In the land of the permanent office-based blind, the open-eyed flexible office is king... to bowdlerise a popular phrase.
As the sophisticated working world moves away from the cubicle and a conversation around the water cooler to the home office, coffee shop or co-working spaces, those providing such flexible office space have been huge winners over the past few years.
The likes of WeWork and, to a lesser extent, NetSpace have raised big investments while growing exponentially as the acceleration of this culture becomes even more mainstream.
While more firmly ensconced as a 'thing' in the West, there is huge 'space' for expansion in other territories, notably Asia-Pacific where densely packed populations covet flexibility.
WeWork has been especially intelligent in this area. Armed with a $500 million investment from Softbank, it has already moved into China and India and this week made a significant acquisition earlier this week when it acquired SpaceMob, a competitor based in Singapore.
So step forward, Manila-based FlySpaces that this week announced a $2.1 million pre-Series A investment, something that the company says is the biggest-ever raise from Philipines-based investors.
Founded in 2015, FlySpaces has been a regional player in the shift towards flexible office space with more than 1,000 offices and 400,000 sqm under management. The company says it has served more than 500 customers over the last 18 months across the five markets in where it operates - The Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Indonesia.
FlySpaces says it will use the investment to fund expansion into more markets within the region, growing within existing markets, especially Indonesia, while also strengthening its technology offerings.
These technology offerings include its digital marketing platform that connects space operators to a large user base, allowing them to optimize and to monetize venue owners' space.
The funding comes primarily from prominent Filipino investors led by Raymond Rufino, Co-President of the influential 'Net Group' and is joined by a millennial-led private equity firm and other top property developers from the Philippines.
Fluent in four languages, FlySpaces CEO Mario Berta is a fascinating character who appears to like setting up companies in challenging locations. To date, he has built and managed and trained sales teams in Africa and in the APAC region, including Macau, Angola, Nigeria, Philippines, Malaysia Hong Kong and even Papua New Guinea.
“In the last two years flexible office space and co-working have been the hottest topic in commercial real estate with the region’s biggest brands such as CapitaLand and Ascendas moving in this direction.
"With all of the recent joint ventures and investment deals happening, commercial real estate is finally looking ready for disruption," said Berta.
FlySpaces targets SMEs and millennials in its approach to co-working space by acting as a digital marketplace that provides short-term work and meeting space to multinationals, start-ups, these SMEs and mobile professionals, be that for an hour, a day, a week, or even a few months.
As the WeWork acquisition of Singapore's SpaceMob shows, this is a space where it is the visionaries with eyes wide open, not the one-eyed man who will be kings. Expect FlySpaces's Berta to join this pantheon of co-working royalty, whatever of the four languages he is talking.