…grit, generosity and going with the flow. JAELLE ANG, founder of co-working space The Great Room, shares how these have shaped her life, writes gemma koh it’s no coincidence that The Great Room feels like a luxury hotel with its art by locally based artists, retro-chic furniture and view of Chinatown and the Singapore River.
“People love meeting in hotel lobbies — whether social or business,” says its founder and CEO Jaelle Ang. The Great Room, which opened in June, doesn’t just tap into the economy of sharing real estate in the CBD and office support services for increasingly mobile and fast-growing new economy businesses. It’s also changing the way people feel about going to work and creating opportunities for encounters that could lead to new ideas and collaborations.
A concierge takes care of all things office-related so that members — from Fintech rising star Xero to hospitality brand Design Hotels, who have dedicated bases there — can concentrate on their core business. Perks include Monday breakfasts to go with the free Papa Palheta coffee and events from whisky-tasting to yoga.
Two weeks after hospitality specialist Distillery Studio was signed on to design the space, it announced its merger with office designer Hassell, whose work includes Google in Singapore and Alibaba in China. “It was pretty iconic — a marriage of hospitality and workplace,” says Ang on gaining the best of both worlds.
Ang and her co-founders have their sights on growing The Great Room into a management brand — “the Four Seasons of the co-working world” — across different cities. Her partners are her husband and Wharton-trained CFO Yian Huang, and his sister and director of business development, Su Anne Mi.
Ang says she couldn’t have forseen how her experience — an Architecture degree, an MBA from London’s Imperial College, and work in mergers and acquisitions, and emerging markets at Citibank and Credit Suisse — would come together to give her the advantage of understanding both aesthetics and numbers needed to do real estate.
Harvard-bound to do a Masters in Real Estate in early 2009, Ang was holidaying in Las Vegas when she met a Ben Taechaubol, who was there for work. “He said: ‘You can’t learn real estate in a classroom. Come do something real’.” So she went to Bangkok to see land by the Chao Phraya river and, after a few meetings, left Credit Suisse, “a big branded job in a reasonably glamorous industry to go to a no-name company in an emerging market” with only the notion of “building something incredible on land that was still a smelly fish market.”
“We were barely 30-years-old and people thought it was foolish to start a real estate company,” she says.
Country Group Development PCL, where Taechaubol is CEO, is now listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET). Its mixed-use luxury development includes a Capella hotel, Four Seasons hotel and the first Four Seasons Private Residences expected to open in 2018. Ang recently relinquished her role as head of development though she remains on their board — as its youngest and only female member.