Co-working isn’t a familiar concept in the Philippines. Most of our understanding of working spaces is quite traditional; often involving closed cubicles and a large space reserved for one company. But with more types of businesses and entrepreneurs coming out, there comes a need for something outside conventional offices.

It’s from this demand Acceler8 – one of the Metro’s emerging co-working spaces in recent years – springs from. Originally established along Tordesillas street in Salcedo Village,  Makati, it’s since opened another branch along Paseo de Roxas, which is even bigger in size. Mikko Baranda, one of Accler8’s co-founders, notes that it was created to cater to an “unserved market when it comes to short-term leases.”

Photos by Marvin Conanan

“[While] doing [real estate] consultancy, [I saw there was] a lot of companies that are starting out their business, and one of the problems is they’re not sure how much they’re going to grow in a year – maybe even less than six months,” he says. “So they need [a] certain flexibility when they look for office space. Meaning that if they sign up for an office for five, but in a couple of months they grow into 20, [they’ve] outgrown their office, and that’s a problem.”

Mikko, who also works as a real estate consultant, has a pragmatic take on the whole thing – the kind of pragmatism that’s helped them look into these opportunities and provide feasible solutions. Such was the case with Acceler8. “So one of my partners, Albert Goh, was a client. Back in 2012, he was looking for office space in Makati and Bonifacio [Global City]. He started a firm called VOffice, [which is] similar in nature, but a little bit corporate,” says Mikko. “After four or five sites, I saw there was an opportunity there to replicate, if not to do another VOffice. So when Albert and I were thinking of doing something together, being entrepreneurial – finding ways to venture into a different business – [we realized] if we just replicated what he had already, it [wouldn’t] really make sense.”

Mikko Baranda, Co-founder of Acceler8

From there, they looked into what was happening globally to see other feasible business options, where they found out about co-working spaces. Given that there weren’t many co-working spaces in the Philippines, and given that Albert’s business had specialized in short-term leasing, they decided to have a go at the business.

When asked about whether there was a lot of competition at the time they established Acceler8, Mikko notes that it isn’t so much about competition as it is about “building awareness” around co-working spaces. “I think that the more players come in from the time that we started is actually a good thing, because people get to know more about co-working,” he says.

Mikko also notes that while it’s becoming more known within the Metro’s business areas, elsewhere it has yet to gain more traction. “[When we started], we saw that the market was curious about it. They didn’t know there was such a think as flexible workspace, even though before co-working there were already what you’d call serviced offices. But these were more of the formal sub-lease offices that were offered to tenants,” he says.

Challenging still was the fact that the open-office layout meant that interaction was core to the concept, which was something that didn’t come naturally in a professional Philippine setting. “Culturally, we’re not as open as other countries, so it was a challenge to let them know that when they rent space from us, we try to give more than just a desk,” says Mikko. “Because our philosophy and our thrust is about real connections, and it’s something even until today we try to work on a day-to-day basis.” To counter this, he says that Acceler8 provides opportunities for people to connect without forcing them to, as it’s not for everyone. “But it’s good to know the opportunity’s there,” he adds.

But what distinguishes Acceler8? For one, Acceler8 aims for a mix of both start-up entrepreneurs and more established corporates, as both can bounce off ideas from each other. Its design also caters to this accordingly, looking to be a place where “someone in shorts and someone in a suit [can work in].” It also understands, for instance, that not all people will willingly collaborate, so you need to invest in the people who run the space, since they will be a “reflection of what the tenants would feel.”

But, more importantly, Acceler8 is a business that knows itself and its clients’ professional needs. Being the first co-working space in the country that has started to manage other co-working spaces, it’s in no lack of ambition, nor creativity in its services – that kind that goes over and beyond.