The combined growth of the millennial workforce and startup industry is nudging out traditional office spaces in favor of co-working spaces in China. In addition to the rise of domestic co-working  companies, the growing market is also attracting international firms to join the increasingly crowded sector.

After sealing a $430 million USD investment to expand into Asia in March, WeWork opened its first space in Shanghai in June. Australia’s largest startup hub, FishBurners, also has plans to enter China with its own coworking space at the end of August. While international co-working companies are setting their eyes on China, more and more local spaces are looking at the industry with a global vision.

Founded in 2015, SimplyWork is a co-working space startup based in Shenzhen, one of China’s largest tech hubs. In June, the company secured a 30 million yuan (about $4.5 million USD) Series A round of funding from IDG Capital Partners, Huazhu Group and Vanke Group.

TechNode sat down with Guo Yifan, the CEO and co-founder of SimplyWork to learn a bit more about local co-working spaces and their path to building an international community.

What’s the biggest difference between coworking spaces in the US and coworking spaces in China?

In my opinion, the biggest difference might be the awareness of the coworking concept. Traditional working and traditional office have been around for so long that are upon the table. While a few Chinese people is familiar with “freelancing”, not to mention the coworking industry. Compared with the mature market in the US, it would definitely take longer time and much more effort to make coworking space become more well-known by the mass.

How can a coworking space remain unique as more competitors move in?

Actually we don’t think of other coworking spaces as our competitors. Instead, we consider all of us to be the pioneers in this brand new industry in China, gradually impressing the concept of “coworking” on people, as we all know this is the mainstream and the trend. There are many factors contributing to a unique community and high occupancy rate: attractive interior design, professional entrepreneurial services, creating friendly atmosphere, and so on.

Do you think there’s a bubble in China’s coworking space and incubator market?

Personally speaking, though coworking spaces, incubators and makerspaces spring up in recent years in China and some of them exist only with a short life circle, I don’t think there is a bubble in the market as this is a normal phenomenon. But entering a new market unwisely and blindly is bound for a failure. We still think highly of the promising future and tremendous potential of China’s coworking space market.

Why did you choose Shenzhen?

For us, Shenzhen is a city full of opportunities and potential. We’re close to one of the most significant global financial center -HK – and we’re known as the city of entrepreneurship in China. Rich and diverse resources are just at our fingertips! I think that’s also why many headquarters and factories of the famous high-tech companies like Tencent, Huawei, TCL are also based in Shenzhen.

Its inclusiveness has made it a welcoming home for people with different background and culture from all over the world. Like the saying in Shenzhen, “when you come to Shenzhen, you’re part of Shenzhen”, which happens to be in accordance with the core of coworking: connection, communication and collaboration.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via or Twitter.

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