A New Space For Entrepreneurial Minds

Asian Property Review talks to Morris Sim, Chief Marketing Officer for Next Story Group (NSG) which is spearheading Kafnu, an integrated co-working and co-living concept across Asia Pacific.

 APR: Is Kafnu’s concept of integrating working, eating, exercising, socialising and sleeping a world’s first? Are there any similar concepts existing elsewhere? 
MS: This concept is actually very Asian – when you think about villages that shaped much of Asian history, they had all the components of what we’re attempting to put in plus more. Kafnu is a vertical village very much inspired by our collective heritage.
APR: What is the inspiration behind Kafnu?
MS: We started by asking ourselves why the sharing economy has occurred. Why are there also so many freelancing jobs? Why are people disenchanted with what they have? There’s clearly a global need for both efficiency and greater good in communities, but property development and management mostly seem to be addressing needs from the past – which means futureproofing your asset is a risk. Kafnu is trying to reimagine what it means to build the right combination of spaces and services for people who yearn to be more than they are today: it’s the base camp you ascend from to achieve your personal aspirations.
APR: What is your business model for this new integrated sharing approach?
MS: Our mission is to create a global community of entrepreneurially-minded people who create new value. To support them, we will need to continually develop spaces and services that help them get there faster. The utilization of our spaces and services is the foundation of our business model.
APR: Why choose HK and Taiwan as your initial starting spaces? Why not Singapore?
MS: Hong Kong and Taipei are cities with active communities in the technology, media, and creative sectors. Based on our market research, there are lots of entrepreneurs who travel back and forth between the two cities who seek what we are offering. The 2 specific locations have active communities around them that we felt would be supportive of such a concept.
In Taipei, we have a new standalone building in a district at the heart of the city where residence, commerce, and retail intersect; the in-city airport is 1 subway stop away. Kerry Hotel in Hong Kong was as perfect of a partner as we could possibly have for our first outing; it opened in April, has fantastic facilities, and is already an integral part of the local Hung Hom Bay community where there are lots of crossborder merchants and techpreneurs.
We have a few deals in the pipeline in other parts of AsiaPacific, and would very much like to come into Singapore
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APR: Can you share your market research in the 12 cities across Asia on the likes and dislikes of the millennials on their current spaces? Which 12 cities are there and what is the sample size and demographics of the people?
MS: We engaged a global research agency who then further engaged with local agencies to do research in the major cities in Asia Pacific – all the usual suspects that you’d expect in N Asia, SE Asia, S Asia, and ANZ. The focus of the research was not about millennials per se, but about entrepreneurially-minded people who often are millennials (but not exclusively so). The big takeaway, consistently across all cities, was that there were a lot of unmet needs with the current design of shared spaces. Spaces weren’t intersecting with an entrepreneurial-minded person’s professional aspirations. It was very clear that current property development and management were out of synch.
APR: Do you believe this type of arrangement is the new kind of lifestyle for millennials? Is there any age limit to using the spaces?
MS: Yes, we do believe that this is a new kind of lifestyle, not just for millennials, but also for a new breed of entrepreneurs.
There isn’t any age limit to using the spaces, as we welcome anyone with a desire to create — and with a certain sense of wonderment about the world and a destiny about themselves, that’s not being fulfilled in their current workplace. While the first Kafnu spaces are ideal for people in the media, technology, and design industries, we welcome anyone who wants to inspire change.
APR: After HK and Taiwan, where else do you plan to expand? What are the criteria you look for when deciding which city to set up?
MS: We’re looking for potential spaces across Asia-Pacific. We envision a network of spaces, where members have access to Kafnu wherever and whenever they need it.
We’d say the criteria would be any city that has a significant population of people that have a desire to create and are entrepreneurial-minded.
APR: What is the rationale of recruitment in the form of an audition? What are candidates supposed to demonstrate during the audition?
MS: We’re looking for people who will be helpful to our members, and that’s why we call them Community Managers. They should be entrepreneurial and have a passion or motivation for something larger. An audition is the best way for us to assess this – showing rather than telling. By demonstrating their special talents and skills, candidates prove why they should lead the first Kafnu communities.
APR: Are more hotels signing up with you?
MS: We’ve seen significant interest from the hospitality industry to partner with us.
APR: Can anyone join the private club or will there be a vetting procedure?
MS: There will be an initial procedure for people who wish to rent certain types of space from us. However, the Kafnu membership network is open to all.
APR: What are the biggest challenges you foresee for this type of business?
MS: Our biggest challenge is changing people’s preconceived views that a space can only be used for one purpose. Shared spaces aren’t just about co-working or meeting, but can be used to work, live, play, learn, and more.

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