Not just a co-working space, but a think hub for talents – H.K. Garage Society Elaine Tsung

香港的產業一向被認為是以金融與法律為主,然而近幾年創業圈也開始在這個城市蓬勃發展。我們這次邀請到香港共創空間 Garage Society 的共同創辦人Elaine-原本在香港企業工作的她,在了解自身特質後決定轉換跑道,成為一位全職的創業家,目標是透過 Garage Society 為香港的創業圈提供更多人才。那麼,香港的工作環境為何?若想到香港工作,又該如何在各方面做好準備?躍躍欲試的你,來聽聽 Elaine 所觀察的香港職場文化。

哈囉!各位 CAREhER 的讀者大家好,通常大家想到香港的時候,想到的產業都是金融、法律,但是其實現在香港不管是創業圈或是科技圈,也越來越蓬勃發展。今天我們邀請到的是 Elaine ,她從本來在企業裡面,到現在成為香港中環一個共創空間的創辦人。讓我們歡迎 Elaine。
Hi, Elaine.
因為 Elaine 的普通話比較不好,所以我們今天就跟 Elaine 用英文來聊聊。

So, Elaine, can you tell us about Garage Society and what is your job like and your vision of Garage Society?

Well, Garage Society was founded in April last year. When we first started, we were going to build one of the better co-working spaces in Hong Kong. We stand for about 10 thousands square feet and the core business district in Hong Kong in central. Business has been pretty okay, but last year actually we just opened the second operation, still in central, further near Shenwen, actually in May this year. For the fact we open co-working spaces, we get to meet a lot of companies who are starting out in Hong Kong. They are actually having headquarters be it in Europe or United States, and they are comming here to build an Asian hub. So facing all these clients, apart from the fact that we are happy to be providing the space for them to work in. We realize that there’re a lot of other opportunities, i.e. a lot of other demands requirement from the clients that we can actually have to entity to help them grow, and at the same time increase stickiness to Garage Society.
So apart from the co-working spaces business we’re talking about, actually we have also launched three other services platforms.
The first one we have done is called Pilot Program. Pilot is our any-phase-acceleration investment programs, under Pilot Program what we do is we help companies who needs investment on mentorship to be able to actually grow. So it’s like training a pilot so that they can actually charter their own flight. So Pilot is more like our acceleration program. We see a lot of people they’re trying to grow their businesses, so apart from investment and mentoring, realizing that a lot of entrepreneurs. To be honest, including myself, we always need to give ourselves more updated information about what the world is going on. there’s a lot of demands for knowledge. So in view of these needs, we have created the platform called Garage Academy, which we call it our Knowledge Exchange Platform. We hold a lot of classes, events, networking events, social events, so members of Garage Society can actually learn a bit more, keep updated of what’s happening, and so to make new connections.
The last service we launched is actually more what are call our cooperate social responsibility platform is called Cadet Program. Cadet is our university youth training program, and we just launched our first summer internship program three weeks ago, we have picked about twelve university students in Hong Kong, placed them in Garage Society within about six companies. Through this internship program we hope our interns can get a bit more exposure about this alternative or newer career option that they can explore when they finish school. So Cadet is a nurturing platform in which we hope we can help create a larger talent pool for the Hong Kong start-ups in the near future.
Wow, first of all, those are all great locations in Hong Kong, and then that sounds like a lot of things are going on there. So how big is your team right now?
We have a team of 8 people. So including myself we have 8 staff on the ground, client drive-in initiative, an basically taking care every thing that our business needs.
So it sounds like not just the hardware, the facility you are providing, it’s also really about the people, the spirit and connecting the resources for them.
Exactly. Actually that’s why we’re not calling Garage Society a co-working space. We call ourselves a community of entrepreneurs. So people of course can come and work here, but even if they’re not working here, they can always come and join us on say the Garage Academy training workshops. As a university student you can come join us and become an intern in our Cadet Program, or companies who need help in terms of investment and mentoring you can also join us in our Pilot Program.

CAREhER talks a lot about the future trend of the work space. Do you see co-working space like Garage Society, do you see that as a future trend that more and more smaller teams or smaller companies would rather be, placed themselves at a community that has so much resources and talents?

Well, honestly, yes if you ask me.
I’ve seen report saying that by 2025, around about 60% of the workforce would become mobile. So, I think its more to do is how like this insight informing. Nowadays, like companies are some people seem to distraction from new-tech companies, and so eventually the trend of having people who do not need to go back to offices will become more and more prominent. Looking at like the members we have in Garage Society, a lot them actually they don’t work for local company, they might work for company who is based in State or Europe. But what they need to do on the daily bases doesn’t require them to go back to the office, so as soon as we got a really good internet connection, they can get the work done. So a lot of people are taking advantage of like a changing needs to travel around the world, and the trend is going to go on and start become more prominent. So within that case, operation or work spaces like co-working space will become more and more in demand. You did mention that actually in the states, the fact that co-working spaces are around, people also find it really beneficial as far as creativity goes, connection goes, for people to join the community of like-minded people. So yes more smaller company are working in co-working spaces, and we’ll see more of these smaller companies or mobile work trying the co-working spaces facilities. But the same time for the fact that we have, a large pool of interesting creative people working within the co-working spaces. We actually see a lot of companies sending their staff to go to co-working spaces, so they get actually inspired there, and hopefully become more creative, beneficial and more productivity as well.
It gets lonely when you work by yourself. So it’s always nice to have different people around, just to have more stimulation.
Exactly, I think when you come into the office, if you are a freelance worker, you might welcome a genuine “good morning” in the morning, and at the same time you actually see the fact that a lot of people are working really hard around you. Actually you’ll become like more productive if you ask me. When I was building Garage Society for myself, I worked home every now and then and I don’t have to go out meeting, but I feel like my productivity. To be honest, is not as good as I’m actually back in the office. I felt I’m distracted. It’s quite easy for people to get distracted from the whole world, but when you come back to the office, when everybody is working so hard, the energy the vibe, actually makes you want to work even harder, so it’s very positive as hard as the places goes.

You were in Business Development for lots of MNC and other media companies. So what made you make this transition to become a full time entrepreneur, and wearing so many hats and managing a team of 8, was it planned? or it was anything interesting within?

I think it’s not exactly planned. But then, you know, life you can’t plan too much, that’s what I keep saying. But at the same time, I do feel like deep down there is entrepreneurial spirit or like there’s entrepreneuring trait. And the one of the most common trait I have which makes me a better entrepreneur than a corporate worker is affected that I’m a bit non-conformist. When working in companies, a lots of times my ex-bosses, they need to actually tell me to stop asking why, and I’m always curious about stop agree, and I need to see why and how we can do. I think these kind of traits which make me a better entrepreneur and like under certain circumstances and a part of the effects that make me better. I think it just makes me happier. Because, you know, I’m working on a business. It’s just like I get to do things my way, but it’s more like I get to understand a bit more, to see it things make sense, and you will do it that way. But if you are in a company, of course there are a lots of policies and a lots of procedures in place. So, a lot of times when you start asking why or how can we do better, efficient, it is likely that those questions are not answered. So I think it’s just that hard for me which makes me want to become an entrepreneur, and to do it better.

Since we’re talking about entrepreneurship, Hong Kong has long been known for other sectors, such as finance and law. But it sounds like that tech start-up circle is kind of upcoming now. So, can you give us a little, take a through the scene right now. Because people will be really interested to see the opportunities in Hong Kong, too.

Sure, I’ve been working in startup in Hong Kong for about 5 years. When I first started, the scene is much less mature honestly, so in the past, we see the government started to do a lot and of course, local start-ups, companies and entrepreneurs, they all working very hard. So, within the phase we are so ready to bring us to the next that level. And frankly it’s the reason why we take the big leap and build co-working space in Central which is one of the most expensive commercial rate in Hong Kong or even in other area. So, for the fact that, I will say it is working okay, I believe it’s a short sign that start-up scene in Hong Kong is picking up a lot, and we still see a lot of opportunities for people. We heard a lot of success stories, including companies at Garage society they manage to raise really good, like series A or angel round and businesses is picking up. A lot of activities going on and there’s a lot of foreign companies in the States or New York, they come to set up offices in Hong Kong for business development purpose or to become an Asian hub. So, that’s actually we see so much more activities in the past year than I’ve seen to be honest in the last maybe 2-3 years.

Okay. It sounds like the entire ecosystem is ready for this industry , from the government to the money side to the talents, the team, the entire spirit of it. Is it a mature industry that is ready to welcome foreign talents actually?

I think yes, definitely. It’s more to do with the fact that Hong Kong no matter which industry we welcome foreigner talents. Hong Kong is a very international city. We are always welcome people to come join us. and you have to keep it in the tech scene to be honest. There’s a lot of more mature tech capitals in the world in particular in the Paris, London, Berlin, so we definitely want people to come work in Hong Kong. There would be more than welcome to share knowledge to come help actually speed ahead some projects. So there would be a lot of opportunities, I think not only for locals, but also for anyone who want to come join the tech or the entrepreneurial scene in Hong Kong. Actually the government is also looking at like making immigration policy for talents who want to join industry easier. So, from the private side as like, entrepreneurs like myself or even from the government perspective, we are very very open to having people to join us from wherever the world to add value to our scene.

It sounds very promising. So, what is the last piece of advice that you would give talents who are interested in working in the start-up scene in Hong Kong? How should one prepare themselves, like language, cultural or anything specific?

I think language wise is not going to be the major difficulty. For most of the people, you speak English, you can pretty much survived in Hong Kong. Of course, if you can speak other Asian languages in particular Mandarin or Cantonese, I think Mandarin is more important nowadays, that would be beneficial. I think more important is the mentality. Hong Kong, to be honest, is a small city. But we have quite a lot offer. So, for anyone who wants to come explore opportunities to join the workforce, be very open-minded and try to explore a little bit more. Work in Hong Kong sometimes can get a bit stressful. Because for some interesting reason, people seem to think that Hong Kongers is actually work quite hard. (laugh)
Is it not true? (laugh)
Honestly, it’s quite true. We actually pretty used to like all the long hours and we quite used to do a bit work during the weekends. So, in turns of work culture, that might be something I think people need to be aware before they come join the scene in Hong Kong. Otherwise, you might come and think you can work maybe 6 hours a day and get weekends off. That’s not quite what we can offer in Hong Kong, especially in the tech start-up scene. If you actually startup a company, we work even harder than like the older businesses have. But for the fact that people work in the old industries work so hard. So, a good chance that people joining the tech of start-ups industries will even need to work extra hard.
Okay. Thank you so much, Elaine, for sharing with us what’s going on in Hong Kong, sharing not just a co-working space, it’s actually an incubator, a community – garage society.
如果你發現你自己心中跟 Elaine 一樣很愛問問題,有創業家的精神的話,並且對香港有很多的嚮往,或許你可以考慮到香港的新創公司、科技產業工作。因為如 Elaine 所說,現在那邊有越來越多的機會,而且妳可以完成很多很不一樣的事情。
那我們再一次謝謝 Elaine。