Creating connections

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Millennial entrepreneur finds opportunity in random encounters
Mikko Barranda, co-founder of Acceler8, is calm and low-key and prefers to work quietly and efficiently. He wakes up at 6 a.m. on the dot, and by 9 a.m., he’s shooting off emails to his team and partners in every part of Metro Manila and even across the globe.

As a millennial executive, he likes the buzz of a packed work place, with lively chatter and laptop keys clicking away. With those sounds in the background, his focus remains high and steady.

“I usually like working in places surrounded by people, as I’m excited about random encounters and conversations which can lead to big things and big ideas,” he beams.

Mikko Barranda
CO-FOUNDER, ACCELER8

Barranda has his ways of achieving efficiency, but he also knows that people have their own, unique work rhythms. Which is why he set up Acceler8, a new company promoting hybrid co-working spaces, which are sprouting around the Makati CBD and other parts of Southeast Asia.


Shared space
The Acceler8 co-working space in Legaspi Village, Makati (along Paseo de Roxas and across from Greenbelt 1) is a unique venue, which looks more like a hip coffee shop and Google office mixed breed, than the traditional corporate office module.

It features bare concrete floors, minimalist chairs and an energizing palette of warm wood and vibrant greens as accents. Against a wall stands a generous pantry where guests and members have free access to unlimited coffee and tea. On the top shelf are found “partners for productivity” like wine, Jack Daniels Black Label and a few, almost empty bottles of vodka and tequila. “Some prefer these to power them through the long nights of deadlines,” a member tells Boardroom Watch.

At Acceler8, it’s all about finding out what works for you and maximizing productivity. If you want to work, pull a chair, plug into the 5G wifi and finish your report in peace. Alternately, you want to collaborate? Feel free to strike up a conversation and engage the person opposite you.

Co-working trend
“Co-working, though big in the US, is still quite a new concept, especially here in the Philippines,” says Barranda. “Ask 10 people what co-working is and you’ll get 10 different answers.”

But essentially, co-working spaces deviate from the traditional office set-ups by offering hybrid instant offices and spaces for lease to businessman and smaller companies at shorter term rent rates. “This is the age of entrepreneurs, freelancers and start-up companies. So many of these people are looking for office spaces that they can work in that is still within their budget,” he says. “We cater to an underserved market.”

In the 700 square-meter expanse of Acceler8, 111 Paseo in Legaspi Village, over 100 companies lease separate “offices” within this branch and share space with hundreds of professionals, who drop by daily to converge or compete.

The interiors of Acceler8’s spaces aim to create a calming environment conducive for work and study

In addition to high speed internet and free refreshments, Acceler8 members have access to free printing, scanning and photocopying services. Acceler8 also provides accounting, bookkeeping, company incorporation and business registration services and more. Everything you need to start and sustain your business

“Whether you’re a start-up company with 10 employees or just a one-man team, you can get a room for yourself or even a desk that you can park in every day,” says Barranda, adding that while many entrepreneurs and start-ups begin their operations at home, many choose to work in co-working spaces as a domestic scene or cafés is not often conducive for work. “Your home is not an ideal headquarters, and coffee shops offer more distraction,” says another Acceler8 member. So, in this case, Acceler8 provides the perks of a traditional office, but in a more flexible and user-friendly package.

Not so random
Barranda, an Ateneo de Manila Interdisciplinary Studies graduate with minors in Psychology and Communication, is fascinated by how people work and use space.

Also a professional with a real estate background, Barranda founded Accler8 with his friends and partners, Carlo Coronel, Bryant Cuison and Albert Goh, who each bring different expertise to the table. Quizon is a contractor whose forte is building office spaces; Coronel’s main line of business is storage units; and Goh, the only foreign partner, started his business establishing virtual offices in Malaysia.

“Goh was actually a client of mine and we ended up being good friends. So, by the fourth or fifth time he was asking help to find a space, we decided to partner up,” recalls Barranda.

The initial plan was to set up a virtual office. (Unlike co-working spaces, a virtual office simply serves as an HQ and provides a professional address for start-up companies and entrepreneurs.) “However, I soon realized that there was no value in that. I wanted to create a space to inspire engagement and bring like-minded individuals together so that they could discuss and work in collaboration.”

Fast growth
And since setting up shop in 2015, business has simply been booming. The two Acceler8 centers in Makati are packed every day, and thanks to its expertise, Acceler8 is also managing the co-working space of Ayala Land Office called “Clock” at the Makati Stock Exchange on Ayala Avenue.

“In addition to building co-working spaces, we, through our mother company UnionSPACE, have co-working centers all around Southeast Asia. We are now in Malaysia and Indonesia, and soon we will be opening up in Singapore!” Barranda says with obvious excitement. Growth has been fast. In fact, in June, they will be introducing another co-working space in Bangkok, Thailand.

Delighting members further, Acceler8’s partnership with these UnionSPACE branches means that members can now enjoy privileged access to all of the co-working spaces, conference rooms and meeting rooms in these Southeast Asian countries. “We’re going global,” says Barranda.

Real connections
At the heart of Acceler8, Barranda explains, is the vision of creating “real connections.” “From an entrepreneur’s point of view, you get excited to come into the co-working space because every day presents a new opportunity. You’ll never know who you’ll meet and what can come out of that random encounter,” he says.

Mikko Barranda with partners, Carlo Coronel and Albert Goh (right to left), not in the photo is Bryant Cuison; the young exec together with his family (below).

For Barranda, in particular, his life seems to be a string of random chance meetings, which have all ultimately led him to building this dream for Acceler8.

“I studied in the Ateneo my whole life, then went into college not knowing what I wanted,” he chuckles. He “drifted” during those four years, not quite taken by any particular interest or passion. “I was just getting by, to be honest. I took up Interdisciplinary Studies to avoid math. I just wanted to graduate.” But subpar, he certainly wasn’t. He even joined the Ateneo Student Council “out of pride.”

His family owned a small business involving car air-conditioners, but this youngest of three children had no desire to join the established path once he graduated.

Following his trademark random moves, he went into real estate as a broker where he built his career and expertise. While many believe brokering to be boring, Barranda thinks otherwise. “It’s fascinating in the sense because you’re building relationships and getting to meet so many new people.” That’s how he encountered his Malaysian partner Goh, which bloomed into a promising enterprise.

It’s this spirit of “random, real encounters” that Barranda infuses into Acceler8. “The edge that we bring is engagement.

“We offer something more valuable than real estate. It’s intangible but valuable; we give you opportunity,” he says. And these opportunities come in the form of meeting new people, engaging with other like-minded entrepreneurs and leaders, and learning new skills through their in-house training workshops.

“Acceler8 even hosts acoustic nights to help people break out of their shell because there’s no more effective social lubricant than drinks and good music.”

Evolving concepts
Co-working spaces like Acceler8 are, indeed, changing the way people see work and define work places. Sharing his own insights on the important shift and movement, Barranda says: “I guess (co-working) is a reflection of how people are now more open to sharing than owning, whether those be spaces or even ideas. People, instead of being very ‘protective’ of their talents, skills and knowledge now understand that there’s more to be gained through collaboration.”

He adds: “The current work force and this generation have been exposed to technology, so their mindset is quite different. Today, technology allows you the freedom to be anywhere in the world and be as productive and efficient.”

Unlike before when employees had to be physically present in the office to contribute value to a team, now people can work offsite and still stay connected through mobiles and gadgets. “And today, professionals and entrepreneurs, most especially, don’t want to be confined to a desk, they want to be engaged and be free to explore.”

Though the co-working concept is steadily picking up, Barranda says: “I don’t think the traditional office set-up will die. It can’t, because many large corporations and multinational companies like the BPOs in this country need their HQs.” What will, however, definitely change is how people see and define work and how they maximize synergy.

A successful entrepreneur at 31, Barranda shares a meaningful piece of advice with aspiring professionals: “Approach each encounter as an opportunity because while it may seem utterly random, it’s usually not. It’s part of a greater, grander design.”

PHOTOS BY HARVEY TAPAN

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