As comfy as working from home.
Other than the sleek furniture and posh lighting, it was almost like being back in college, living with a bunch of friends in a dorm and being awake at odd hours. There is that distinct familiar vibe of shared interests and similar goals.
But this is an upscale condo unit in Petaling Jaya, and it’s a co-working space called Catalyst KL.
It was set up six months ago, essentially as a way for a few friends to share living and working space. But soon enough, it became a co-working space for tenants with similar interests – in this case, the IT sector – to work and interact, and even to live.
The IT sector, as it is often said, is one which works best when people work together, yet alone. It thrives in a similar-minded community who can bounce ideas off each other.
“My business partner also runs an IT start-up, and wanted to help provide value to the community,” said co-founder Lionel Goh (pic).
For him, the idea sparked because he didn’t have a space to work from when he moved here from Malacca a year and a half ago. He is an insurance agent. He worked in cafés but found them noisy and expensive.
He found that his friends had the same problems with high office rentals.
While there are many ‘virtual offices’ which allow people to rent small spaces and share facilities, these were too staid, and expensive, for young start-ups.
Hence, a bunch of co-working spaces have now also popped up in Kuala Lumpur. These lean towards the unconventional with quirkier furnishings, and are much less plush or private than conventional offices.
Catalyst KL is the probably the only one with accommodation thrown in.
This, Goh said, is because many people in the IT industry tend to work odd hours. Office spaces with regular hours don’t always work well for them.
“Most co-working spaces would close at 8pm or 9pm but programmers tend to work odd hours,” he said.
“This space is also intended for people to share ideas, meet other people and interact, not just to work.”
The first tenants were the founders of Mobius, an app creator, and later, a digital marketing company Websirs joined them.
In all, there are eight tenants, and it’s a full house, for now. They each pay RM800 to RM1,000 a month for a shared bedroom, working space, and utilities. The space comes with a small kitchen and entertainment area.
Parties are not encouraged, and tenants have to give advance notice to bring in visitors, as the space houses a lot of expensive IT equipment.
This arrangement suits the tenants, as they are all aged 25 to 28, single, and professionally driven.
But it’s not for everyone, of course. While it’s like working from home, in some ways, it is also like sleeping in the office. The 2,300 sq ft space is somewhat cramped.
Goh said the experiment has been good, so far, with the daily interactions having spawned some collaborations and brought in new clients.
“As for me, I have learnt a lot about the IT field even though I’m not in this area,” he said.
He said they are now considering moving to a bigger space like a bungalow that will offer more space and scope, and can take in more tenants.
That such co-working spaces exist in Malaysia, tells of the advent of a digital generation who tend to be unconventional, and seek different paths.
“I meet a lot of people in my work, and I notice that many young people don’t want to work for other people. They like to work for themselves, create start-ups, and work from home,” Goh said.
They tend to be mobile, adaptable and experimental. A bit like Catalyst KL itself, perhaps.
Working from home, or sleeping in the office?