The other day, I met a young woman living the dream as a freelancer in Bali. The Singaporean was making enough money to survive and was experiencing emotional growth that is impossible to put a price on.
But, when the conversation moved away from beaches and babi guling, she did have one lament about the freelance lifestyle — she was getting priced out of co-working spaces.
Spaces like BASH, The Working Capitol and The Hub are fantastic; pitching stages, bean bag chairs, foosball and, most importantly, a barista. But students and early-stage entrepreneurs have no capital and can’t afford these options. So they work from homes or cafes.
But that makes it difficult to find a community and fully network into the scene.
It is free. Completely, 100 per cent free.
“It started because our chairman had a vision to create a platform to connect the community. Create a place to feel comfortable…I think the intention for the Technopreneurial Circle is for it to be the first place [startups] think of. Whether it is working or when they are trying to meet up with people,” Vertex Holdings Manager Poh Ee Ling told e27.
The space itself is relatively small and humble — it looks like a big conference room that has been spruced up with nice interior design and the basics to get work done — tables, chairs, free Wi-Fi.
But, it does have location, location, location as it is in the heart of the city on the fifth floor of Raffles City Tower. Poh said Vertex hopes to use the downtown presence as a selling point.
While Vertex said it is targetting the tech startup scene, the application process does not discriminate.
“People are welcome to sign up on the website. Once they sign up, they get an email confirming the status of the application. Turnover time is about three days. Then, they get all they need to know about being a member and instructions for the door access system,” said Poh.
Since launch, 120 people have signed up and Poh said the scene is starting to warm to the space.
“Actually a lot of the companies [using the space] are really in the infancy stage of startups. Other than startups, we actually had a few corporates like Cisco Investments and DBS Innovations Group. We wanted to make this an open place to connect,” said Poh.
It should be noted that, in general, the space operates during traditional office hours.
Financing and Events
The reason Vertex is not attempting to cover its real estate costs, or even make money, is the project has the specific goal of community development.
“We have gone through a few rounds of discussions about it. [But] because [the space] is not a money-making machine, making it free will remove an obstacle that startups will have,” said Poh.
Vertex also brings in speakers for casual talks and networking sessions. The idea is to warm members to the community and help the network grow. For example, last night, Paktor CEO Joseph Phua gave an off-the-cuff speech and answered questions from the audience.
The space is still a project and Vertex is testing and adapting to find the best way to make the Technopeneurial Circle a go-to spot for startups.
“I think the challenge for us is how to get more people to use the space. The space is set up for them. On some days, it is really empty, so I think the current challenge is to see what else we can do. Other than the fact that it is complimentary, of course. So, we hope the location is a draw to the [startups] just starting out,” said Poh.
The Technopeneurial Circle goes a long way to solving a major pain point for infant-stage startups: real estate costs. It will be interesting to see how the space grows moving forward.
To sign up for the Technepreneurial Circle click here.