Interview: Comm.ON, co-working and activity space in Cambodia

As the number of co-working spaces rises in the Kingdom, Comm.ON is the new kid on the block that offers its own collaborative and activity workspace for aspiring entrepreneurs. Hosted by SmallWorld Cambodia in collaboration with Open Hands, the newly designed space that was launched in June takes over the former open space at KOTRA.

We speak to Jung Kim, a Comm.ON manager and delegate of KOTRA and Open Hands, to find out more about its progress since its opening.

This interview has been edited for flow, clarity, and length.

Can you tell us more about Comm.ON and what it does?

Comm.ON is a co-working space operating in collaboration with KOTRA (Korea Trade Investment-Promotion Agency), Open Hands (Korean social enterprise) and SmallWorld (Cambodian co-working space). Our goal is to support business startups in Phnom Penh. For the first step to our goal, we try to make connections with business startups and prepare helpful events and activities for them.

How did the idea for Comm.ON come about?

KOTRA, Open Hands and SmallWorld have the same goal. In Korea, many co-working spaces have shown up, and many entrepreneurs try to develop their businesses and make Korea better for collaborative work. Similar to Korea, we would like to improve the environment of the community to increase its wealth and have a better quality of life in Phnom Penh as well. KOTRA also supports Korean and Cambodian businesses, and SmallWorld has supported them as well. Thus, we planned to operate a new co-working space in collaboration with the three institutions mentioned earlier.

What type of events and activities does Comm.ON usually carry out?

We carry out events catered towards community talk or conversations. For example, we invite CEOs, successful businessmen and startups to gather together and share their advice. We also organise events to talk together about specific or professional topics. We sometimes hold Expo-type events to promote and advertise startups’ prototypes and ready-to-sell products.

In your opinion, why are co-working spaces like Comm.ON important in Phnom Penh?

Economic status and development have grown dynamically in Phnom Penh. There have also been various trends and fads with the young generation growing up. Under these circumstances, there are lots of potential opportunities for business startups to emerge and grow. So, co-working spaces to support business startups are now very important for Phnom Penh to catch up with these circumstances and develop its economy.

How has Comm.ON impacted entrepreneurs and startups in Phnom Penh?

By working with KOTRA, Comm.ON has supported startups and students in developing their businesses in Phnom Penh. Comm.ON also tries to build a community for entrepreneurs and startups to share their ideas and information. It is our first step to make connections and share information with all startups in Phnom Penh so that people can reach the market sufficiently.

What do you hope to achieve with Comm.ON?

Of course, we hope to make Comm.ON a hub for all startups in Phnom Penh. Personally, I would like to gain experience in operating the co-working space and a better understanding of the Cambodian market. The Cambodian market has been changing fast, so I think I could learn many things from the developing market.

Are there any challenges that you are facing with Comm.ON? If so, what are they?

We (KOTRA, Open Hands and Smallworld) have operated Comm.ON for only about 2 months, so we are trying to make our own trait and atmosphere. I don’t think it is a challenge, but a common process for every new business.

What are some short term and long term plans you have for Comm.ON?

I would like people to get more information to make more connections in Comm.ON. These things are required by business startups and people seeking business opportunities to develop their business models and ideas. As for the long term plans, I would like to expand Comm.ON to other countries in Southeast Asia. We could then make worldwide connections and gain information for any business startups to work together, and share their ideas for a better future and life in Southeast Asia.