Google runs a network of coworking spaces, called “Campuses,” that offers a variety of services to its members, ranging from mentorship programs and networking opportunities to free cloud services.
The initiative, run by a team called Google for Entrepreneurs, is largely not-for-profit — its overarching goal is to expand the overall internet user base, which benefits Google in the long-term, the company said.
There are four locations around the world, with two more coming soon. We made a visit to its first Asian location in Seoul, South Korea, last month — and it looks great.
Campus Seoul is in this building in Gangnam, a business district where companies like Samsung have their headquarters. It opened in May 2015.
It's a 21,000-square-foot space that includes an open office, an auditorium, a bunch of conference rooms, a kitchen and common area, plus a separate coffee shop.
This is Google's first 'Campus' in Asia. There are six total 'campuses' around the world: Seoul, London, Tel Aviv, Madrid, Sao Paulo, and Warsaw.
It's basically a WeWork-type of coworking space, but it's cheaper and offers more perks, like access to this Android-device testing lab. It only costs about $70/month for each desk. Startups that move in also get to use $100,000 worth of free Google Cloud Services.
It only accepts startups with less than eight employees in total. Companies stay a minimum of six months and can extend their contracts for another year. But most startups outgrow the space by then and leave for a bigger office, a Google rep said.
The London campus, for example, saw its startups attract more than $110 million in funding, while creating 18,000 new jobs, over the last three years. This is one of the walls at the Seoul campus.
There are about 10 startups at the Seoul Campus. You can also sign up for a free membership if you just want to use the common area and Wi-Fi service 24/7. There are over 10,000 free members from 72 different countries, it said.
The startup accelerator 500 Startups has its Korean office here too. It recently launched a $15 million fund called '500 Kimchi.'
There were about a dozen conference rooms in total. They all had interesting names, like this one. Other room names include 'Innovation,' 'Passion,' and 'Adventure.'
This one's simply called 'Chat 8,' but it's one of the more popular ones because of this strange horse-riding machine.
One of its walls was used as a job-seeking board. There were lots of interesting startups, including this one that's looking for an English-speaking designer.
Campus Seoul hosts a lot of networking events for its members in this outdoor space. Startups that move in here also get help for mentorship and training programs from Google people all over the world.
Apparently, Campus Seoul was a big deal for Google too, as Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, gave a talk there recently.
In fact, even South Korean President Park Geun-hye attended the opening ceremony of Campus Seoul. The South Korean government has been pushing hard for a larger startup community lately, and launched a $3 billion fund for tech startups.
Google's rep said the goal of running this space isn't about making money. In fact, the day-to-day operations are handled by a local coworking space called Maru 180 instead. Google says the goal is to nurture and grow a larger internet community, which benefits Google in the long-term.
Google said it chose Seoul as its first Asian campus location because of its high internet speed and smartphone-penetration rates. Also, because of its talented engineer pool.
But it could also be because South Korea is one of the few countries in the world where Google isn't the No. 1 search engine. That title belongs to a local search-engine company called Naver.
Regardless, all of this circles back to Google's long-term goal of growing the internet community and expanding its presence in almost every aspect of our daily lives. Just like someone wrote on this 'wish tree' ...
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