Dutch shared office brand Spaces launches first China space in Shanghai Tower

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Dutch entrepreneur Martijn Roordink founded Spaces in Amsterdam in 2006.
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Martijn Roordink

You don't go to work, you go to a destination that feels like home, except you’re working there.

With that concept in mind, Dutch entrepreneur Martijn Roordink founded Spaces in Amsterdam in 2006, as he was convinced that the world of working would change because of the Internet, the behavior of people and the fact that there were no offices that delivered added value and had a kind of quality that new generation workers are looking for.

And his forward-looking mindset materialized two years later and has grown into a global business, just as he expected 11 years ago.

The Amsterdam-born company, which opened its first co-working location in the capital of the Netherlands in 2008, is now providing branded offices for around 15,000 people from 38 locations in 15 countries including the US, Brazil, Israel, South Africa, Norway, France, the UK, China, Singapore and Australia, among others. By the end of this year, Spaces aims to double its portfolio to around 80 locations worldwide.

The Spaces meeting room at Shanghai Tower.

"Working and work-life balance is one of the major changes we are making," Roordink, co-founder of Spaces, told Shanghai Daily during a phone interview conducted recently. "If you look at the change in the way people are living, you will find that people are more connected online but are looking for a social call."

The only European brand of office compared to its major international counterparts such as WeWork and naked Hub, Spaces has recently made its first foray into the Chinese mainland by opening a 6,000-square-meter location inside the 632-meter Shanghai Tower, the country's highest building and the newest landmark in the city.

The Spaces co-working area at Shanghai Tower.

Occupying the entire 29th floor, the comfortable and stylish office in the heart of Lujiazui, the financial hub of Shanghai, boasts distinctive Nordic-style decor, immediately recognizable from its wide range of light colors and extreme simplicity.

"Location is very important," Roordink said. "To roll out globally, you have to look for all landmarks to enter cities."

The third country in Asia that it has tapped into following India and Japan, Spaces is also planning to open two locations in Hong Kong and is looking at 10 to 15 new buildings across the country, with Beijing on the top of its list.

"We at least want to open one Spaces in the most important neighborhood within a city, firstly in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, with definitely more to come," he said. "But we don't want to dominate."

The Spaces co-working area at Shanghai Tower.

According to Roordink, Spaces is now focusing on the top 200 cities worldwide and within two years' time, he wants to have the world's top 250 cities in at least 40 countries covered with a Spaces office.

"It is not about competition, but more or less about the rapid change in the office market," he said. "It's the same like hotel chains or fashion brands as companies or persons now have a possibility to make choices where to work."

For Spaces, what it is trying to do is to create a distribution network within cities, areas and countries to deliver services to all customers including corporates, small startup entrepreneurs, and one-person companies.

"We are at the starting point of the branding of offices," he said. "What we are trying to create as a brand is consistency in look and feel, materials, infrastructure and the way we visualize and merchandise our space."

As the only major co-working brand with a European origin, Spaces knows clearly that it has to differentiate — in its people-focus, its community-focus, and everything it can deliver to its customers — in order to stay attractive to customers in this large global market of co-working.

The Spaces reception area at Shanghai Tower.

It’s a comfortable, inspirational space where you can balance work and life. One great tool is the Spaces radio that plays handpicked music in Amsterdam. It moves with different moods of the day, making it easier to generate productivity in their Business Club. Grabbing a nice cup of good brew coffee, or sweating in the customized gym, even brainstorming in the Oxford University library are all at convenience. Spaces also holds multiple social events like the expert seminar every month that is sure to become communication hub for future entrepreneurs.

"To outperform, from a brand perspective, is always to stay with your manifesto, to stay with who you are and keep your customers centered, and try to deliver to them every day what they expect from you," Roordink said.

Sticking to its European background or retaining its European flair doesn't prevent Spaces from adapting itself a bit to every culture and environment it is entering, because every country has its own work environment.

"We are a global company but we act local," Roordink said. "In the end, it's all about people, not about square meters."

A starting business with rapid growth, the branded office market is just around 2 to 3 percent of the global real estate market, which is billions of square meters.

"In the future, buildings will be turned around to recognizable, very flexible and more deliverable than only an office," he said. "The co-working change that currently happens is what would happen to every corporate as they must change to deliver a better humanized space, otherwise they won't attract tenants."

The Spaces office at Shanghai Tower.

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