With such a large number of working expatriates as well as regular visitors who are also still very much in the workforce either in or coming into Ho Chi Minh City, it’s no real surprise that so-called co-working spaces have sprung up.
While the coffee shop workspace we wrote about in a recent article covered the amazing number of good quality cafes where many people gather daily to either work independently or with others, co-working spaces are an altogether different kind of ‘animal’. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s a little hard to specifically define just what a co-working space really is.
Co-working, at least in the modern sense, apparently was a term coined around 2005 and means a situation in which two or more people are working in the same place together, but not necessarily for the same company.
A co-working space is generally defined as an organization or business dedicated to implementing the co-working concept.
In a rapidly growing environment like HCMC, co-working spaces offer startups and established small to medium enterprises (SMEs) the opportunity to run market research in what might be termed a ‘soft landing’ base.
By ‘soft landing’ I mean a space where a business can set up without having to bear the full costs of literally finding suitable office rental space which then needs to be leased for a minimum period of time and then fitted out with all the expected accoutrements associated with running a front-office business.
Naturally, all of that can come later, if needed. The huge advantage of setting up as either a freelancer, or contract employee, or employee of a new or expanding business in a co-working space is not just the overall financial convenience for you or the company, it also allows a certain level of interaction with others who happen to have their ‘boots on the ground’ in a place like HCMC. The shared intelligence of those who have been in place for a little time already can prove invaluable later on when the company is looking to become more mainstream in the shopfront sense of the business.
The budgetary advantages can be very worthwhile, especially for a small overseas-based company looking to expand into the Vietnamese marketplace. Most expenses associated with running the business from a co-working space will be tax deductible at the home country end, and the head office should soon be in a position to understand whether they will need to expand further in a place like HCMC.
As might be expected, there aren’t a lot of local business people who have established dedicated co-working spaces in HCMC as yet. Given that the entire concept in its modern form is really only a decade old, this shouldn’t really be a surprise.
Nonetheless, those that are operational have generally been given a pretty good review by those who have, and are, using them as their main work stations in the city.
Location: 267/2 Dien Bien Phu Street.
Times: Monday to Friday 9:00am to 9:00pm; Saturday & Sunday 9:00am to 7:00pm
Work Saigon is considered by many to be one of the more attractive co-working spaces in HCMC. It is generally quiet, has a swimming pool (although most people find working in a swimming pool a bit on the difficult side, so it’s the kind of distraction used for exercise to clear the foggy mind) and, just like the cafes, serves good coffee and food as well.
You can take out a membership, which will give you a locker as well as a discount on food and drink, a reserved seat in the co-working area and free use of their large open studio room for creative work.
Anyone is free to drop in and check out the facilities; just be sure you at least take the time to have a coffee or two or maybe something to eat. Who knows, it may become the kind of place where you do a little work while taking your daily caffeine fix.
Location: 101 Cu Lao Street.
Times: Seven days a week/24 hours a day
Rated by many as the second-best co-working space in HCMC. As with anywhere, the ratings mean nothing in reality. What one person considers the best, may not even be on someone else’s radar.
There’s self-serve coffee and/or tea, and a kitchen as well as a rooftop garden with great view over the cityscape. It’s a relatively quiet neighbourhood and while there is no on-site swimming pool, there’s a sports centre just down the road for those who need to get away and exercise the body after exercising the mind.
The operators can help with forming a company, finding the right local staff and sort out accounts and payrolls and the like.
Location: 18bls/14 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street
Times: Seven days a week/24 hours a day
This is a startup space designed primarily for technology entrepreneurs and design professionals. As with Saigon Coworking, it operates every day of the week and members can come in at any time of the day or night. Naturally, those working at night or into the early mornings tend to be either people with serious insomnia, or, more likely, timing their activities to their home countries (usually the United States and Canada, or the nations of Western Europe) where they may need to be in contact with people working in their respective home offices.
There is free parking, locker space and free drinks available as well as basic scanning and printing services.
The co-working scene in HCMC is vibrant enough, although one suspects the real profits come by way of offering those little extras that expats and regular visitors in particular generally like: good coffee or tea, good snack food, and/or a place to relax and escape the bustle of the city.