.
The partnership is already bearing fruit for GorillaSpace. “Mitsubishi Estate wants to support us and use our platform to help market CapitaSpring, its upcoming office project in Singapore, as well as some of its other projects in the region. That’s the real milestone for GorillaSpace,” says Ben.
CapitaSpring, a 51-storey skyscraper on Market Street, is a joint venture with CapitaLand, CapitaLand Commercial Trust, and Mitsubishi Estate. The Grade-A commercial building will boast more than 635,000 sq ft of office space over 29 floors and feature floor plates of about 22,000 sq ft. Construction started in February last year, with completion scheduled for 1H2021.
The CapitaSpring project is likely to be managed under CapitaLand’s new leasing and management strategy. CapitaLand announced last year that under this model, the landlord’s conventional office tenants will have any new, flexible requirements met, while small and medium enterprises in co-working spaces could choose to lease conventional workspaces as they grow.
This model of hybrid office solutions fits well with GorillaSpace, whose platform allows users to plan out a combination of real estate solutions to fit their company needs. Other landlords like Lendlease and Ascendas-Singbridge have also adopted similar leasing models to cater to the changing office space needs of companies.
At Paya Lebar Quarter, GorillaSpace is helping Lendlease market both the conventional office space available, as well as the developer’s proprietary co-working solution csuites. “We are working with CapitaLand, Lendlease and Ascendas-Singbridge to showcase the duality their commercial developments can offer tenants,” says Ben. He adds: “Landlords are rethinking their leasing strategy, and they know that they have to have multiple operators in the same building to provide differentiated solutions. It’s not just a matter of the size of the space, but also the look, feel, vibe, and type of support they can provide.”
The co-working space by Lendlease, csuites in Paya Lebar Quarter, is one of the most popular listings on GorillaSpace (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Serviced office provider Regus is also opening an outlet of its co-working brand Spaces in the mixed-use Paya Lebar Quarter, and has partnered GorillaSpace to list its office solutions in Singapore.
As office-user demand is changing, more companies are laying down specific wellness needs, and are requesting more sit-stand desks, childcare facilities, and 24-hour air-conditioning to accommodate flexible working hours, says Ginny. “These types of conditions didn’t appear up to 18 months ago, but they have become increasingly more common,” she adds.
Even the co-working scene has evolved; the proportion of hot desks has fallen as demand for dedicated desks rises. “We also see larger-sized companies move in. Traditionally they would have gone into a conventional fitted space, [but] they are now considering co-working or serviced offices,” says Ben.
GorillaSpace has received requests from its partners and clients for it to expand into other markets in Southeast Asia, says Ginny.
“Many of our clients have grown and expanded. Peer-to-peer lending and investment platform Funding Societies found its office space through GorillaSpace, and is now asking us if we have leads in other cities around the region,” she says.
Some of the cities they are eyeing include Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, as well as Hong Kong and Tokyo in the future. “We will open up to these markets on the back of the existing relationships we have with our clients,” says Ben.
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