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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

When to move office?

To carry on the story below. We grew from the 21 staff to current to close to 100. And we stayed at the science park place for 5 years before moving to the current IBP place that is about 4700 sqft. My thinking has not changed much on this. I feel rental in Singapore is so expensive. As startups we definitely want to watch our costs. So we have always only added office space when we are exploding from the current place. And we totally believe in just adding extra office units next door or next floor. That way we keep rental costs to under 2% of revenue at all times which makes sense for a company like mine.

I hate visiting firms that have huge office space. It just feels so wasteful to me. The current saga about Blk 71 really shows how startups in SG now have a much better deal. Even in golden mile i was paying about $2 psf. Now it is double that. I heard that in Blk 71, people are paying $1+!!! This is a fantastically good deal for startups who are occupying that space. It is a clear cut case of government money subsidizing the industry. No wonder MDA is considering to move tenants around. It cannot be subsidizing the same companies for such an extended period. Some food for thought for those of us who cannot understand why MDA wants to move long staying tenants out of Blk 71. In this context, i think it makes sense right?


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(Article posted at sgentrepreneur Oct 2006)

Once you have stablized the first phase of your startup, you will need to look for a proper office. Our resident contributor, Der Shing draws his experience about moving the company office from place to place and shares his thoughts about the value of matching office environment to company growth. When I started out, two of us worked out of my room. I felt no compulsion to wake up on time and probably worked about 4 hours a day. Fortunately, this phase lasted only 6 months and I knew we had to go to a proper office. So home office is not something that works for me.

Next office was in Golden Mile Complex. For those in the know, this is one of the crappiest place with red light district downstairs and regular robberies and murders. We lasted 1 year there and increased from 2-man show to 6-man show. But secretly, we were amazed whenever a new person joined us as we cannot conceive why a young degree/dip grad would want to join us. Maybe we were very persuasive :) Anyway, during this phase of startup, we had DIY PCs and hand-me-down furnishing too. Personally, I was extremely motivated and the less-than-ideal surroundings made me feel even more determined to crawl out of it. However for staff, it was a tough place to be. No one likes to say they work in an old buiiding with prostitutes downstairs.

Next office was at phase z.ro tech park, a bright yellow colour container place. We thought it was heaven. We stayed 5 years and it saw us grow from 6-man team to 18-man team, taking more office space as we grew. Still a very scrappy environment. Miles ahead of golden mile but still not a proper office in most sense of the word. Clients and interviewees would joke that we work in containers, so we took to saying it first. My people were happier here though none were from the golden mile days. Personally, i still felt very “startup” and the lack of facilities and leaky roof and floor made us feel more determined to do well. Last month, we moved to Science park. We now have 21 staff and intend to grow past 40 staff here. Finally a normal office with recept area. And guess what, I noticed that my colleagues seem happier here and it is more professional feeling. So a nicer office does make a difference! But for me, I feel as though more things are expected of us now. The scrappy feeling is diminished and we now actually have our own meeting room and storage rooms. Feeling more corporate and more part of the scene.

 Next step? If we grow past our 40 staff and hence $5M mark, then I think a even larger office is in order. What next? A city office with a view? What will we be doing then? Probably more HR, Strategy, Finance stuff. No more feeling like an underdog. I wonder…

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