The first co-working space in Shanghai now has more than 20 spaces around China and is focusing on segmentation to meet its member’s specialized needs. People Squared are planning to launch co-working spaces for musicians, food startups, and content creators.

Last week, we looked at seven co-working spaces in Shanghai, mostly born in 2015 along with the boom of co-working spaces in China. With its first space in 2010, People Squared became home for Shanghai’s startup accelerator Chinaccelerator and maker space Xinchejian (新车间). While other co-working spaces are busy building their next spot in notoriously high-priced Shanghai, People Squared is moving towards vertical segmentation in music, content, and food.

In Beijing, People Squared M (M for music and movie) will be created in a joint effort with Baidu Yinyue and Taihe Music Group, China’s largest music group. The space dedicated for musicians will have a live house and recording room, and the equipment that they require. This is only the start of what People Squared has in mind for their future expansion.

“As we created space for entrepreneurs, startups, we started to see a lot of talent. Co-working and music have a good harmony together, so we thought, why don’t we provide a dedicated co-working space for them?” founder of People Squared, Bob Zheng told TechNode.“Co-working for freelancers is very important. Rather than a place where it’s for everybody, we are trying to create a ‘home for creative people’ where they can focus on their work and help the community.”

Now the project unit is getting smaller and smaller. First, we had companies, then startups, and now we have freelancers. The number of freelancers in China compared to U.S. is very small, and Bob wants to bring those people into one space to create synergy.

“This time when I visited San Francisco, I went to a co-working space full of best writers with a cafe full of creative ideas and conversation. That space is lacking in China,” Bob says. “After 10 p.m. is the time creative people like to work, but most co-working space close at 10 p.m.”

bob zheng
Founder of People Squared, Bob Zheng (Image courtesy of People Squared)

Bob says the new co-working space opening in Shanghai will be dedicated to content people and will open till late hours. He said that there will be another co-working space for food startups, full of content creators around food.

Before co-working was a thing

Bob Zheng came back to Shanghai from Canada in 2008. They were working on a startup Liuxueok in a space where Bob designed for the team.

“We sold the company, and the space served for no purpose. So I invited people to come over and suggest how we can use this space. We had a ton of ideas: cafe, a sushi bar, and so on. Then I met one of companies looking for a space to move in, so I let the companies come over,” Bob says. “Not too long, with word of mouth, we started to have more startups there. At that time, the companies renting the space paid the rent as they liked to.”

Then in 2012, the company received investment from Groupon, and they needed to leave the space to find a bigger office. Bob pondered if he should continue. Then luckily he found an old factory space on Yanpinglu not in use. He renovated the space, and the team moved in. The second People Squared is where business really grew. The space grew organically, and with the money that earned from the previous space, People Squared expanded throughout Shanghai.e

“When we started this, people didn’t understand the concept. It’s about educating the market at first, then it spreads out with the word of mouth,” Bob says. “Now there are a lot of players in the market, but the newcomers lack the community. For example, here in People Square, whenever there is an idea to start a company, the team can go to Chinaccelerator, which sits right next to them.”

Eva Yoo is Shanghai-based tech writer. Reach her at