As the legal services sector continues to grow in the Asia-Pacific region, opportunities for lawyers to create their own career path by working in NewLaw or in flexible working arrangement with traditional law firms – is also increasing.   An important part of these changes includes opportunities for small firms and solo practitioners to limit costs by utilizing flexible office arrangements.  And while there are some ethical considerations in some jurisdictions which lawyers must keep in mind when seeking alternative office space, the global trend in legal services is moving toward greater use of virtual offices.

FlySpaces in particular has distinguished itself in the Asia-Pacific region as a leading startup provider of flexible working spaces. Indeed, Singapore Business Review calls them “the Airbnb of office space”.  Currently operating in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Cebu and Manila, FlySpaces serves the needs of entrepreneurs, start-ups and mobile professionals — and has plans to add more cities in the future.

In order to learn more about FlySpaces and what they might offer lawyers and legal services sector companies in the region, I interviewed Guillaume Martin, FlySpaces COO.  Here’s a transcript of that interview:

What inspired the founding of Flyspaces?

“Both my partner Mario Berta (FlySpaces CEO) and myself have experienced the difficulties of finding flexible and affordable short term offices.

In Singapore I had a lot of trouble to find a workplace when I set up the local branch of a European management consulting company. Traditional serviced offices were expensive and not flexible enough as we were just setting business with a small team. Having found an office to share in a traditional shophouse, we were missing a proper meeting room and it was difficult and tedious to find a conference room: At that time, the only way was to search on Google and call multiple venues one by one.

Mario has set up regional operations of a startup (Easy Taxi) from Manila (Philippines) and encountered much difficulties in finding flexible, affordable space as well. Typically in the Philippines, long-term lease contracts normally involve a 3-year lock in period, a 3-month down payment and also 3-month advance payment, which can be a substantial drain on cashflow for small businesses and start-ups. Landlords had too much demand, available capacity is/was very low in Manila and requirements too specific.”

Where is FlySpaces currently operating, and are there plans for future expansion in the Asia-Pacific region?

“FlySpaces operates in four cities at present: Singapore, Manila, Cebu and Kuala Lumpur. We’re currently working on building our network in Hong Kong, the most expensive office space city in the region, where flexibility in finding very short-term spaces like meeting/conference/training rooms is limited. FlySpaces aims to open in Hong Kong by August of 2016.

We will follow with openings in other major countries in Southeast Asia, as we have ambition to be a truly regional platform and cover all major economies, including Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. We may also also consider opening in other major economies on the region, such as Taiwan and Australia.”

What services does FlySpace currently offer clients?

“FlySpaces addresses the need for short-term office contracts with flexibility, choice, convenience and transparency.  As a digital marketplace, we empower clients with the provision of  short-term work and meeting space solutions to entrepreneurs, start-ups, SMEs and mobile professionals. Whether the need is for an hour, a day, a week or a few months – FlySpaces has a network of hundreds of spaces to discover across key Southeast Asian cities.

For venue owners, FlySpaces acts as a marketing platform that connects them to a vast user base. We provide the largest inventory of spaces, including all amenities and prices up front to empower our customers to find the perfect fit themselves. We want to disrupt the short term office space sector by aggregating all options and creating an easy to use plug-and-play type platform. The types of spaces we offer includes:  short term offices, co-working desks, meeting/conference rooms, training spaces and corporate event venues.

Our partners are professionals from the corporate real estate industry and also regular businesses that just want to optimize and monetize their spaces. In that sense, we are part of the sharing economy (we are a member of the Sharing Economy Association in Singapore).

We work with corporate service teams as well: because they work on the legal issues of incorporating businesses in Singapore. We help those clients to get a registered address and an actual physical space.”

Where do you see the market for flexible office solutions going in the future?

“We are convinced that the market for office space is now experiencing a major shift toward increasingly more flexible office solutions that will impact all companies, large and small, in all sectors.

Today, most of our clients are SMEs, start-ups and independent workers, but already large companies are shifting toward more flexible work solutions, partly to save costs and also to offer a different experience to their staff.

Studies show that co-working and serviced office spaces currently take up 1-5% of total office stock but could grow to 20-30% by 2030. While office demand growth globally has slowed after the global financial crisis, Southeast Asia has led the trend, with demand growing 20% faster.”

How can clients get in touch with you for more information about FlySpaces?

“Clients can visit our website, FlySpaces.com, and select a specific venue to book online and in some cases pay online directly with their credit card (for a meeting room or other short-stay corporate venue – just like you would book a room on Airbnb).

Clients can also email us at info@flyspaces.com or call us in Singapore at +65 6408 9926, in the Philippines at +63 2 359 3225 or in Malaysia at: +603  2724 7088 or via Skype at: flyspaces.asia.  You can also chat with us through our live chat service on the website and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.”

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal and is the author of A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets. He provides writing, editing, research and strategy services to the corporate and professional services sectors.

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