Late last year, I first came across the concept of Hacker Hostels through an article on The New York Times. Hacker Hostels are a short term rental option for aspiring tech entrepreneurs in the Bay area. These new breed of hostels are not much different from other youth hostels or apartments shared by aspiring founders who are working on their next big thing.
What is different though is that the tenants of hacker hostel can expect to meet and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and bounce ideas off each other. Potential tenants are also screened to ensure that they contribute to the mix. Starting up a company is really tough and can be a lonely journey, so hacker hostels and hacker spaces where startup founders hang out are getting more and more popular each day.
I thought the concept was pretty cool and wished we had them in Singapore. After all, we have always pride ourselves as being the hub of Southeast Asia’s innovation, haven’t we?
Wayne Soh, Business Development Manager of Plug and Play Tech Center teamed up with Mike Zhan and Alan Chua of SmartSpace Singapore to do something about it. The trio took up a building block at Clementi Road to set up The Enclave, a hostel targeting students and entrepreneurs who are looking to be part of a community driven by like minded people.
The Enclave is also located beside the National University of Singapore and within a stone’s throw away from Blk 71, Singapore’s largest entrepreneurial hotspot. Around The Enclave, your basic amenities such as convenience stores and eateries providing a wide variety of food choices, are also covered. In terms of the facilities in The Enclave, you have a fully functional kitchenette, shared bathrooms, a washer and dryer and an outdoor patio with a BBQ gas grill which can be used by all guests or booked for a private event for up to 20 people. Free fibre optic wi-fi is included as well.
The Enclave, extending the concept of N-House, the NUS dorm for student entrepreneurs
Is the idea new? Definitely not. Earlier in 2011, the National University of Singapore (NUS) launched N-House, a campus residential block modeled after the dorms of California’s Stanford University that housed Google Inc.’s Larry Page and Yahoo! Inc. co-founder Jerry Yang. The idea is simple, like-minded students interested in entrepreneurship are hand picked and selected to be part of N-House, in hopes to promote more idea pollination which may lead to new startups.
At N-House, students work on their projects together and there are also weekly events structured to help the residents in various aspects of entrepreneurship. Some of the past guests that attended events at N-House included Russel Simmons, CTO & co-founder of Yelp, Paul Bragiel, founding partner of Golden Gate Ventures, Saul Singer, Co-author of the Start-Up Nation and Kelly Choo, co-founder of Brandtology.
While the events at N-House are mostly opened to public, the accommodation at N-House is limited to students only. The Enclave now aims to extend that concept to the public.
Will The Enclave work? Opinions vary
Commenting about the feasibility of The Enclave in Singapore, co-founder and CEO of JFDI Hugh Mason has nothing but good comments, saying,
“I think this will work in Singapore. Most of our guys (overseas founders) are staying in hostels, and they faff around looking for a suitable place to stay. It would be great to have somewhere (similar to The Enclave) they could stay.”
Kris Childress, CEO of NanoThree and executive advisor to NUS Enterprise, however, voiced concern about some of the implications The Enclave might face.
“One challenge would be having too much space and not being able to get revenues (for the owner). The second challenge is that there might be too little space and not being able to meet demand. This facility only sleeps 12 in two rooms of 6 bunks max. I think many entrepreneurs value privacy too.”
At The Enclave, there are 12 beds (6 double deckers), which costs S$200 (US$156) per week for a minimum stay of at least a week. For those who value privacy, there are also smaller rooms which comes at a slightly higher price. The Enclave is currently listed on short term rental sites such as Airbnb, travelmob and Roomorama.
Jeffrey Paine, founding partner of Golden Gate Ventures as well as the Director of Founder Institute Singapore, worries about the location and the curation of the current residents. While Hacker Hostels in the bay area focuses a lot on ensuring that its tenants have entrepreneurial traits that contributes to the whole vibe of the hostel, this may be lacking at The Enclave for now, possibly due to the need to generate revenue to keep the space afloat.
Responding to the comments, Wayne said that while all their current guests are indeed foreigners, there has been enquiries from local founders but none have decided to stay at hostel. However, there are some startups based in NUS which reached out to The Enclave to house some of their employees. These employees are typically familiar with the startup culture and would definitely add to the mix at The Enclave.
While the intention is overall a good one from the team behind The Enclave, it still remains to be seen if The Enclave can be successfully pulled off. Would it only attract foreign founders and lack the involvement from local founders in Singapore? Which ever way it turns out, it is always good to have like minded people living together, who knows if the next Facebook might just come from The Enclave.