You could say Ron Chen lives and breathes his job, even sharing his company’s motto as his own. “I like to use the philosophy of ATLAS, which can be concentrated into three words: wander, wonder and work,” says the founder and CEO of ATLAS, which provides private and co-working office spaces at its 25 projects in Hong Kong, mainland China and Vietnam. “Take the roads less travelled … venture into the unknown … get together with people of a common vision, then find opportunities to make things happen and things that matter.”
Chen – the son of Chinese billionaire Chen Zhou Lin, who founded real-estate development company Agile Group – grew up in Hong Kong and graduated from the University of York’s Law and Management School in the UK. He worked in Morgan Stanley Asia’s investment-banking division before setting up Byron Asset Management in 2014 and ATLAS in 2016.
“At that time, we wanted to get into the real-estate industry. Our team visited many cities across Asia to learn about the market trends, and we realised that over the past three decades, landlords were only responsible for property leasing and management,” Chen says. “There’s a huge demand for lifestyle facilities. We therefore came up with this Full-Cycle Office Building Operator idea and set up the business.”
In just three years, Chen and his team have established ATLAS Workplaces and ATLAS Living Spaces in strategic locations such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Xi’an, Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City. The company last year secured a valuation of HK$6.8 billion and just last month it launched a design and construction company to help clients tailor-make and run their headquarters and private offices – from interior design and site construction to property maintenance and service management.
“ATLAS isn’t just an office-space and service provider, but it’s also a strategic workplace partner for our clients to build and manage their properties from scratch,” says Chen, who’s particularly proud of the lifestyle elements – art studios, golf simulators, concierge services and on-site breweries – that set his properties apart from others of their kind.
“We have a vision to change the mundane work style of CBDers [people working in central business districts],” he says. The next country to undergo the ATLAS transformation is Vietnam, where the company is opening its first overseas location in Ho Chi Minh City next year and plans to establish three more.
When he isn’t working, which doesn’t appear to be that often, Chen enjoys boxing, playing basketball and spending time with family. “I used to play basketball for [the University of] York,” he says. “Recently my team members [at ATLAS] and I participated in a Guangzhou CBD basketball match, so I could spend
some leisure time with them and build stronger relationships.”
Outfit: Chen’s own