The HUBBA Team shares what got them started on creating one of Thailand’s first co-working space and what is needed to support the Thai tech startup community.
e27 has been working closely with Thai co-working space, HUBBA, on organizing events like Founders Drinks and the upcoming Echelon Ignite: Thailand. Taking a closer look at how the team is supporting the local startup community, we sat down with co-founder Amarit Charoenphan (Aim) to find out what it takes to run a private co-working space in a city where there is less support compared to that in Singapore.
What started the idea for HUBBA, especially in a place where the idea of co-working is rather new.
We saw and studied the idea of co-working for many years and realized that everybody was talking about it but nobody was jumping in to do it. We knew that we were on to something great, a paradigm shift in the workplace culture that has enabled people to achieve their career goals independent of the confines of traditional offices, which has been made possible by the internet and digital tools to help startups and freelancers get started at a much lower cost. However, as experienced entrepreneurs ourselves, we realized that despite the technologies enabling people to start businesses easier, it has not improved the success outcomes of businesses in Thailand since the startup ecosystem that allows startups to thrive did not exist in Thailand.
Taking it on as our personal mission to both improve the success of our fellow friends and colleagues who were starting up and also at the same time helping our own chances of success with our latest startup (Ascendex Consulting, a boutique startup consultancy), we believe that co-working spaces represented the first and most logical step to create Thailand’s startup ecosystem from the grassroots since without a large, accessible community of startups to begin with, any capacity building, workshop, events, or seed funding programs would be ineffective.
We also love the fact that the idea was so disruptive of the mundane, hierarchical, political and uninspiring workplace and jobs that were the norm in Thailand and that if we were able to make it successful and scale it across Thailand, we would potentially change the way people work and at the same time change the way that big corporations operate and treat their employees.
But most importantly and why we were able to build it as fast as could (in less than six months) was that we believe that the concept so awesome that we not only wanted so badly to work in one but instinctively knew that it would be so useful and crucial to supporting a startup’s growth and success that we had hoped it existed many years earlier and if so we would definitely join and not make the same mistakes (sometimes fatal) that we did with our previous startups.
Can you share more about the people and team behind HUBBA?
HUBBA team’s profile and surprisingly non-technical yet highly entrepreneurial. Three are co-founders: Charle Charoenphan, Amarit Charoenphan and Kanadej Thamanoonragsa, while three are Partners (Chalermyuth Boonma, Ming Mahakittikun and Fasai Pongpitaksopon).
With two of our members (Charle & Ming) having starting or cofounded three companies each, Amarit with almost two years of social enterprise incubation experience, Note who is an active community builder with his TechMeetup Bangkok events, and Kanadej as our Finance Director and concurrently a Fund Manager for a Private Equity firm.
Our latest partner, Fasai, who is now working with us as the Community Director for Singapore, also works as an Account Strategist at Google Singapore. Her addition will help bridge the gap for Thai startups who are looking to go regional by going to Singapore as well as connect our Singaporean partners such as e27, venture capitals, and co-working spaces to the Thai and ASEAN startup community.
How many startups/companies/projects are currently in HUBBA? Which is your favourite team?
We have over 100 registered members and currently around 50 active members.
One of our favorite teams is Vachara (nickname Kuk) from Computerlogy who is a winner of Facebook World Hack 2012 in Jakarta by making Do Something in seven hours. He also has an awesome product, SocialEnable, which is a kick ass social media monitoring tool.
Another favorite is Ace Thanaboon Somboon who does Portfolios.net, Thailand’s largest online portfolio sharing website and community of over 30,000 registered creatives, designers and artists. He also does Creativemove.com, a online blog that promotes social innovation and action within the creatives, artists and designer community.
What does it take to run a successful co-working space in Thailand and what other support would you need or are currently having?
Successful co-working spaces are run by great people who are passionate about adding value to the community and the ecosystem as a whole. Co-working space founders need to have an attention to detail on not just building the flashiest, biggest or cheapest coworking space. Co-working is a combination of a highly functional, comfortable and convenient space with all the tools and hardware necessary to provides the work life balance that startups and freelancers crave from working long hours, a dedicated team of community manager and facilitators who curates and nurtures a strong collaborative community of startup entrepreneurs from various but complimentary background such as hustlers, hackers and designers and Events such as Startup Weekend Bangkok, workshop and conferences such as Echelon Ignite: Thailand that will help startups get notice, get funded, and get connected. This is the mantra to which our HUBBA Team subscribes to everyday which is: “How we can deliver more value to support the success of startups within our community?”
Our support needed is that we want to democratize the coworking movement so that more people can experience the liberating feeling of the movement. A great research by Deskmag.com has indicated that the more coworking spaces that exists in a city, the better since more people will have the potential to experience co-working and subscribe to the lifestyle. There is a Thai saying that clapping with one hand isn’t as loud as two, which we believe is true. Therefore, if there is anyone who wants to start a co-working space and really has the startup community at heart, we want to support them will all our experience, networks and know how as much as possible so that they will succeed faster and not have to make the same mistakes the we have made.
Do you think co-working spaces will continue to grow in Thailand and what benefits can the techs startup community in Thailand get from them?
Co-working spaces will not only continue to grow, but accelerate the pace world wide not only in Thailand but across the world. Co-working spaces benefit the tech startup community in many ways. Firstly, great co-working spaces makes it so easy for startups to get started; at HUBBA, once you’re signed up in five minutes,HUBBA becomes your office. A good coworking space needs to take care of the space so well that the entrepreneurs just need to concentrate on making a kick ass product.
Secondly, coworking spaces are a fertile ground for ‘Accelerated Serendipity’, or chance meetings that can positively impact you or your startup forever. Accelerated serendipity can come in many forms; meeting your ideal co-founder and starting something together, getting help from a person who has an experience or expertise on a problem that you are having, learning something from a working or event that completely changes your idea or startup’s direction, finding angel investors and VCs who believe in your team and product. These moments can only be facilitated by a dedicated team of Community managers such as the one at HUBBA, where we know everything about everyone so that we can always make the right introductions and referrals. Unfortunately, this will never occur if you work out at home or in a coffeeshop.
Thirdly, coworking spaces are full of crazy, self-motivated people hell bent on changing the world, disrupting businesses as usual or creating killer apps for people. When any startup joins a space, catching the co-motivation or co-ambition bug is inevitable, since entrepreneurs by nature are competitive people.
Lastly, co-working spaces can help tech startups go regional fast just by exposing themselves to the global startup community. At HUBBA, 50 percent of our members are expatriates from places such as Silicon Valley, Boulder, New York, Singapore, Japan and Korea. Not only do these startups get the chance to practice speaking English daily at co-0working spaces (which is unsurprisingly a crucial skill to be able to go regional yet one sorely lacking among Thai entrepreneurs), startups will get to learn and experience first hand of the startup ecosystem in other countries and what it takes to take their business regionally. Once more and more people learn of the possibilities of startup beyond Thailand, then startups will have the confident to scaling and community builders like HUBBA will be able to develop coworking spaces and programs to better help startups and grow the ecosystem. After that, there is no stopping in what the Thai startup ecosystem can become.
HUBBA is the strategic partner for Echelon Ignite: Thailand 2012. Join us to hear from top entrepreneurs, investors and community leaders who will share insights on starting up in Thailand. For more information on speakers and agenda, visit the official Echelon Ignite: Thailand 2012 website.
Image credits: HUBBA