How This Singapore Start-up Gives Entrepreneurs More Than Just a Place to Sleep
Expanding to India and Indonesia three months after launch, Tribe Theory proves that the new category of entrepreneur-focused accommodation works
PHOTO CREDIT: Company Courtesy
Nestled in a quaint neighborhood where old Chinese clan associations and exclusive social clubs used to be, a heritage shophouse in Ann Siang Hill bears the sign “Venture Hotel.” Behind the glass doors are rooms divided into even more rooms, with tables and couches for board games and beer, and where spaces to work and play blend into one another.
“To be perfectly frank, I was wondering if the concept really works or if it will be purely ‘normal’ backpackers who stay at the hostel,” writes entrepreneur Henning Frank on Facebook.
Frank was still writing his review on Tribe Theory’s Facebook page, sipping coffee and smoking outside the hostel, when he met Nilesh, a serial entrepreneur from India. He stopped writing as he became interested in conversing with him about digital products and environmental services. He was glad to be able to connect with a like-minded entrepreneur.
“I think this is what Tribe Theory is about. I just love it!” Frank ends his Facebook post, adding that the place has a clean environment, the best coffee, and the “most lovely staff.”
Three months after its official launch in Singapore last March, Tribe Theory announces its expansion to India and Indonesia. Two Construkt start-up hostels in Bangalore, India will be rebranded to Tribe Theory. In Indonesia, Tribe Theory’s new branch will be located in Dalung, on the outskirts of digital nomad hub Canggu. It seems that the concept of an entrepreneur-focused hotel continues to gain traction as the company says it has already housed over a thousand entrepreneurs from eighty different countries within three months. And 85% of its guests indicate that they are either entrepreneurs or working in the start-up space.
“Hearing amazing stories about building a start-up from all corners of the world and being able to provide them with affordable yet soulful accommodation gives me a lot of energy,” says Tribe Theory founder Vikram Bharati. “Creating a community of global citizens is absolutely a privilege.”
Industry insights from Smith Travel Research report that economy hotel chains represent only 3% of the total hotels in Southeast Asia, lagging behind other Asian countries like Japan (10%) and China (44%). Tribe Theory certainly has a huge gap to fill as the demand for more entrepreneur-focused accommodations is expected to rise with the region’s flourishing start-up industry pulling in $6.5 billion in disclosed equity funding in 2017.
More than just a place to sleep
“We want to connect start-ups from all over the world to each other. The more locations we have, the more network effects we will be able to create,” says Bharati.
REAPRA-backed Tribe Theory has organized numerous events in partnership with start-up focused organizations like AWS, Slush, and 500 Startups. As Tribe Theory serves as a space for entrepreneurs and start-ups to connect, Bharati shares how the hotel has witnessed countless real-life start-up stories unfold.
He recounts how they connected a guy from a Kazakhstan start-up to Singaporeans who helped him prepare for his presentation about his traffic monitoring technology to Malaysian government officials. Or how a Marine Corps veteran from England who wanted to digitize his business of cargo ships protection services in West Africa got connected to the developers he needed.
One start-up, Bharati recalls, did their ICO in one of Tribe Theory’s capsule bedrooms and ended up raising $40 million. The entire start-up team still chooses to stay in Tribe Theory’s hotel whenever they’re in town, despite now having the capacity to afford more expensive accommodations.
Bharati has more stories to tell, saying that they want to be instrumental in the lives of entrepreneurs as they experience start-up challenges, too.
“Since this is my first time ever building a hospitality and accommodation business, I had to learn everything from scratch. I had absolutely no idea how I was supposed to run things so I made lots of mistakes, but we've learned a lot, and we keep improving things everyday,” shares Bharati.
And as they expand operations, Tribe Theory knows localization is key.
“Our Bali location is going to have a vegetable garden where our guests can pick the veggies fresh and we will cook it for them,” Bharati says, adding that they want entrepreneurs to be rejuvenated in the open rice fields, too. “In Bangalore, we are going to be bringing start-ups from Southeast Asia and connecting them with Indian start-ups. Every new location is going to have its own unique culture.”
Bharati believes they’re onto something special — where a community of entrepreneurs can work (and play) in their home away from home.
REAPRA is an investor in Sycamore Media Holdings, which publishes Inc. Southeast Asia.