Ellie Dyer visits some of the Kingdom’s co-working spaces, where creativity and innovation are bringing together new communities of workers. Photography by Anna Spelman.
Are you a regular patron of cafés in Cambodia? If you are then you’ve likely encountered a familiar scene: customers sitting hunched behind a sea of laptops, nursing cups of coffee while tapping at keyboards to a soundtrack of music, clattering plates and conversation.
However, a growing movement has the potential to change the way that many people work, luring them away from café culture and into shared offices. For co-working spaces are on the rise worldwide and are providing travellers, small teams, start-ups and individuals alike with a peaceful and secure place to ply their trade.
Cambodia is no exception, with a range of co-working hubs – from large villas to city-centric offices – up and running in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Many of those involved say that alongside practical benefits, such as added security and fast Internet connections, such spaces can foster a sense of community and bring like-minded folk together.
“What I’ve found is that you can meet interesting people and they can end up becoming great advisors and friends. They can sometimes even end up working with you, or for you,” says Darren Jensen, co-founder of Phnom Penh’s coLAB co-working space near Russian Market.
Kurt Xu, from the innovative 1961 co-working space in Siem Reap, adds that the environment can boost productivity and effectiveness while providing members with a real-life social network.
“When you’re in a café, and you’ve overheard a conversation, yes you can say hello,” he says. “But in here it’s a community thing, where people are all doing amazing stuff. You naturally meet them every day.”
With each co-working space having its own unique characteristics, here’s a low-down of the Kingdom’s best.
@ The 1961 Co-working and Art Space
Combining co-working with art, the 1961 is a design-centric environment that speaks volumes about the organisation’s passion for innovation. The beautiful Siem Reap villa – the former home of an architect – is using its copious space in exciting ways. Hot desks are contained in the sleek co-working lab on the ground floor, set alongside a retail space for members’ products, function rooms and an art gallery. The upstairs is home to comfy meeting spots, private offices, a photography studio and even a snooze pod in which to catch a quick nap. With eclectic artworks dotted all around, the 1961 oozes creative cool. Rates vary, with a one-day pass at $10 and month-long membership at $140.
@ coLAB and Hackerspace
Set a stone’s throw from Russian Market, coLAB is one of the capital’s oldest hubs, starting life as Hackerspace in 2010 before evolving into a co-working space soon after. The peaceful communal office has excellent coffee and is bright and airy, while the adjoining Hackerspace is filled with inspiring projects. Manager Muy Samda explains that a meet-up with a pop-up bar is held on the first Tuesday of each month from 6pm to late. Training sessions run regularly and membership costs $120 a month, or $70 for 10 coupons.
@ Small World
Housed in a large villa in the capital’s leafy Tuol Kork district, Small World is a haven for entrepreneurs. It offers co-working space for start-up teams and freelancers, with rates at $30 a month per person (or $60 for a set table and chair) and offices from $200 to $400 a month. The centre also provides business concept consultation, and the possibility of additional support for young entrepreneurs via small or community investments. The space is open from 8am to 5.30pm, though people can stay longer if they need to.
This co-working hub, set on the top floor of the Canadia Bank Building in Siem Reap, features a bright air-conditioned space with espresso and fast Internet. The space holds regular workshops on topics such as social media marketing and crowd-funding. Pricing can be daily ($12.50) or monthly ($159) but the space also offers flexible options, with 20 hours of use for $39. Profits fund an incubation programme for local start-ups and projects that use social innovation. It also offers additional business services, with meeting spaces.
Tackle Social Challenges
@ 5D Lab Cambodia
Located on Street 271 near Phnom Penh Sport’s Club, 5D Lab is part of a USAID funded project. To use this space, people need to apply first and have an intention to explore and use technology to tackle social or environmental challenges. The space features big desks, blue walls, free Internet, water and locker facilities. There are also meeting rooms and an events space. With interaction a key part of the concept, get ready to meet new people and brainstorm ideas. The workspace is currently free of charge, but this is likely to change in the future.