WeWork: The Attraction of Collaboration
WeWork's mission “to create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living” has attracted a membership of over 150,000 people since it was founded in 2010. The company’s founders, Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, are committed to promoting a “we” lifestyle by transforming building spaces in cities around the world into collaborative environments for businesses, residents, students and gym-goers. Their original idea to make a profit off of sub-leasing divisions of office space to companies of varying sizes has landed the start-up in 172 locations worldwide. WeWork is currently valued at $20 billion, with investors such as SoftBank, JP Morgan, Chase and Goldman Sachs, who have publicized their support and commitment to the vision of the company. Currently, WeWork manages over 10 million square feet of office space providing the means for freelancers, entrepreneurs and small businesses alike to work under a shared roof and utilize common resources, eliminating several added costs. The cost of sub-leasing WeWork space is not cheap; Rates start at $350/month for a desk, and $650/month per person for 64 square feet of space in an office. However, there are incentives that extend beyond a collaborative environment that have drawn the company’s sizable membership base. Benefits to members include a discount on health insurance plans and Web hosting. Additionally, as the website advertises, WeWork spaces are “move-in ready,” coming fully-equipped with desks, chairs, filing cabinets and printers.
The success of WeWork’s collaborative office vision has incentivized cofounders of the company to expand their idea to residential spaces, schools, and gyms in some of America’s largest cities. Rise by We, WeLive, and WeGrow are extensions of what has grown into a lifestyle brand committed to improving the overall well being of its clients.
Based on the conception that city life can be isolating for residents, WeLive applies the collaborative co-working vision to living experiences, offering fully furnished apartments (with amenities from sheets and towels to a television and small kitchen) to residents starting at $3,050 per month. Currently, WeLive is isolated to two locations: one in New York City and the other in Washington D.C., but there are plans to open a 36-story tower in Seattle in the next three years that will feature 23 floors devoted to communal living. Floors in the buildings are called “neighborhoods,” each fittingly decorated with its own décor theme. Critics deem the concept of WeLive to be an extension of dorm living, but for young newcomers settling into big cities, the prospect of living in a communal space in a daunting environment might be attractive. The New York City location features a nightclub in the basement of the 27-story building, called Mailroom, as it doubly functions as WeWork’s mailroom by day. In addition, residents have access to a rooftop terrace, a Momofuku Milk bar, and kitchen and laundry spaces. Guests can connect over the WeLive app to make plans to meet up for the daily cocktail hour endorsed by the company that takes place at the building’s bar set up on the 10th floor, or organize games of pool in the laundry room. Most of the residents thus far are employees of big companies that use WeWork, but the company offers single night stays for a comparable hotel experience.
Rise by We is a gym/spa experience that opened in Manhattan this past fall, reflecting the company’s desire to branch into the health and well-being sectors of business. Gym memberships are offered to both members and non-members of WeWork, for a current fee of $180 per month, which is expected to rise as demand increases. The renovated interior boasts areas for cardio, weightlifting, boxing, yoga and mixed martial arts along with a private training area covered by artificial turf. Additional amenities include a spa that features a steam room, sauna, hot tub and mineral bath based on Turkish and Russian bath house cultures to provide guests with an all-around elite gym experience. Drinks, snacks, and beauty products sold by members of WeWork are marketed in the lobby.
The final, and least developed extension of the WeWork model is a plan for WeGrow, a slew of private elementary schools focused on “conscious entrepreneurship.” Rebekah Neumann, the chief brand officer of WeWork and wife of founder Adam Neumann, launched the pilot program for this idea in September, with a goal of “raising conscious global citizens.” By incorporating classes on mindfulness, meditation and cooking into students’ curriculum, WeGrow’s vision is to inspire a remodel of education that encourages students to explore their passions. The students in the pilot program spend one day a week at a 60-acre farm and the other days at a classroom in Manhattan where they receive instruction from employees at WeWork who specialize in entrepreneurship in addition to instruction in standard elementary school classes such as math and reading taught by top notch New York public school teachers. The company’s expectations are to enroll approximately 65 students between the ages of three and ten in the school hosted at WeWork’s headquarters in New York by next year. Eventually, however, they hope to expand it to educate Pre-Kindergarteners through Twelfth graders and inspire reforms in education.
In the last seven years, WeWork has grown from a vision of two entrepreneurs to a lifestyle brand, and it has established itself as the third biggest U.S. start-up behind Uber and Airbnb according to Business Insider. By capitalizing on a previously unexposed niche market in community-based spaces, the young company has quickly become a global phenomenon.