Coworking in Vietnam

James Johnson Innovation

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How we work is undergoing transformative change. Rapid technological advances and increased connectivity have enabled businesses to shrink their physical footprints while satisfying their employees’ wanderlust through the prospect of remote work. More and more, people are “working from anywhere” which has seen the rise of coworking spaces globally. Such spaces usually provide the amenities you may find in a typical office. In addition to the requisites of fast internet and a place to sit, you may also find copiers, kitchens, meeting rooms and most importantly, a gathering of individuals with diverse perspectives and experience. It’s no surprise that the latter qualities are also attracting startups and freelancers across the globe. The ability to build ideas for new business and products in exotic locations with low overhead also attracts visionary entrepreneurs, like Martial Ganiere.

Start Coworking Space

Individuals hard at work in the Start Coworking Space.

In an effort to help fight the stereotype that IT work in his native Switzerland is expensive by default Martial joined The Start Network, Vietnam’s first coworking space, and moved some of his IT development company Platform5 to the coworking space’s central Ho Chi Minh City location. The thought was that the coworking space would provide him access to a fresh talent pool, eager to learn and work from an alternative location. “When we first started, we saw a lot of transient workers, digital nomads, and expats in the coworking space,” Martial shared, “but that’s now changed where we see mostly young Vietnamese hoping to get plugged into the world of IT development.” As Martial grew Platform5, his role at the coworking space also became more prominent. In 2014, Martial was asked to head the Start Coworking Space, the location’s new name, and he helped foster the continued development of a diverse community.

Platform5 Workspace

The chalk wall in one of Start’s rooms rooms serves as a concept drafting table for Platform5.

And there is no shortage of diversity in the Start community. There’s a startup from Singapore working on a productivity app for the food and beverage industry that calls the coworking space home. There is also the steady influx of digital nomads that come in to use the facilities for as little as 100,000 VND (just under $4.50 US) a day. And there is the resident Platform5 IT team calling Start home. The groups interact through Start’s monthly barbecues, weekly international meal days served from the coworking space’s kitchen, and the opportunity to take a refreshing dip in the pool. Hosting such diverse teams and individuals can lead to intersecting ideas and new ways of thinking when the community comes together. Ideas and challenges are shared, solutions arise, and networks are formed. This is how coworking spaces can be hubs for newfound innovation.

Start Coworking Pool

The pool at Start Coworking Space is one of several locations where members congregate.

While we wait to see the innovations of tomorrow unfold at Start Coworking Space, Martial is also helping to better equip members of the community to take new, bold ideas and turn them into reality. Martial recalled, “We noticed the young Vietnamese joining the Platform5 team were eager to learn and had great technical skill, but were still needing the soft skills of leadership, teamwork and product realization.” This is the next bold step for Martial’s team and the direction he hopes to go by building skilled, capable teams from the diverse community he hosts. Through Platform5, Martial provides hands-on experience in the world of product development while growing the skills of critical thinking, self-learning, working as a team, and problem resolution.

Platform5 Team at work

Martial’s Platform5 team is one of the fully resident teams at the Start Coworking Space.

What kinds of products is the Platform5 team working on? Everything from an app that enables easy price comparison for travel throughout southeast Asia to a software solution that allows engineers to constantly monitor progress of large-scale construction projects. You can get an idea of some of these products in their portfolio. In the future, he also hopes to inspire continued development in the arena of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) by including hardware development. All this will soon require a move to a bigger facility and still with the desire to maintain community.

Start workspace

The Start Coworking Space hosts multiple areas where one can work in smaller teams or individually.

Coworking spaces like Start may very well serve as the innovation communities of the future by growing ideas from concept to reality. Over 40% of the world’s population is online and it is expected that half of the world will be online by 2019. These statistics hint at an increasingly connected world that is primed to spawn a flurry of new ideas, businesses, and innovations through intersecting thought. With proper training and nurturing, like what Martial Ganiere is cultivating with his Platform5 team, new entrepreneurs and creatives will be equipped to bring these innovations before the world. In a way, the close community of diverse thought that we witnessed at Start Coworking Space represents what is unfolding at an unprecedented rate on a global scale. Coworking spaces are not only transforming how we work, they are transforming the way the world innovates.

About the Author

James Johnson


James is an innovation storyteller and photographer for Simple Discoveries. He's previously served in NASA’s Mission Control for 18 Space Shuttle missions and is passionate about cultivating innovation through personal exploration and discovery.

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