WHub is an interesting player as they define themselves to be an ecosystem builder. “An ecosystem is those who have a collective, in common values and goals,” says Josephine Chan who is COO at WHub. “For those who are within the ecosystem, they all have the same vision.”’
The company functions as a power connector and startup community builder that provides an extensive range of services and resources for its Hong Kong startup and entrepreneur members. They relocate between different coworking spaces regularly as a way to engage with different community members across different fields and to further develop their ecosystem.
“We want to make sure that we are being close to the community,” Chan explains. “To be with them on the ground working. We've actually been to almost all the coworking spaces from like Blueprint -a coworking space and event venues run by Swire Properties in Taikoo Place - at the very beginning. We want to make sure that we are in touch with all the different code bases. And we know immediately what the startups are facing, issues they encounter, or maybe new opportunities that come through, we're at the forefront of that.”
Being active in different coworking spaces allows WHub to regularly hold events within these spaces and to ensure that community members are interacting and learning from one another.
Not to be mistaken for a PR-type company who are promoting their members, WHub’s business is to support and provide networking and training events to those connected to their ecosystem.
Their network or ecosystem has been integral in building Hong Kong’s startup landscape. Now, many in times of economic uncertainty have turned towards WHub for reassurance.
An interesting development due to the pandemic is the increased international partnerships that have arisen to facilitate startups on a global level.
The major shift for events from offline to online is also no longer a rarity. And not necessarily a bad change either. Chan remarks, “That pivot was a really big change for the entire industry, as we had to adjust our strategies with and alongside our partners.” She adds that moving events online allows the increase of attendees from more countries. The annual Startup Impact Summit in 2019 had 3,500 physical visitors, whereas in 2020 that number increased to 20,000 digital participants. “Being able to shift our conference online, and get that level of traction and visibility was actually a blessing in disguise for us.”
Though optimistic, it was a steep learning curve for the WHub team, from planning multiple conferences simultaneously to changing the ways they engage with participants who they are now dealing with virtually. Each event requires a different approach. “We cannot just copy and paste our offline strategies and replicate that in an online setting,” Chan highlights. “After months of trial and error by testing different solutions in the market, and giving ourselves time to reflect on what worked or didn’t work across the entire year of online events – we’ve got a very good understanding.”
To highlight one example, they usedLark, a high-quality video conferencing tool and work collaboration tool. “We use them for a 36-hour hackathon that is all virtual. And it was great, everything was within one platform. There was no jumping on and off different solutions. Which traditionally exhausted participants. So with one platform, it could really do everything.”
Firms from traditional industries like law, shipping, printing and others are all testing the waters in order to find innovative solutions to implement in their operations. And those who have been in the game for longer, like fintech, banking and insurance have now matured and are looking for even more sophisticated tools. And here is where WHub comes in, like a switchboard operator to connect a caller with several options while facilitating a plethora of activities and advice to keep the ecosystem alive.
Creating unique business values
One aspect of COVID-19’s impact on the flexible workspace is that trends in development have been accelerated in Hong Kong. “Companies who want their team in flexible workspaces don’t necessarily want to be signing new leases because of the many uncertainties for the future,” says Constant Tedder, founder of the Hive.