“You can take inspiration from successful coworking models abroad and fine-tune it to the local needs”-Tom Tran, Toong Coworking (Vietnam)
Growing up in Berlin, a city known for its transformative nature and creativity, Tom Tran understood early on the amazing benefits that coworking and hacker-spaces can bring to communities. Today, Tom is an Angel Investor in Vietnam, and was also the one of the first to invest in Toong Coworking .
Today, Toong has secured a multi-million dollar investment, managed to get a visit from Google’s CEO Sundar Pitchai and is already planning nation wide expansion later this year. We caught up with Tom to talk about the coworking scene in Vietnam, which he believes is taking off as more and more people become introduced to creative and socially engaging environments.
Hi, Tom. When did the first coworking space pop up in Vietnam and was Toong one of them?
The first coworking spaces started opening a couple of years ago and still exist with different operation models and goals. Toong operates out of 2 locations and by the end of 2016 we will have 4. Our strong points are that we have a lot of very young and “hungry” entrepreneurs and professionals that are drawn to working at our location.
Are there any coworking spaces that are really leading the way for the coworking community in Vietnam?
Currently, there are many old and new coworking spaces coexisting in Vietnam and more will be created soon, as Regus is still the single biggest shared office competitor. But it’s hard to say who is leading the way, as it depends on the metrics of interest. Toong is currently the only coworking space with multiple locations, and after our latest investment we will expand even further.
If any, what are the strong points and weak points in Vietnamese coworking culture?
In terms of weaknesses, I would say it is that we need more depth to our events which are lacking due to a shortage of international top-grade speakers and investors. But, I have faith that this will come sooner rather than later.
Have there been any major influences for the coworking scene in Vietnam, such as the European or American scene?
I would say that WeWork has by far biggest influence for coworking spaces in Vietnam, at least in terms of image.
Sometimes coworking spaces try to copy successful models, which doesn’t usually work as it tends to overlook their community’s actual needs. Have you ever seen this in Vietnam?
You cannot copy the operations and, of course, culture from one successful location and try to implement into a completely different region. But what you can do, and we’ve seen, is that you can use a similar business model and best practices that you eventually fine-tune to meet the needs of your own local members. For us, we have seen positive results from this method.
Have coworking spaces played a role in revitalizing otherwise inactive neighborhoods?
Absolutely, in most cases operators are looking for large, unused spaces. The transformation of these buildings into coworking spaces have ended up revitalizing whole neighborhoods, creating a community out of nothing. This development has also created a lot new startup potential for the neighborhood as well.
Do you have any plans to collaborate on an international level?
We are open to collaborations with other regional coworking operators, since it’s pretty safe to say that South East Asia is probably one of the biggest destinations for digital nomads. One of the main reasons for this is that independent professionals flock to this part of the world because of the attractive cost of living, tropical climate, and good infrastructure.