A research of co-working spaces in the South East Asia


Co-working spaces started to emerge for about a decade now and its growth has drastically increased all over the world. In Unites States, where it first originated, these space hubs have been popping up everywhere enticing creative people, businessmen and all the like.

According to, As of September there are 849 co-working spaces all over the world, found in 521 cities of 83 countries and still counting. The majority of these spaces exists and is continually growing in United States, Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal, Canada, Argentina, and Australia etc.

Coworking typically exists in high-density urban markets. New York City is one of the largest markets for coworking. Other locations with a notable coworking presence include Austin and Seattle, as well as the Bay Area. It is clear that coworking often emerges in markets with strong technology sectors, as evidenced by coworking growth in the tech hubs of Austin, Seattle, and along New York City’s ‘Silicon Alley.’

The coworking model works in large urban areas because the cost of real estate is high, there are a large number of start-ups and it is often difficult to find available smaller floor plates to accommodate the needs of a start-up. Start-ups tend to locate in high-density urban markets for the positive effects of knowledge spillover, clustering, and access to capital.

Apart from working at home and in the traditional offices, It is quite common to see Filipinos working on their laptops in coffee shops – of course to grab some coffee and get free internet access. Typically, most of these people could be University students doing their researches, thesis and school stuff; some are likely to be freelancers or shall we call them self- employed individuals that refuse to do their work at home and decided to chill somewhere for a different aura; and for sure some are people who just started doing business who we call “start- uppers” that initiate meet ups for business appointments. However, these public spaces have tendencies to limit the productivity of these people, thus, provoked the birth of work hubs like co-working spaces.

Co-working business may have evolved and dramatically increased since it first started in 2005, sprouting everywhere in major countries; but it has just begun to emerge in the Philippines.  It is believed that the first co-working space established in the Philippines was in 2011.

There aren’t very many co-working spaces in the Philippines yet, in fact there are only a few who’re legitimately established. Most of them are located in the highly urbanized cities where central business districts and emerging urban districts are located. This includes Manila- the capital city of the Philippines, Pasig City, Quezon City; Cebu City and Bacolod City  of Visayas region and  Davao City of Mindanao.

The majority is located in Makati Central Business District- the leading financial and central business area in the Philippines located at the heart of Makati in Metro Manila According to the Internet Ads, there are more or less 20 co-working spaces in Manila area and most of these opened the year (2014).

The pioneer co-working space in the Philippines is Co.lab Xchange which started with 2 spaces in Manila, one in Central Business Makati and the other one in Ortigas center before it began consolidating it’s operations in Pasig. Since its opening in 2011, Co.lab has provided local entrepreneurs, mostly those in the startup industry, freelance and other professionals, who according to its co-founder Francesca Zimmer-Santos “typically work from home.

From then, other co-working businesses had began popping up to other areas of Manila enticing and attracting co-workers and thus began sprouting to the other highly urbanized areas of the country. For almost 5 years time, the number of co-working businesses has grown to a decent number.

This is a graph showing the number of spaces opened a year in a specific area since 2011.


Co-working is a style of work where individual professionals work in a shared space or environment on their respective activities independently or for some, collaboratively. Hence, a coworking space is what is called to the space generally shared by individuals from different organizations and professions.

Co-working is a way of escaping the isolation of the home office, and gaining back the social benefits of working with other like-minded individuals in the interest of pursuing a common goal: productivity.

We all know what a typical office setup is like: stuffy, constrained, mind-numbing, boring. However, those who have chosen to take the self-employment route or as we call them “ freelancers” and small groups still in the starting stages of their professional endeavor may not have the luxury of having an established business address with the necessary equipment and environment.

Basically, Co-working spaces is an alternative a setup that enables people from various industries to rent a work space for different durations (daily, monthly, yearly) and share that space with folks who are in the same boat. It’s quite different from the leased spaces and serviced offices popping up around the metro: what sets co-working apart from other options is that it fosters community building and espouses creativity without the stringent limits of a straight-up corporate environment.

The origin:

According to the article researches found in the internet, co-working started in San Francisco, California. It was co-founded by Chris Messina, creator of the Twitter hashtag. The Hat Factory opened as the first full-time space that was called a “co-working space”. The co-founders included Brad Neuberg, Chris Messina and Tara Hunt. It was one of less than 30 co-working spaces in the world at the time. Through 2012, the number nearly doubled each year.

And then, the first “Jellies” started. These are occasional meetings where a small group of people comes together to collaborate in an informal setting. Jellies give participants the chance to exchange ideas, with no commitment or expense. At the same time, they help build a community that can eventually lead to the development of an institution like a co-working space.


Pros: Co-working spaces offer both the venue and opportunities for individuals to bounce ideas off one another, get immediate feedback on a wide range of projects, build networks for future projects, and maybe even get in touch with prospective clients and investors.

It enables freelancers to get away from the confines of home (or cramped office spaces), and stave off laziness or cabin fever. For freelancers who work in coffee shops, co-working will allow them to escape the din of noisy customers and the expenses for parking and (often unsecured) Wi-Fi access, as well as those obligatory (and fattening) frappes. Oh, and no more scrambling for a vacant power outlet!

It gives small firms the workspace and equipment they need without the high costs of maintaining an office in a fixed location.

Cons: For freelancers who are still starting out and/or have minimal earnings, the daily/monthly/annual fees for co-working spaces may put a dent on their delicate finances.

Because of coworking’s social aspect, some individuals may get distracted easily, and be unable to finish everything they need to do. Those who can’t maintain their focus may have a difficult time with co-working.

On the flipside, people who are fiercely independent may not be able to hack co-working. While there is mutual respect among community members when it comes to privacy and working space, there will always be individuals who prefer to be in quiet, formal surroundings during normal office hours — and have very specific ideas about what type of working environment works for them.

Manila/Luzon Area


As mentioned, Co.lab is the very first coworking space founded in the Philippines. It began its construction in 2010 and became fully operational in 2011. It started with two spaces, one in the Ortigas Center area and the other one in the country’s financial center in the Makati CBD before consolidating its operations in Pasig. It was co-founded by Francesca Zimmer-Santos.

The word “Co.lab”, as explained in the company’s blog site, can be short for “collaborate” or “co-laboratory, where ideas synergize and ideas are set on fire.

Co.lab mainly offers co-working spaces, meeting rooms and they have this monthly event called “jellies” where they gather freelancers, entrepreneurs, start-up founders, independent, creative individuals and other like-minded people for a meet up in order to connect, collaborate, and discuss interesting conversations. This activity fosters social environment collaborations builds up strong coworking community.

The following profiles that compose Co.lab’s community are: freelance web-developers/graphics designers, professional bloggers, subcontractors for foreign companies, web show directors that is the majority of the community comprising 70% of the population; startups of about 20 %, and the rest are entrepreneurs and etc.

A space

Found at the heart of the country’s central business district, Makati. A SPACE attracts a diverse crowd engaged in information technology (IT), research, development, art and communications, entrepreneurship etc.

A SPACE started out as a one-man project by Matt Morrison, a former media man who traded it all for a life of advocating “ethical, value-creating start-ups” in the Philippines. Before nesting in Legaspi in 2014, Matt originally set up A SPACE in Salcedo Village in 2011, merging cafe, bar, gallery, and workplace. “We were full in a couple of months, so I decided to make it bigger.”

A SPACE occupies three floors now in a commercial building. It doesn’t have many partitions but has several windows. It’s a hub for creators; some drop by every other day, some are regulars, while others have their own “headquarters” (HQ).

A Space is home to 250 co-workers every day. Startups have their own HQs, rooms that can be “pimped” and rented for any duration depending on their needs. Internet and printing services are free, coffee is free-flowing, art, and books are everywhere.

Around 400 people weekly also visit the place for its events. A SPACE supports local independent artists by hosting exhibits, gigs, and talks. A Space has a diverse community profiles and most of it are freelancers involved in art and music. Next to it are the start-ups.

47 East is a part of the growing wave of coworking spaces in the Philippines. It Opened in May 2013 and founded by an entrepreneur Allan L. Cristobal in Quezon City.

It is one of a few coworking spaces in the Philippines who is promoting and aiming to build Filipino coworkers community as it was stated in their mission “to combat the Filipino tendency toward shyness, and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit.  According to its founder, Filipinos are shy in nature. This is why the team reinforces proactivity in breaking the ice between coworkers and make sure everybody in the community participates, collaborate and create.

47 East mainly supports and accommodate start-ups, young businesses, students, freelancers, young professionals and etc. They provide mentorship and training to these individuals in order to accelerate social development and business skills.  About a half  (50%) of its community are start-ups.

Palet Express

 Palet Express is an international co-working company with offices in the US and in Spain. Its first office in Asia is located in Makati City, Philippines. Palet Express offers packages for co-working space needs and also individual offices, for those looking for more privacy. Aside from the hassle-free office solution it provides, it also offers a collaborative work environment where its partners can share space, resources and talent.

Palet Express Manila has been around for almost 2 years. They began its construction late 2013 and began fully operational in January 2014.

Its clients range from, start-ups, game and web development companies, consultancy firms, freelancers etc. According to Palet Express Project Director- Ms. Arambulo, co-working business is more attractive to young companies, start-ups since it’s an easy and strategic option in terms of office space rental.

Palet Express has varied clients but the bulk of which comprises about 70% of its market are start-ups who are involved in digital and other creative projects. The rest are freelancers.

Brainsparks Bitspace

Brainsparks is a hub (umbrella) that was found in June 2014, part of which is a co-working component called BITSPACE that offers a co-working space. BITSPACE has 2 locations, 1 outside of Manila in Batangas, which opened last January of this year 2015, and one in Manila in the central business district of Makati, which opened last May of this year 2015.

Most of their clients are in the Makati location, 80% are startups Brainsparks is sponsoring/supporting. The remaining 20% are freelancers.

O2 Space

O2 space is Located in the heart of Makati Business district and a stone’s throw away from the city’s high-end shopping centers. It was found in June 2014 with their current managing director Mr. Wilson Uy.

O2space mostly caters start-ups, freelancers like independent writers, graphic designers, web designers and the like; local and foreign entrepreneurs, and sometimes University students. Majority of their leasers are start-ups which comprises roughly 60% of the market, the second largest portion of their clients are the freelancers and second to the least are the entrepreneurs and lastly, University students.

Hive 120 

Hive120º opened to the public in October 2014. It was supposed to be a “soft opening” but somehow got caught up in events and activities thus never really get to do the formal opening.

Most of Hive 120 market profiles are – students, freelancers, small businesses, start-ups, non-profits, hobby clubs, and so on. It’s a healthy mix of all of these groups.

According to the co founder of Hive 120, he couldn’t state the exact or accurate demographic figure of their client profiles but the biggest number of the co-workers that visit them which comprises about 57 % of the market goes to start-up businesses, 30 % of it are non-profit organizations like religious groups, hobby clubs and the like; about 10% are freelancers and the rest are University students that come by to study.

Honeycomb Manila

HoneycombCommunities Inc., a marketing consultancy firm specializing in Internet media, operates honeycomb Manila Coworking. It officially opened in April 2014 and is situated in Mandaluyog, Edsa Beverage Design Studio, Manila.

It is said on it’s website, Honeycomb “The cure for the common cube” seeks to be a community of entrepreneurs, professionals, consultants and creatives who learn from each other, empower one another, and share a journey together.


Nestled in the heart of Makati is a new coworking space that just officially launched this October 2015. Just like most of the other coworking spaces in Manila, Accelera8 aims to build and help start-up community in accelerating their business. It is co-founded by Mikko Barranda, Carlo Coronel and Bryant Cuison, a group of individuals from different paths of life who came together to turn a shared vision into reality.

“This project represents the culmination of hard work and sacrifice to achieve our dream of helping others chase theirs. Together, we’ve managed to create an incubator where our team helps nourish young entrepreneurs. Our approach focuses on harmoniously blending the power of space and people.” Said Mr. Barranda.  It is believed that the progress of the Philippine economy lies on the young entrepreneurs’ shoulder and this is what inspires a lot of coworking businesses.

Since Acceler8 is just new to its way in realizing its goal, they have yet and just about to establish their community. Recently, they have been hosting events and parties in order to promote and attract individuals that have potentials to become part of the Acceler8 community.

Impact Hub

Impact Hub is an international coworking brand that first started in London almost a decade now. It opened it’s first space in the Philippines in June 2015 and is co-founded by LizAn Kuster, Matt Jaeggi, and Ces Rondario.

There are a decent number of  coworking spaces in the Philippines as well as many business incubators, but none combine the two quite like Impact Hub Manila does.  It operates on  “Three pillars” : coworking, events, and incubation and has the advantages of global networking. It’s has been existing for about 10 years, developing a range of boot camps, workshops, and incubation programs. As these programs are tried and tested, it’s easy for local communities to replicate and localize them. The Impact Hub branding also helps in attracting the participation of both local and international partners.

Most coworking spaces are first distinguished by their location. They can service the needs of local entrepreneurs and freelancers in the area. It is said that what separates Impact Hub Manila from other coworking spaces is that it has a reach far beyond its location in Makati City.

The most interesting thing about Impact Hub is that unlike the other coworking spaces community they hold a sort of gathering every last Thursday of the month, where failure is celebrated. “You know, everywhere, it’s the same story. Success, success, success. But in a life of an entrepreneur, we go through so much failure,” shares LizAn. During Fuckup Nights, speakers — “anybody brave enough to share their stories are welcome to speak” — are given 5 minutes to share their failures. A Q&A follows, after which alcohol. “The goal is for people to leave the room not being afraid of failing.”

Impact Hub is now occupied in making their community prosper of which mostly consists of start-ups.

Workspace 45

Workspace 45 is the first coworking space located in Angeles City, Pampanga. They are focus on providing office space for start-ups and freelancers. It was founded in January of this year, 2015.

It was entitled as one of the best coworking spaces in Southeast Asia. The brand provides not just a space but also incubation programs with pool of experts, talented and connected mentors that can empower start-up ventures aids young entrepreneurs building up their business.

Workspace 45 currently have 5 start-ups which comprises 50 % of the its residents and 38 % are freelancers which mostly are bloggers, desingers, videographers, photographers etc. The rest are entrepreneurs who like spending their free time to gain social connections in professional hubs like coworking spaces.

Location 63

Location 63 is Cebu’s first co-working space founded by Chris Ducker -Chief executive officer of local business process outsourcing company Live2Sell, Inc. It opened in January 2013 but officially launched in March 2013.

Location 63 got its label concept “63” which is the area code of the Philippines. It is located in at 2nd Floor, Hyundai Bldg., AS Fortuna Street,  Mandaue City of Cebu. It aims to build a local community of tech entrepreneurs who want to start businesses.

According to Ducker, one of the biggest issues of the Philippines is that Filipinos are stuck to having more of an employee mindset and thus should start festering more on the entrepreneur side because he believes the economy of a country lies on its entrepreneurs. “Every economy in the world needs small businesses. It fuels the economy.”- Ducker. Hence, drove him to establish a coworking space that would help these young professionals work, collaborate to flourish its entrepreneurial skills and capabilities.

Aside from the coworking spaces offered by Location 63, they also host events on weekends like workshops, tech events and the like which gathers likeminded individuals as a sort of recreation, discussion of interesting topics and community building

The Tide

 The Tide Cebu is currently said to be the most active coworking space in Cebu. It was co founded by Ravi Agarwal and Dave Overton, which are tech entrepreneurs who do coworking themselves.  It is situated in the 7th floor of Skyrise Building in Cebu IT Park – Cebu City’s Business Park where Information Technology (IT) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies are located.

It was founded in July 2014 and it’s goal, aside from providing the space with fast Internet is to gather Start-up and Tech Communities in Cebu as it is said there are many yet scattered.

The Tide aims to help the start-ups on building on their product.”We want to give them an easy to use space that they can just come and work in and be productive. Instead of just everyone scatters after a Startup Weekend. We want to give them the opportunity to say hey, we can rent a team table, it’s relatively affordable and we don’t have to sign 3 versions of the contract every page or put 3 months deposit down and 2 months security,” Overton said.

The Tide is vastly supporting It is a non-profit, independent community of business, technology, and startup enthusiasts. The community gather up members to meet, share ideas, learn new skills, and discover growing opportunities in the field of technology and according to Regil Cadavos,-Community Manager of the Tide, is the biggest active Tech community in the Philippines  who plays a huge  role in gathering these talented people into one.

According to Ms. Cadavos, about 50 % of The Tide’s community is composed of Start-up tech teams mainly because it is what its focused to.  It does not mean that The Tide is only concern with the tech teams as the next biggest majority of its tenants are freelancers like web designers, , bloggers and other self employed individuals which comprises 25% of the community. 16 % are entrepreneurs and the rest are the come-and-go individuals that are enrolled in day passes like students and the like.

Dojo 8 

Dojo 8 is Western Visayas’ first coworking space situated in Bacolod City in Visayas region of the Philippines. Juanito Cell Jacela founded the space early 2014 inspired by his vision of bringing out a community for professionals, small businesses, freelancers and startups in order collaborate and get creative.

It has a diverse community of start-ups, young entrepreneurs, freelancers, talented professionals such as artists, bloggers, web designers, videographers, game developers, writers, fashion designers, musicians and University students.

Dojo 8 aims to maintain a fun and energetic environment that it welcomes everybody including students that intend to sit and study especially during exams week. They also host events that support start-ups, young entrepreneurs and creative individuals, which create bonds among the residents and desk renters.

Majority of its community consists of freelance fashion designers, videographers, photographers, artist, musicians and etc that of which comprises around 40 % of the community. 30% are start-ups, around 20% are students and the rest are entrepreneurs.


Dream work is Davao’s first community-based  coworking space located at the heart of the City. It was founded in January 2015 situated in Talomo, Davao in Mindanao region of the Philippines.

It provides legitimacy and prestige to businesses as it provides a local phone number; business address and a staff that would receive calls while coworking residents are away thus giving the impression of having a real regular or traditional office.

Dreamwork is a venue of a lot of business events, workshops, boot camps that entice virtual assistance, start-ups, freelance web developers, virtual assistants, artists, game developers and entrepreneurs. It is a community of real creative individuals, freelancers and a good place to study. Due to the events and boot-camps they host, they attract a lot of freelancers mostly virtual assistance which  is the majority profile of the community.  About 65% of its profiles are freelancers, 20 % are start-ups, 8% are entrepreneurs and the rest are students.

Graph Presentation

Increase In number of Coworking Spaces per Year In the Philippines

Graph 1 shows the growth and continuous increase in number of coworking spaces every year all over Philippines since the year 2011 when it first emerged. As shown, the number of spaces that opened a year starting in 2013 doubled which means that coworking in the Philippines has evolved and that the number of coworking community has grown as well. Most of these said opened spaces are located in Manila or Luzon area, the Northern Part of the Philippines where Central Business Districts are located.

Graph 2 shows an idea of the growth of coworking spaces in a specific area namely Manila/Luzon Area, Cebu, Bacolod and Davao. Manila/ Luzon has the most coworking spaces where most of it was opened the year 2014. Cebu, being the second, opened its spaces starting the year 2013 while Davao and Bacolod began at 2015.

Based on data gathered, graph 3 shows the approximate percentage of the majority market profile that most of the coworking communities are composed of.  Among these five coworking profiles, the largest in number are the start-up businesses, which comprise 47% of the entire community. According to, The acceleration of the startup ecosystem in Philippines went into high gear a little over two years ago, and it was launched by a handful of incubators and accelerators comprised of foreigners and Filipinos both local and ones that have been educated and/or have worked abroad. The second largest are the freelancers, which include a lot of creative, talented Filipinos. The next largest are the entrepreneurs followed by students, then the non-profit organizations.

Start- up Businesses

It is best defined as companies/ businesses that are in the first stage of its operations. These companies are often initially bank rolled by their entrepreneurial founders as they attempt to capitalize on developing a product or service for which they believe there is a demand.

Start-ups gets attracted to the idea of coworking as for so many reasons firstly: many coworking spaces provides events and incubation programs that helps them accelerate their businesses and focus on building their product. Secondly, it is very cost effective considering that monthly space rentals of these spaces are a lot cheaper which already includes utilities needed in running the businesses thus saves them operational costs and lets them focus more on building their product, third coworking environment gets them exposed to business connections and gets them involved with creative communities that could be advantageous to their business.


These are individuals that are self-employed and aren’t in contract with any entity. Most of these are virtual assistants, game/graphic/web developers, videographers, photographers, bloggers, writers, musicians and etc.

These individuals get out from the comfort of their homes to get more involved with other creative people in the coworking community. Moreover, coworking entities provides events, seminars, workshops, meet- ups that are very advantageous to the enhancement of their skills and gets them in touch with likeminded people.


These are simply businessmen, business owners that are interested in the idea of getting in touch with the coworking society as it helps them build networking and collaboration with other businessmen and also meet potential business partners.


It’s quite common for Filipino students to study in coffee shops whether alone or in groups especially during examinations week.  Since coworking more likely is like an upgraded version of coffee shops, the idea has started to attract these students and therefore avails day passes that are the most affordable.

Non- profit Organizations

These are small organizations like religious groups; hobby clubs etc. that do meet ups and at times hold events.


Back in the year 2013 According to Matt Morisson, a founder of a co-working space in Manila, coworking business is a nascent market without real metrics; coworking communities backed by a physical space are yet virtually non-existent which means that most does not have real coworking community yet. In most cases ,“Co-working” is used as a label stuck onto traditional office space vendors (serviced offices, seat leasers etc.) in order to promote their space options and maximize profit. Nonetheless, the potential for co-working still is said is quite huge and that indeed came to a point of reality this year. Compared to the coworking spaces last 2014, real communities are starting to evolve and grow this year although there are still quite a number of spaces that are still using the “coworking” label but has a mainstream service and product.

This Research is accomplished by Executive Path Inc Research Fellow :Gera Mae P. Malbas

San Francisco, September 2016

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