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Co-Working Has Changed So Much. These Are Your Options for 2020.

Thirteen companies that will rent you a slice of corporate life, a design fantasy or just a straight-up tech station.
By - Photos: SmSh Photographers Apr 22, 2020 Business
Co-working at its core is adding a middleman to renting an office. But the co-working dream is so much more. Small companies, entrepreneurs and freelancers join for socializing, networking, and business development opportunities with the option to increase office capacity easily. But is the once disruptive concept viable as a self-sufficient business? Or has the fad burned too brightly and proven incompatible with mundane longevity?

Since we last wrote about co-working in 2018, a few brands have gotten rid of single-person desks and shifted their focus to business office space only, acting more as property managers. Notably Base axed their co-working arm BaseCo., and now only rent office spaces with a minimum two-year contract. Others have gone a bit AWOL by cutting their front desk phone number and couldn’t be reached for this roundup. Hope you are doing okay out there!

These are the places still making the dream work.

Keep in mind that many of these companies' websites are out-of-date and no longer reflect current prices. We've called all of them to confirm that the prices below are accurate as of April 2020.

HANDSOME, PRETTY


Paper




Paper is a home-grown co-working space with one location on Huaihai Zhong Lu. They are focused on the creative industries. They offer, according to them, a "Social house and private offices for the modern thinker." It's also "the new communal work oasis and curated exhibition space". They have a few private hotel rooms for "clients and friends". As founder Jacopo Stecchini told an inflight mag a few years ago: “Everyone’s going mass with pool tables and freebies. We wanted to do something elegant, more niche. If they’re like Ikea, we’re a high-end brand."

What’s It Cost: Individual fixed desks are around 3,300rmb/month, while a four-person office costs 10,600rmb for six to eight sqm.

What’s It Like: The clientele is international and English is widely spoken. Paper caters toward the creative industries such as advertising and interior design. Paper normally host one to two events every month; they are not free. 24/7 access. Highly designed and Shanghai chic, Paper’s interior design was featured in Elle Décor China. Past clients have included a full-time fashion blogger with three assistants and an Italian luxury paper product firm.

What You Get: A membership will get you four hours of free meeting room time. They have coffee and tea, along with printing.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

SOHO 3Q





SOHO is a major China real estate developer, famous for working with starchitects like Kengo Kuma and the late Zaha Hadid. They got into co-working about five years ago and quickly pledged they would become the largest co-working provider in China, with 500,000 desks. That didn't work out. They sold off 11 properties last year. Still, nice offices. The one on the Bund was designed by AIM, the Shanghai design firm that's also done naked Stables and many more.

What’s It Cost: Individual fixed desks go for 2,500rmb/month with a minimum lease of one year. Soho is primarily focused on office rentals to companies. Individual desks are now only available at their Xintiandi location.

What’s It Like: Any events are held by existing tenants, not organized by Soho.

What You Get: Meeting rooms can be rented for 200rmb/hr by tenants and non-tenants alike.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

WeWork





The American company that normalized co-working has a whopping 45 locations in Shanghai with two more in the works. In 2018 they bought out Shanghainese rival naked Hub. Though the international company’s ongoing funding saga (cancelled IPO, Softbank backout) adds uncertainty to the future, the locations in Shanghai remain top of the line options. The Weihai Lu location, designed by Linehouse, gets a lot of design attention for being so design-y.

What’s It Cost:
Pricing for one fixed desk ranges from 2,500 to 3,750rmb/month depending on the location. WeLabs, the company’s dedicated entrepreneur support program, is located at three locations at Xinjiang Lu, Nanjing Xi Lu, and China Overseas International Center.

What’s It Like: Clientele and staff are bilingual in Mandarin and English, with a strong haigui (海龟, returned international student) presence. Their regular programming has five events a week from yoga to lectures. Nice furnishings, Silicon Valley startup feel.

What You Get: Free beer, coffee and tea. Membership will get you monthly credits which you can use to visit the common areas of other locations or rent meeting rooms. There are also showers, the space is dog-friendly and they have dedicated bike storage so you don't have to park on the street.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

Wukang 400





The neighborhood co-working space was started two years ago by interior design company Neispace and tech company Smallchina.

What’s It Cost: A hot desk costs 1,800rmb, while a dedicated desk costs 2,500rmb.

What’s It Like: The small space on Wukang Lu has two large wooden tables that sit a total of 12 people. The current main tenants are in the architecture and interior design fields. The small community is English-speaking.

What You Get: A shower, garden, meeting and lounge room. The meeting room is free.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

TECHY, STARTUP-Y


People Squared (P2, 联合创业办公社)





P2 started in 2008 and has 11 locations in Shanghai. They have recently done a real estate shuffle. An old location on Yongjia Lu closed while three new locations opened, all in the past month.

What’s It Cost: P2, like many others, are getting rid of their single-space rentals. Currently they only have ten such spaces, at 1,980rmb/month. All rentals for one person or a team have a minimum one-year contract.

What’s It Like: They notably partner with Google for Entreprenuers and house Chinaccelerator at their Yuyuan Lu location. There is a lived-in, bootstrap startup feel that lends a credibility to the longevity of its tenants. It’s a well-worn space that has seen a lot of upstart action.

What You Get: They have gotten rid of their public phone number. We had to physically visit and hunt down a receptionist’s private number written on a chalkboard.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

XNode





The Shanghai-founded XNode started out as a co-working space but has since added on a business incubator targeting foreign companies wanting to enter the China market, as well as corporate innovation services. They have spaces in Jing’an and Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park plus a few international offices.

What’s It Cost: One-person fixed desks start at 1,200rmb/month with a minimum contract of three months, and offices start from 12,500/month for five people. They also offer hot desks.

What’s It Like: XNode is selective about who joins their co-working space. Prospective users need to schedule an in-person visit. They house Le Wagon coding bootcamp, while their Zhangjiang location attracts deep tech startups.

They regularly host two to three events per week including demo pitch days and networking events. Co-working clients get preferential access to the events.

English language ability is okay but service workers were impatient. When we called, we got transferred to three different people and got hung up on three times.

What You Get: They provide postal service, lockers and a kitchen.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

THE CORPORATE FEEL


Atlaspace (寰图办公空间)





Atlas started in summer 2017 and in less than a year got investment from Goldman Sachs valuing the company at just under a billion US dollars. Things like that happen when the company is founded by the son of a major Chinese property developer (in this case, Agile). They now have seven locations in Shanghai.

What’s It Cost: An individual fixed desk costs 3,588/month; a yearlong contract is 12,000rmb. Hot desks are also available. Membership is tied to one location. You can also purchase a virtual office that includes a business address, call handling and administration services.

What’s It Like: Fancy power office co-working. Atlas has a good number of individual fixed and hot desk members — around 100 at their Agile International Plaza location. The staff speak Mandarin and English, with a mix of international and Chinese renters. Atlas had very friendly, calm phone service when we called. They host two to three happy hours a month for mingling and networking.

What You Get: Meeting rooms cost money, with the smallest six-person room costing 450rmb/hr at their Agile location and discounts for longer times. But the drinks are free.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

Distrii





Founded in 2016 by a former executive from property developer Greenland, the Shanghai-based company has offices across China and in Singapore. "The ‘ii’ in Distrii represents two shoulder-to-shoulder companions." Yes. Ok. You can see the full list of Shanghai office locations and prices on the Distrii website.

What’s It Cost: Open desks are priced per person starting around 1,200rmb in Minhang to 2,500rmb/month at Grand Gateway. Office spaces for four people vary from 4,000-8,000rmb/month depending on location with a one-month minimum contract.

What’s It Like: There is only Chinese language service. Like other places, individual desks are limited. The company has a strong emphasis on creating the "office of the future" with lots of high-tech Internet of Things gadgetry and apps and stuff like that.

What You Get: The coffee and tea are not free. Meeting rooms cost 100-300rmb/hr.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

KR Space (氪空间)





This Beijing-based co-working company started as a spin-off of tech news company 36kr, and now has a national reach with locations in 12 cities. There are 16 in Shanghai alone (see them here). It was notably founded by whiz kid and angel investor Liu Chengcheng when he was still in school. He was born in 1988. What have you done?

What’s It Cost: KR Space doesn’t provide dedicated desks but hot desks go for 138rmb/day or 2,300rmb/month with a minimum one-month contract. A two-month deposit is required upfront. A four-person office is 10,000rmb/month with a three-month minimum contract. Members can visit other locations but need to give them a heads up first.

What’s It Like: They normally host 3-4 events per month. Industries such as IT, advertising and asset management are represented. The clientele mostly speaks Chinese in the community events though the English service was good. The website claims Mobike and Fonterra as members.

What You Get: They have reading rooms, free coffee and tea, and a membership includes a 200rmb ticket for booking meeting rooms. After that renting meeting rooms cost 88rmb/half hour or 120rmb/hour.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

theDesk





The co-working company from Hong Kong expanded to its first mainland location in Shanghai in 2019 at Bridge 8.

What’s It Cost: Individual fixed desks cost 1,200 rmb/month with a minimum six-month contract. Offices costs 2,000rmb/head/month with a two-month deposit and six-month minimum contract. If you are in Hong Kong, you have access to the offices there as well.

What’s It Like: Broad range of industries across the three-floor, 2,000 square meter space, though Chinese is the most commonly used language. theDesk normally hosts weekly events such as experience sharing, community activities and networking.

What You Get: A membership includes three hours of free meeting room access every month, along with 30 percent off events and conference room bookings. They have free tea, coffee and water, and can receive parcels at the front desk.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

THE OTHERS


Creater Space (创邑SPACE)





The company has 22 office locations in Shanghai. This is the one with offices above The Cannery on Yuyuan Lu and next to Luneurs on Huashan Lu, among others.

What’s It Cost: Prices of an individual fixed desk vary by location from 800rmb/month to 2,000rmb/month. Private offices start from 9rmb/sqm/day. Membership doesn’t get you access to other locations. They run a good deal for hot desk users with 365rmb for 52 visits.

What’s It Like: Too many industries to give specifics.

What You Get: You get 10 hours of meeting room time with your fixed desk membership, and a discount for renting event spaces.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

Mixpace (米域)





Founded in Shanghai in 2016 with four locations currently in the city. The Jiujiang Lu location was particularly cool, where architects RoarcRenew took three floors in an 1898 building and turned the arches and red brick into a pretty stunning setting to read emails and WeChat during work hours. See more photos of that one on Roarc's website. Unfortunately, it seems like Mixpace has downsized and that one is no longer.

What’s It Cost: Individual fixed desks range from 1,800rmb to 2,500rmb/month depending on location and proximity to windows. They don’t offer hot desks.

What’s It Like: The front desk has basic English services. Tenants are mostly Chinese, with a strong Japanese presence at some locations. There is a broad swath of industries present including finance, design, travel, and education. Regular programming includes three to five events per week.

What You Get: A membership includes three hours of meeting room time every month. You can also visit other locations’ common areas as well. You’ll need to pay for coffee but members get a 30 percent discount. Other amenities include a nursing room, phone booths, and printing.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

Nash Space (纳什空间)





Founded in 2013 in Beijing, Nash is a big player up north in Beijing, with hundreds of millions of rmb in investment over the years, but only three locations in Shanghai.

What’s It Cost: One-person fixed desks are 1,288rmb/month with a minimum of three months. The membership includes visits to other locations’ public areas.

What’s It Like: All kinds of industries are represented; most are Chinese companies. There is no English service, but if you have some Mandarin skills, they have polite staff and a well-designed Chinese-language website.

What You Get: Small meeting rooms cost 100rmb/hour to rent.

See their listing on SmartShanghai here.

TELL EVERYONE

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