How WeWork became the most hyped startup in the world

Each morning, a group of young professionals file through the security gates of a co-working space in Moorgate, tapping their membership cards as they enter. Receptionists greet them cheerily, sometimes by name, welcoming them into a large, wood-floored communal lounge. A mural on the back wall, painted pink and peach and blue, proclaims: “Make It Happen!”

The space belongs to WeWork, a US company that provides shared workspaces and offices to startups, freelancers and, increasingly, global corporations. WeWork’s model is simple: it takes on large commercial leases, does the space up in its signature style of hip decor and prosecco on tap, then rents it out in smaller chunks and on shorter terms.

WeWork launched its first shared workspace in New York in 2010, leasing office space to startups and small businesses on a monthly basis. Since then, the company has grown at a rapid clip. It now has 253 locations in 22 countries and manages more than 1.3 million square metres of office space. London is the company’s second-largest market after New York; WeWork operates 23 locations across the city and has plans for ten more, including a colossal 26,000-square-meter space on the South Bank. According to US-based commercial estate agent Cushman & Wakefield, the company is now London’s largest office occupier after the UK Government, leasing 240,000 square metres across the capital.

WeWork Moorgate occupies a large portion of a tall, glass-windowed building just off London Wall, across the road from the Brutalist facades of the Barbican Centre. With 3,377 members across eight floors, it is currently WeWork’s largest London location.

The ground floor interior is designed along WeWork’s trademark aesthetic, lit with warm lamps and furnished with a mix of tables, chairs and squishy tan leather sofas. A food counter run by Le Pain Quotidien sells baguettes and fresh-pressed juices; coffee is on the house.

One level up is a popular hangout for breaks, with tables for ping-pong, pool and foosball. A poster advertises the week’s upcoming events: there’s a breakfast club called “Thank God It’s Monday” and a yoga and pilates session for “Wellness Wednesday”. Today, WeWork members (WeWork calls its users “members”) are invited to take advantage of a pop-up hairdressing service that accepts payment in bitcoin.

Leni Zneimer, WeWork’s general manager for the UK and Ireland, gives me a brief tour of the building, stopping by a hot-desking area on the seventh floor. Here, members are spread across desks in ones and twos, working on laptops or holding impromptu meetings. Most appear to be in their 20s and 30s; some wear blue jeans, others are in suits and ties.

When signing up to WeWork, you can choose between membership types. The cheapest option is hot-desking, which grants access to communal areas but no private workspace. Pay a little more and you can reserve a desk. The most expensive option is a private office, which can range in size from one person to capacity for hundreds of people. Prices vary a lot depending on location; at Moorgate, hot-desking memberships start at £390 per month, while a reserved desk is £460. Private offices start at £770 per month for one seat, up to £41,100 for 50 seats, with bespoke deals for larger teams. Here on the seventh floor, a large space is reserved for American financial corporation Citigroup, which opened an innovation lab in February.

All members using the floor share meeting rooms, phone booths and a communal kitchen, which is kitted out with a coffee machine, microwave and two beer taps. Cold-water jugs flavoured with sliced fruit are regularly refreshed; the fridges are stocked with milk and a variety of non-dairy alternatives. Zneimer says that each WeWork tries to be sensitive to local cultures and preferences. In the US, there is more of an appetite for filter coffee, but London members prefer an espresso machine. WeWorks in the UK are also sure to offer a wide selection of tea. “We know that offering biscuits is important, and that’s not just an afternoon thing,” she adds.

It may sound like a silly detail, but this focus on forging an agreeable communal space is central to WeWork’s mission. The company is now valued at $20 billion, making it one of the five most highly-valued private companies in the US, alongside Uber, Airbnb, Palantir Technologies and SpaceX. By the end of 2018, WeWork projects that it will have increased its number of workspaces to 400 and its members to 400,000. Ask WeWork CEO Adam Neumann what makes WeWork so special, however, and he will say that it is about so much more than office space. It is about what he calls the “We Generation” – a largely Millennial workforce who demand more from their work than just a job. According to Neumann, they value experiences over material goods, crave a sense of community and fulfilment, and want to be part of something greater than themselves.

The hype of WeWork is unique or fictional?? What do you think??

Adam Neumann first met WeWork co founder Miguel McKelvey through a mutual friend. At the time, Neumann was running a baby clothing brand, called Krawlers, but it wasn’t doing very well – “I was doing about $2 million in sales and $3 million in expenses,” he says.

McKelvey had a job at a small architecture firm in Brooklyn, where he worked on a few early American Apparel stores. One of his colleagues was Neumann’s room-mate. When McKelvey first went over to their apartment, he was taken aback by the casual vibe of the place. The door was left open and people were hanging out, chatting and playing guitar. “I didn’t know Israelis at the time,” he says. “Now, looking back on it, this was a very Israeli environment – just open-door policy.”

Both co founders had unusual upbringings. Neumann was born in Israel and moved to Indianapolis with his mother after his parents divorced. He travelled around a lot as a child, including spending some time on a kibbutz. McKelvey grew up in a commune-style environment in Oregon, where his mother was part of a group of women who raised their children collectively. He recalls once, at the age of seven, losing sight of his mother at a music festival and falling asleep alone in the grass. “To me, that seemed totally normal,” he says. “I now have a seven-year-old son. And the idea that I would leave my son in the middle of the forest and just go to sleep in the car and leave him out there is mindblowing to me. I can’t even fathom it.”

McKelvey is tall and slim, with brown hair and a soft voice. He describes himself as shy, and says he was initially intimidated by Neumann’s exuberant personality. “I definitely had a level of discomfort right off the bat with his energy being so outgoing,” he says.

Nevertheless, the two soon became friends. When Neumann needed new office space, McKelvey convinced him to move into the same building as his architecture firm. They would take breaks together and throw around business ideas. That’s how they conceived of Green Desk, a shared-workspace business with a focus on sustainability.

Neumann recalls the struggle to get the first Green Desk building. He was arguing a lot with the cofounder of his baby clothing business, and whenever he needed an escape, he’d head to a nearby building that was standing empty and try to convince the landlord to lease it to him.

“What do you know about buildings?” the landlord would say. “You don’t know anything about real estate.”

You don’t know real estate!” Neumann would riposte. “The building’s empty.”

Several months passed, then one day the landlord asked Neumann what he would do if he gave him one floor of the building. Neumann laid out the plan: he’d bring in 15 small businesses, which would share a receptionist and other services. The landlord was intrigued. Say he let them take the whole building?

From that beginning we now have WeWork

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