Modern Offices for 20 Billion Dollars

Article January 25, 2018  |  Text by Petra Baumruková Text by Petra Baumruková

Coworking, Community, Colossal. That’s the startup WeWork, which has grown in the mere eight years since its founding into the largest global player on the office-spaces market. But it’s about more than just renting working spaces to freelancers and small enterprises. WeWork also provides consulting and complete branch management services in this area to multinationals. According to the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureSource, WeWork is currently valuated at $20 billion, making it the sixth most valuable global startup, right behind Uber, Airbnb, and SpaceX.

Since acquiring its first office spaces in New York’s SoHo district in 2010, WeWork has grown up into what is now 278 buildings in 59 cities worldwide. Paradoxically the global financial crisis was what stood behind its success. Its founders Miguel McKelvey, Adam Neumann, and Rebekah Neumann built their business plan on linking freshly abandoned office buildings with freelancers and startups.

And the over 1,000 companies and individuals now in the WeWork community — among which you’ll find e.g. Microsoft, Spotify, Deloitte, and HSBC — confirm that this was the right idea. When designing its office and coworking spaces, WeWork cooperates with a team of architects, interior designers, and artists.

However, workplaces carefully designed down to the last detail are only part of WeWork’s added value. Another part lies in information. And the more WeWork grows, the more information it has, making it even more attractive for individuals and companies. And so it keeps growing onward. Along with its unstopping expansion, it’s gaining a dominant position when negotiating long-term leases for office spaces, which it then rents out to smaller entities.

Welcome, Millennials!

WeWork knows precisely how a work environment should look in order for you to want to go there and benefit from its cooperation possibilities rather than working from home. It provides membership-based access to its work spaces. And thus one great advantage of WeWork is that you can work at any site within its community (which currently has over 207 locations, after its expansion into Spain at the beginning of 2018). So one week you can book a work table in Dublin, and the next you can work for example in Rio de Janeiro. You’ll enjoy the same high work-environment standard both times.

You can have a variable coworking spot (a Hot Desk) in office buildings administered by WeWork for a single monthly rent as low as just $220 a month, a permanent work desk ($350 and up), or a private office for as many as 100+ people ($400 and up).

All WeWork members have access to first-class shared services including professional receptionists, conference rooms (here WeWork is newly testing, as one of the few to do so, the Alexa for Business voice assistant from Amazon), cafes, bars, relaxation zones, office supplies, bike storage, and more. WeWork also negotiates various discounts from partner firms, e.g. discounted gym fees. Via its own WeWork Wellness program, it also supports the idea of a healthy mind in a healthy body; last year it opened this program’s first branch in New York.

In 2017 WeWork also presented its own Service Store, which combines over 100 services (such as Amazon Web Services, Office 365, Upwork, and Lyft) for its members. Last year it also bought the Meet Up communication platform, the Unomy sales and marketing platform, and the Fieldlens application for project managers.

We've touched on information capital above; here’s a good example of how it’s put to use. WeWork community managers worldwide can record individual members’ preferences and use that knowledge to benefit them. So even if you’re out on a working trip abroad, the community manager in your remote location will wish you all the best on your birthday, and you’ll have a bottle of your favorite wine on your desk as a gift.

Goliaths and Other Giants

However, WeWork’s practically unparalleled added-value services are not its only stock in trade. Its work with information and its in-house analyses make it a literal expert on how to utilize a given set of resources effectively. And its corporate clients are especially interested in this. WeWork is thus both drawing enterprises into its “standardized” office buildings and, for more demanding clients, turning its buildings into new customized work spaces.

It’s also successfully expanding its cooperation with corporate clients into the area of renting and administering a whole building for one company. IBM has already placed its offices in Greenwich Village into WeWork’s hands, and the Berlin branch of Airbnb and the Boston Amazon office are doing the same. And WeWork sees the future in going even farther than this — in providing outsourcing for the administration of buildings that are owned by its clients rather than leased by itself.