Profile of a Coworking Space: Kuala Lumpur’s “The Co.”
The Co – Malaysian Coworking
Back in 2014, Malaysia got its first taste of Singaporean coworking space The Co. Established in the Klang Valley region of Kuala Lumpur, the space was founded by a pair of Malaysians: Andrew Tan and Izwan Ismail.
Much like the American success stories of coworking space founders, this pair saw an opportunity in the market for a new kind of workplace. According to an interview with the founders, Andrew said that Kuala Lumpur didn’t have a place where the local community could “meet, mingle, learn, grow, and exchange ideas”. The notion of mingling is huge in both the East and West—coworking spaces would not be the same without this key social aspect.
The Co. has attracted a variety of tenants thus far. Naturally, there’s no end to the Kuala Lumpur startups who want to secure a spot in a good coworking space, and The Co. is home to established companies like Zomato. Even outside of tech startups, however, the space has attracted design agencies and even a cookware company. The variety is surely healthy for all parties involved.
The space hosts community events from time to time, perhaps to liven up their tenants’ daily schedules. Among these are giants like the Echelon Top 100 startup event and the Makers Market entrepreneurial event. Many of these events attract hundreds of participants.
With the success of The Co.’s first Malaysian installment, the pair of cofounders have expressed interest in expanding both locally and internationally. They currently only have two hubs in Klang Valley, so there is plenty of room to grow.
The company may well have an advantage in Malaysia over international competitors because of the founders’ familiarity with the local community. We know that the importance of community can’t be overstated in coworking spaces, and that poses a significant challenge for coworking giants who want to expand to new markets.
Even though The Co. was founded in Singapore, the Malaysian branch is run by Kuala Lumpur locals. I don’t doubt that their innate familiarity with the area gives them an edge when planning marketing and strategy. At the same time, this issue may come back to bite them if and when they attempt to expand to other Southeast Asian countries. It will be a challenge to expand to new markets; the best they can do is to assure proper quality control across all of their offices. If they invest enough time into understanding the local culture and community, surely they can thrive in locales that they are not native to.