Wang Tse – co-founder of Campfire – is hoping to shake up London’s co-working market.
The company, which was founded in Hong Kong, is known for creating co-working spaces that are tailored to particular industries and for developing other ‘shared spaces’.
In Hong Kong, it has just opened a scheme that offers co-working and ‘co-learning’ so parents and their children can work and learn under the same roof. Last year, Campfire launched its first site in London on Paul Street in Shoreditch.
Tse tells Property Week about his ideas for where the co-working revolution can go next.
What was the inspiration behind Campfire? Why did you choose to start this business?
Coming from a real estate investment and development background, my co-founder and I wanted an operating business that could make real estate more accessible to many different types of businesses and individuals, embracing the sharing economy and creating a global network with common ideals.
What makes Campfire different to other co-working providers? Campfire offers a range of shared space solutions across co-working, co-living and, more recently, co-education.
Campfire identified a lack of suitable and affordable housing in Hong Kong. Our first location focused on a gap in the market surrounding a well-known international art and design university, targeting students and young professionals.
Our newest location in Hong Kong makes commercial space more accessible for education providers, with our first co-learning site – offering access to classrooms, a kids’ cooking school, arts and crafts rooms, a kids’ theatre, a go-kart track, a café and a restaurant, all on flexible lease terms.
In the same facility, we offer private office and co-working space, making it the first workplace in Hong Kong where parents and children can work and learn under the same roof.
What are the biggest differences between the co-working markets in Hong Kong and London?
London is definitely a more mature market. Hong Kong is comparatively still in its infancy with fewer operators and less square footage occupied as a percentage of total office space.
The strong connectivity and dense nature of the city allow us to set up in districts that were typically considered industrial or residential locations. We try to bring the best of each market across to the other and still see room for growth in both.
And are there any similarities between the two markets?
Yes – high real estate costs; flex offices are growing at a nice pace in both markets; and there is an equal opportunity in both markets for Campfire to add value.
Flexibility, efficiency and experience are what people want. In general, the London market is less price-sensitive than the Hong Kong market. There is more focus on the experience offering in London versus Hong Kong, which is more practical with business spend.
WeWork recently leased its 50th flexible office in London. Isn’t there a potential bubble forming in this market?
We’d all be very surprised if people went back to packed cubicle offices or wanted to go back to inflexible lease terms. Greater competition in the sector will increase the need for innovation and value-add to consumers.
Where do you see Campfire in five years’ time?
With how fast the world and the sector is moving, I’d be worried if we knew exactly where we were going to be in five years. However, at the rate the sector is growing, we are looking at a number of new markets, both in Asia as well as other international gateway cities.
We see strong opportunity in co-living and are looking to expand this beyond Asia. We are looking at a number of new concepts within co-working, to stay at the forefront of innovation and to better meet the specific needs of our ever-growing members.