Start-up SpaceSense helps SMEs make sense of commercial leasing

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/ EdgeProp Singapore
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December 12, 2019 4:26 PM SGT
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Typically, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) cannot rely on in-house real estate expertise when they plan to expand or find new office space. The bosses and managers are also less familiar with how to navigate the commercial real estate market or manage the relocation process, says Steven Ming, managing director of Sakal Real Estate Partners, a local real estate agency.
Ming, together with his co-founders, Eunice Ooi and Joe Kwan, launched a property technology start-up called SpaceSense in June this year to capitalise on this gap in the market. “We saw that SMEs didn’t have anybody to support their real estate needs. So we formed SpaceSense to help them rationalise the space they need and to find the right-sized space for each company,” says Kwan.
The trio brings to the table a confluence of expertise in property and capital markets, investment sales knowledge, corporate leasing, and project management.
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 SpaceSense co-founders Eunice Ooi, Joe Kwan (middle) and Steven Ming launched their start-up to help SMEs with their corporate leasing needs (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
SpaceSense co-founders Eunice Ooi, Joe Kwan (middle) and Steven Ming launched their start-up to help SMEs with their corporate leasing needs (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Ming is a veteran real estate agent of more than 20 years and has been involved in major commercial and residential investment deals. He was also previously the managing director at Savills Singapore. Ooi was a project manager at CBRE and then GIC, managing office fit-outs and office spaces. Kwan was head of research and strategy for APAC real estate at UBS, and head of Singapore at fund manager Dymon Asia Capital.
Most multinational companies have in-house corporate real estate experts who work closely with international real estate consultancies when planning their commercial property strategy. But SMEs cannot afford this, and within the team someone often has to take on multiple roles to manage their real estate needs. If they are not familiar as to what is required, their best adviser tends to be Google, which may not give them the best advice and guidance through the process, says Ming.
But with SpaceSense, SMEs are guided through an integrated process that starts with an analysis of their space requirements, searching for the right office space, and negotiating with the landlord. In addition to the real estate solution, SpaceSense offers peripheral services that includes searching for the right interior designer and fit-out, office services, as well as financial services such as managing the security deposit.
However, SpaceSense does not charge their clients any fees for peripheral services such as fit-out or interior design. Instead, SpaceSense takes a referral fee from the contractors and interior designers. The company also gets revenue from the traditional agency fees from the landlord if they manage to lease the space.
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SpaceSense guides SMEs through an integrated process that starts with an analysis of their space requirements (Picture: SpaceSense)
SpaceSense guides SMEs through an integrated process that starts with an analysis of their space requirements (Picture: SpaceSense)
But it is not a co-working operator. Neither is it just an office space search platform. According to Ooi, “all of our clients are looking for a permanent space, which is why we work closely with landlords directly, and we design the online and offline experience to be seamless”.
“We also have the most comprehensive commercial office database in Singapore. We have direct partnerships with close to 50 major landlords including Far East Organization, City Developments, Mapletree Industrial, and all the major Reits,” she says.
SpaceSense’s clients include companies involved in financial insurance, healthcare services, insurance services, fund management, technology companies, and ship brokerage.
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One of their first clients was Hong Kongbased wealth manager Raffles Family Office. The company chose Singapore as one of its regional bases when it decided to expand across Asia. SpaceSense helped it secure a 5,000 sq ft office space at One Raffles Place and guided it through the office renovation.
Today, SpaceSense is a team of 10 and the start-up says it is looking to “significantly” increase its headcount next year. The team is also looking to add more services, including corporate travel, digital money management, and cross-border services.
The company is looking ahead with regional expansion goals. “There is approximately 800 million sq ft of office stock in the Asia-Pacific. We will be targeting high-concentration cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Sydney,” says Kwan.
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