Malaysia Southeast Asia

Malacca, Malaysia: Coworking Spaces — By Jennifer Shipp

For the past year, we’ve been feverishly working to build a coliving/coworking space in Guanajuato, Mexico. That’s right. Mexico (NOT Malaysia). And needless to say, the project did not follow a linear course. We finished our small apartment complex at the beginning of October and then Lydian spearheaded the marketing of the Guanajuato apartments as vacation rentals on AirBnB and Expedia. And so far, as of the beginning of December, things are going swimmingly.

We’ve learned all kinds of things about AirBnB and Expedia and we’ve also learned about our property specifically: what people expect and what they don’t really care about. We’ve had a few mishaps and tragedies, but nothing too horrible yet. We’ve even hired a nice couple from Canada who are, as I write this, watching over things for us while we’re away.

But now it’s time for Phase 2.

We need to build our co-working space, but first, we need ideas. And while it might seem logical to go to other Mexican co-working spaces to really rev up our creativity, we decided that Southeast Asian co-working spaces might provide better models. It’s not that we’re planning to emulate Southeast Asian co-working spaces in Mexico (I don’t even think that would be possible), but more that we want to develop our own vision based off of The Ideal in Co-working Spaces. Since Southeast Asia is currently where much of the Digital Nomad action is happening, it made sense to come here and see what’s evolving and in particular, to see the next generation of co-working spaces…the spaces that have been developed after seeing what did and didn’t work with first generation co-working spaces.

Guanajuato, the city, is not a big Digital Nomad hang-out…yet. It’s not a heavy industry city, so it’s not a “start-up” kind of place, but rather the sort of location where the blogging, computer programming, video-production, graphic design, and virtual assistant variety of Digital Nomads would travel to because it’s an interesting and fun place to be. The winding city streets and underground tunnels don’t lend themselves well to the development of huge industry, though Office Depot and Bodega Aurrera (Walmart) have managed to situated themselves within walking distance of our property. It’s the lack of industry that draws most people to Guanajuato and the fact that the city is full of theater, music, and history. It’s not a well-known tourist destination outside of Mexico, but every Mexican tourist dreams of one day traveling to Guanajuato because it’s one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the whole country.

So I know we’re in a good location, but there’s still a lot to learn. And while co-working is not an innovative business anymore, given that there are thousands of co-working spaces all over the world, we’re hoping to do something innovative within the context of co-working. Our goal is to create a space that has a health-focus. We could go pretty “far-out” with this concept, but for now, we’re just trying to determine what’s essential in co-working and what’s disposable. What works. What doesn’t. And we’re trying to avoid making a space that’s pretty, but physically uncomfortable (like a lot of co-working spaces).

There’s a co-working space in Guanajuato already that’s called Tercer Piso. John, Lydian, and I have all been there and used the space, but it isn’t really designed for people who work online all the time because the seating and tables are made of old pallets and OSB (fiberboard). It’s not exactly an ergonomic environment but it is a good place for students from the University to study or hang-out. We’ve had meetings with Spanish language instructors there a few times, but sometimes the place doesn’t open on schedule. Often, people will talk loudly over Skype, which makes whole rooms uninhabitable to me because I have to have silence (or wordless music) in order to write. And there’s no climate control in the whole facility and the hot water for tea isn’t always very hot.

So, in developing our co-working space, Devela, we’ve had a lot of ideas, but we don’t see Tercer Piso as competition. Some of our ideas are kind of far out, but we’re honing in on something that’s a little more realistic day-by-day. On this trip to Southeast Asia, we’re visiting co-working spaces to see what’s going on here in this Digital Nomad haven. Malaysia seems to be on the next horizon for Digital Nomads so it seemed to be a good spot to visit and see the what the next generation of co-working spaces would have to offer.

Today, we visited two co-working spaces in Malacca (also known as Melaka), a historical city along the west coast of Malaysia, just south of Kuala Lumpur :

UTOPIA COWORKING SPACE

THE GRIND SHACK

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