You can have a bright idea to start a business, but most of the time you’ll need a space to work in, among other resources, to bring it to fruition.
To Eunice Ooi and her co-founders at spaceSense, this is why they think real estate has a big role to play in bolstering the local SME scene.
“Real estate is more than just a physical space. It facilitates human interaction, and sees us through different stages in life,” says Eunice.
None would deny that finding the right dwelling place is a precedent to setting up a life for yourself and your family, and people place great importance in this task.
So the same would go for running a business.
In line with this belief, Eunice’s proptech startup focuses on helping business owners find their space to grind, as she noticed the corporate sector is “more underserved than residential [clients]”.
Beyond what consumers see on the frontlines, entrepreneurs tackle a long “pain list” behind the scenes, and executing an office space strategy is definitely not one of their simpler challenges to deal with.
Your Office Space Warriors
Currently in her early 30s, Eunice left her project management role at Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC two years ago, to embark on her dream of starting her own business.
From working on office space procurement and transformation projects at GIC, she left with a passion to create something that would “level the playing field” for smaller firms looking for spaces.
She shared this with her friend and veteran real estate investor, 40-year-old Joe Kwan.
As Joe decided to join Eunice on her pursuit, he also roped in another seasoned individual, former Savills Singapore Managing Director and Head of Investments Steven Ming, who’d been with the global firm for 14 years up till he received Joe’s invitation.
Although bowing out of his tenure at Savills would be a huge change, 45-year-old Steven said his decision had been two years in the making, and he finally wanted to “pursue other interests in the real estate industry, including real estate management and proptech”.
Hitting it off right away at their first meeting, the three found that they “each [brought] a unique perspective and skillset” into the mix, and co-founded spaceSense together in 2018.
Before even starting operations, they hit their first roadblock: “We initially [found] it difficult to find an office to house our team,” says Eunice.
It may seem ironic, but despite their deep experience in real estate, they were now starting on ground zero as new entrepreneurs, and had to go through the typical challenges too.
Eunice says the route to securing their space was far from simple, as they encountered platforms that use “fake listings as a lead generator”, or agents “whose priorities [were only] for you to lease from their limited portfolio list”.
Frustrations aside, to the founders, this was a nod that they were in the right direction.
“We were even more convinced than ever before that the solutions that we have will be relevant to companies that face similar [struggles],” Joe quipped.
A Physical Space Is Just The Start
Launching spaceSense in June 2019, they wanted to go above and beyond to help SMEs and growing companies, and they believed they could do more than just help them rent offices.
“A lot of service providers provide the service, but we walk the journey,” Joe explains.
They start by helping clients find listings that match their needs based on headcount, estimated renovation budget and preferred locations.
This can be conveniently done “in a matter of minutes” on spaceSense’s website.
After signing off a lease, property agents usually make their exit here, but spaceSense carries on the job through to connecting new office tenants with interior designers, furniture providers and other corporate services they may need.
On their one-stop dashboard, they also let business owners view and manage office lease contracts, direct communication with landlords, and even corporate subscriptions such as gym memberships.
And when it comes to the vendors they engage, they’re serious about having high standards.
They are invited based on their track records and ability to deliver superior results—They wouldn’t be on the platform if we wouldn’t use them ourselves.
Besides their online portal, spaceSense also assigns dedicated consultants to work with each client offline.
The founders are strong advocates for personalised service, as they can help alleviate customers’ fears better, while also learning more about their needs and pain points to improve what they have on the platform.
With this focus, frontline consultants currently make up their main headcount of about 8 to 10 employees.
spaceSense provides this platform to users for free, while their revenue comes in from charging vendors “on a success-only basis”.
“Companies Wish We Were Here Sooner”
Although their startup is pretty fresh to the field, spaceSense assures that their offerings are far from limited.
In June, they said, “We have direct access to the office rental portfolio of more than 90% of all major office landlords in Singapore”, and this may have since increased.
Their model is quickly seeing validation, and not just from small startups—they share that they’ve already “served a few major corporate clients”, and seen interest from “larger companies that have been in operation for more than 10 years”.
Even before our beta launch, some of the companies we spoke to [about our idea] told us how much they [needed something like our platform] and how they wished we were around sooner.
Once they unveiled their full launch in June, they’ve been “heartened to see a flood of enquires through [their] website ever since”.
Since starting spaceSense, the co-founders have progressively put in close to “seven digits” of their own investment, besides receiving a “nominal cash grant from Enterprise Singapore” and a “significant round of angel investment”.
“Based on our recent transactions, we should be able to turn in a profit within the first year post launch,” says Eunice.
The founders have huge ambitions for spaceSense, to become the largest singular prop-tech platform in Asia Pacific as their ultimate goal.
Achieving that will let them bring their benefits to more companies in “more key cities across the region”.
One day, as synonymous as Google is to web search, spaceSense will represent that for all users looking for office and corporate solutions.
Find out more about spaceSense here.
Featured Image Credit: spaceSense
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