Alumni make space for Surrey entrepreneurs

CMYK-Beta Collective-Anderson Wang

A team of SFU alumni have launched Surrey’s first co-working space, the Beta Collective, which invites young entrepreneurs out of their basements and coffee shops to work in a professional environment surrounded by their peers.

Jason Wong, along with business partners Elvin Cheung and Michael Cheng — all SFU graduates — have launched a unique shared office facility in the heart of downtown Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard. The space offers an affordable option for self-employed individuals and small teams who are looking to take their businesses to the next level — albeit, on a budget.

Many startups do not have the financial resources to rent their own office space, which often involves lengthy contracts and additional costs that can stifle growth. Beta Collective offers small business owners desk rental packages at a discounted price so that entrepreneurs “really have a space to call their own that they can work out of and collaborate in,” said Wong, co-founder and chief project evangelist of Beta Collective.

Wong and Cheng, co-founder and chief mission control officer, first came up with the idea for a co-working space after collaborating on the 2011 TEDxSFU conference. They had seen similar ventures in places such as Toronto, Northern California, Kuala Lumpur, and even Metro Vancouver, and were inspired to partner up and create their own. 

After spending four years at the Surrey campus as an SFU student, Cheng felt convinced that he was looking at Vancouver’s own ‘Silicon Valley.’ “Everything pointed towards [the idea] that Surrey has the potential to become an entrepreneurial hub for Vancouver,” Cheng said.

Based on current projections by the city of Surrey, the city’s population is expected to increase by more than 300,000 people over the next three decades. This growth is mirrored in its economic sector, as, according to Mayor Diane Watts in BC Business, about 2,000 small businesses open in Surrey every year.

Since opening its doors in late April, Wong explained that the company already has a variety of customers, including event planners, immigrant consultants, web developers, and tech experts. “What’s magical about a co-working, collaborative space is that those people often mingle, network, connect, and eventually work together,” Cheng added.

The Beta Collective has seven private offices available for rent, each of which can fit one to three employees. The 2,600 square foot working space also includes a ‘big room’ with rows of individual desks and tables for 20 people and six permanent desks with filing cabinets. For those who do not have a private office, the space includes a board room which they can use to meet with clients. 

The space is available to the entrepreneurs 24/7 and features a kitchen, a lounge area, and a private shower.

The team said that they distinguish themselves from other businesses by maintaining a balanced atmosphere that feels like a melange of a professional workspace and a community hub. “We encourage a collaborative environment, [a sense] of community,” explained Wong. “We put the TV on in the lounge, we’re watching the World Cup together, having a few beers on a Friday, or pizza, little things like that that you wouldn’t expect to see at a business centre.

“You’re not going to have full floor-to-ceiling glass windows with a nice view of the river, but like I said, you can have beers and pizza with us on Fridays,” Wong concluded.

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