Chinese co-working unicorn UrWork to open 2nd Singapore branch in Suntec City

It will be for S.E. Asian and China firms looking to expand into each other's turf


PROMINENT Chinese co-working space operator UrWork is opening a second Singapore location in Suntec City in the first quarter of next year.

The company, backed by Alibaba's Ant Financial and Sequoia Capital among others, launched its first overseas branch in Ayer Rajah Crescent in July.

Its expansion in Singapore is part of the firm's efforts to become a bridge between South-east Asia and China, founder and chief executive Mao Daqing told The Business Times.

Beijing-based UrWork, which has been billed as China's answer to Silicon Valley co-working giant WeWork, has been valued at about US$1.5 billion, making it China's first unicorn.

It has 100 co-working sites in 33 Chinese cities and is the country's largest co-working space operator.

The company plans to expand globally into 35 cities with 160 locations over the next three years.

To stand out in the increasingly crowded co-working market, UrWork positions itself as a provider of key services to start-ups looking for global growth.

It runs a series of acceleration programmes to help start-ups scale, and has also developed a proprietary scheme partnering Chinese government agencies and service suppliers to help foreign start-ups enter the Chinese market.

Urwork's Suntec City location will span 1,300 sq m and take in South-east Asian start-ups looking to expand into China, as well as Chinese firms keen on growing in the region.

In its drive to deepen its presence in South-east Asia, it also invested in Jakarta-based coworking space Rework earlier this year.

The company signed a memorandum of understanding with trade agency IE Singapore and property giant CapitaLand last December, to help Singapore companies break into the China market by offering co-working spaces as well as business advisory services.

Mr Mao said: "South-east Asia has pretty much become a blue-sea market for investors in China, due to a strong supply of high-potential tech startups, big market volume, surging number of freelancers, low operational cost and high rate of digital penetration.

"As a homegrown Chinese company, we know the needs of Chinese entrepreneurs in China and overseas, laying a solid foundation for our fast-scaling and service integration."

Key sectors of interest for UrWork in Singapore and South-east Asia include artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and fintech, he added.