I worked from Hive Arena last year during my 4-week stay in Seoul and had an incredible, community-centered coworking experience. Hive Arena was perfect for both getting work done and meeting people, from Seoul-based tech entrepreneurs to fellow nomads. Not to mention the space’s cozy vibe: finding everyone sharing a snack or fruit tea in the afternoon wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary.
Recently Hive Arena moved from Gangnam to Yeouido and added coliving. I asked founders Hyekyung Hwang and Jongjin Choi about their community and the changes.
How did Hive Arena get started? How has it changed since then?
We started Hive Arena in October 2014, in Gangnam, because the two of us needed a place to work. We didn’t know anything about starting a business, but we wanted to create a community where we could share knowledge and help each other. We’ve now been running it, self-funded, for over three years. We’ve hosted over 300 tech people from around the world, many of them digital nomads.
Our competition has definitely grown. When we started Hive Arena, there were only four coworking spaces in Seoul. Now, including Wework, there are over 60 big coworking spaces here. Yet Forbes named us as one of the 11 best coworking spaces in Asia. We are establishing ourselves as a representative coworking space of Seoul. And we are building a global technology community from Korea to abroad with our coworkers.
What is the community at Hive Arena like?
At first our community members were mostly Korean startup people working on mobile services and educational programs. But now our community members are techies and geeks who come from around the world. Some are remote workers from tech startups. Others are solo entrepreneurs funding their own projects. 80% of our coworkers are software engineers.
You’ve called Hive Arena a “tech for good” community. What projects has the community worked on?
Some of our coworkers have built projects to resolve social problems. There are two representative projects: Goodbye Gun Stocks and Vote for Korea. Goodbye Gun Stocks is a 30-day campaign to help millions of American investors divest from gun stocks. Using Goodbye Gun Stocks, you can quickly test your mutual fund and find similar funds without gun stocks. Vote for Korea is a campaign to encourage voting in elections. It randomly selects people who are certified to vote and rewards them for doing so.
How does Hive Arena support women working in tech and for social change?
We are running a small community for women called “Her.” It’s still in the beginning stage, but we’re planning to build a learn to code program for women. We believe many women could make a huge positive impact on the world if they had better access to coding lessons and other technological resources.
What kind of events take place at Hive Arena?
We’ve held over 100 startup-related events, like Hackathons, Ideation workshops, Office Hours sessions, etc. We host a Freelance Friday and the Seoul Digital Nomad Meetup. We frequently sponsor Korean tech community events by allowing them to use our space. Recently we’ve been holding knowledge sharing, learn to code, and social events, like Korean BBQ parties for our coworkers. Members are also welcome to create their own events here.
Hive Arena recently moved to Yeouido. What is your new neighborhood like? Why did you choose it?
We were originally based in Gangnam because it’s the best area of Seoul to be in for startups trying to raise venture capital. It’s a traditional business area with a fast, competitive culture. But we’ve realized that our community members value productivity and a more balanced work life over raising money. Here in Yeouido, we’re steps away from a market, a fitness club, yoga classes, an ecological park, and great local restaurants. We’re 15 minutes away from the National Assembly building and the headquarters of several social groups and financial institutions, like the Korea Stock Exchange and the International Financial Center. And we’re 20 minutes walk away from Noryangjin station, home to the largest fish market in the city and a plethora of cheap street stalls that make for fun food-filled excursions.
How did you choose and design your new space?
For our new space we chose a house that was built in 1972, over 40 years ago. Seoul is a big city that has grown tremendously in a short amount of time. As part of that process we’ve modernized a lot. We’ve valued convenience over preservation. As a result, we’re losing the good things of the past little by little. We love traditional things and warm interiors, and we want to preserve and share what Seoul was like in the 70’s, before modern apartments took over. The interior of our house is the original wood, and we decided to fill it with beautiful old furniture. We did however remodel the coliving rooms and bathrooms to be easier to live in and use.
What is the coliving experience at Hive Arena like?
Members get their own private rooms as well as access to our public spaces, which include a living room, kitchen, dining room, designated coworking room with external monitors, and garden. We’re looking forward to inviting our Hive Arena friends into the garden this spring to see our flowers, drink coffee and tea, and enjoy Korean BBQ together. We’re working on getting the terrace ready for relaxing in the sunshine, and planting a rooftop vegetable garden. We’ll also be organizing group meditation and yoga. Indoors, we have an LCD TV with a PS4 and Netflix set up for entertainment.
We value meeting other open-minded people, exchanging ideas with them, and lifting each other up. We love when people from all over the world find similar interests and are able to help each other, in both big and small ways. That’s the type of community we’re building.
How do people sign up for coliving and coworking at Hive Arena?
Check out Hive Arena on Workfrom.