There’s no doubt that the coworking spaces industry is growing. Reportedly, there are more than 14,411 coworking spaces in the world today. And the whole business model has revolutionised the way real estate works and also the way people work.
Startups and freelancers find the model of workspaces beneficial as they offer an environment which is friendlier, flexible, interactive and productive.
Shared workspaces are becoming normal now and one startup (or I should say now a scaleup) which is contributing a lot globally to grow this industry all together is WeWork.
Founded in 2010 in New York by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, WeWork has grown to a $20 billion valuation by providing office space with short-term leases, flexible terms, a built-in community, minimalistic design and a chilled out working environment.
Silicon Canals recently visited the third coworking space opened by WeWork in Amsterdam at Strawinskylaan. Luckily, we visited their space, when the whole country was struck by the heat wave! And it was quite a relief to find an air conditioner at WeWork. As a matter of fact, most of the offices in the Netherlands do not have a cooling system. To our surprise, WeWork had one and we couldn’t help but stay in the cheerful place as long as we could to have a productive day, skipping the scorching weather outside.
During our visit, we also got a chance to talk to Wybo Wijnbergen, General Manager, Germany & the Netherlands at WeWork. A delightful personality to have a conversation with and he also shared with us all about the goals, insights and future plans of the creative co-working space brand. Here take a look at the interview.
Silicon Canals: WeWork became the most hyped startup in the world. With such a responsibility, how do you plan to revolutionize the coworking trend?
Wybo Wijnbergen: Well, WeWork was founded with an aim to let entrepreneurs, freelancers, and startups come together, share their knowledge, do business with each other. And eventually, we created a platform which became quite strong and powerful. Now, we aim at creating an inspiring and collaborative community for people to share knowledge. As a shared workspace, consequently, we have witnessed a huge demand from enterprises wanting to move to our building and create a community for them.
SC: As a scaleup in Europe, how many spaces do you have right now? And what are your expansion plans?
WW: In Europe, we already operate in 5 buildings in Berlin and will open the sixth space by the end of this year. We have one working space each in Hamburg and Frankfurt. Both the cities will get the second building later this year. Also, we are all set to open 2 buildings in Munich in August. We have 3 buildings in Amsterdam and will open 2 more in 2019. Further, we will also open co-working spaces in Stockholm by March 2019.
Also, we are eying to expand in other cities and countries in Northern Europe. However, this year, will be focusing only on Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.
In most of our buildings, we have over 80% occupancy in just 6 months. We opened our first building in 2010, then 2 more in 2011, then 3 more in 2012 and so on. We managed to double or surpass the double expansion year after year. This year, we aim to open WeWork co-working spaces in 200 locations. But with the current progress, it looks like, we will have spaces in 400 locations by the end of 2081, globally. Hence, next year, we could target to open 800 shared spaces across the globe.
SC: What is the strategy of WeWork, when it comes to building communities? What do you focus on primarily?
WW: At WeWork, we strongly believe in diversity. We aim to give an equal opportunity to everyone and our doors are open for everyone in the community. It is all about bringing everyone together and organising workshops, yoga sessions and events. Our vision is, “More diverse our community is, the more interesting and more opportunities will come up for everyone in the community.”
SC: How does the price model work at WeWork?
WW: We offer the same pricing plans to everyone in the community. Be it startups, freelancers or big enterprises, we have a monthly membership of €38.60 for everyone. Paying this cost, members can have a dedicated desk with some great views, access to the internet, coffee, free beer and our community platform.
SC: So, what are the major challenges you face as a coworking scaleup?
WW: I would say, culture is one of the most challenging aspects. We have new and amazing people joining our community every week. So, to be focused on creating a culture is becoming a tough task. But we believe in giving a priority to the people first and the rest will follow.
SC: So, what’s next for WeWork?
WW: Well, WeWork also has an online platform in addition to the physically shared workspaces. Our online platform lets all the 260,000 members of our global community connect with the others. It is similar to Facebook and LinkedIn. It lets members have private chats, understand the events happening in our buildings and take part in the same. On the whole, it is a very powerful platform.
Further, WeWork is also hosting the Creator Awards in the Netherlands after Germany. The finale will happen on November 15 and the deadline to submit the application is September 28, 2018. All Dutch residents can apply for these global awards initiative and win up to $ 360,000 funding each. WeWork aims Back in 2017, WeWork gave away over $ 17 million to 190 winners.
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