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Startups in the Philippines find new home in co-working spaces

Adrian M. Reodique | Sept. 13, 2017
The notion of workplaces for startups and nomad freelancers has expanded since 2011 when the concept of co-working space was first introduced.

 

Filling in the gap

Even though Penbrothers has been in the co-working industry for only three years, it now owns six offices and has 48 clients this year, up from the three it used to have in 2014.

Pratte said 2014 was the perfect time to venture into the co-working business as the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the Philippines was booming then.

The country's BPO industry in 2014 recorded US$18.4 billion in revenue, which was 18.7 percent higher than the previous year. The growth was driven by the increased demand from the global outsourcing industry, said Danilo Sebastian L. Reyes, former chair of the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) in a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on 19 March 2015.

Despite this, Pratte said majority of the startups are not able to hire large-scale BPOs given their limited resources.  Large-scale BPOs also often require customers to have a headcount of 100 to 500. As such, startups usually just settled with hiring freelancers to support their operations and set up a full-time team later on when the business is stable.

Penbrothers thus hopes to fill in that gap by providing a venue for employees to work together. "We found a niche market with our services...We actually saw and spotted that trend," she said.

More than that, Pratte attributed the company's quick growth to the founders' courage to take a leap of faith in the co-working industry.

"I think [2014] was the perfect timing but taking the risk to set this up and offering it without any sort of knowledge of how would it be in the future was the key [to our current success]. [It also helps that] we have very strong co-founders managing the company until today," she elaborated.

To further adapt to the demands of co-working, Penbrothers is looking to partner other service providers to offer business registration and renewals. They are also onboarding graphic designers that their clients can hire for small projects.

Meanwhile, Pratte said the company has no solid plans yet to extend its office and services to other regions in the Philippines but remains keen should an opportunity knocks.

In future, Pratte hopes the Philippines will become one of leading startup hubs in Asia. Penbrothers, for its part, is considering to offer mentorship and financial support for startups via venture capital. "We don't have a timeline yet but it could be add-on services that we'll [offer] in the next few years," Pratte suggested.  

 

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