Interview: Why are so many startups choosing co-working spaces? » SMEInsider

Interview: Why are so many startups choosing co-working spaces?

As shared office spaces continue to spring up in the UK’s entrepreneurial hubs, Adam Neumann, CEO and co-founder of co-working platform WeWork, explains his company’s holistic approach to community working, and how it can foster creativity and boost productivity for small businesses.

What sets WeWork apart from other co-working spaces?

What we provide is a complete platform for creators, and office space is just one aspect of that.

We focus heavily on fostering community, and providing services that enable businesses, including startups, entrepreneurs and even divisions of larger enterprises, to thrive. Our mission is to help our members make a life, not a living.

We are dedicated to the success of our members in a way that most others simply aren’t. Rather than just offering work space and occasional events, our approach is holistic. We’re trying to find new ways of empowering our members every day and we want to be able to really make a difference to someone who is focusing all of their energy on building a business. Community is at the heart of that. It is what really sets us apart from everyone else.

Your spaces are famed for their consistency – is it a case of one size fits all for startups?

There are number of benefits for startups in operating as part of a wider co-working business community. A recent study by the Harvard Business Review reported an 80 per cent increase in the size of business networks for companies operating within a co-working platform. This is true of the WeWork network, and we actively promote networking and inclusiveness. That is why we have a dedicated app which allows our 16,000-strong community of creators across 25 locations to connect, communicate, share expertise and support and grow their businesses from anywhere in the world. This has tangible benefits, underlined by the fact that 60 per cent of our members have done business directly with each other. That is why community development is so integral to our proposition – once a strong community is established, a virtuous cycle emerges that benefits all of our members.

We’re always trying to find new ways of empowering our members by addressing their individual needs. That is why we handle all of the key aspects of business development for our members, including access to health care, IT support, payroll and legal services. You won’t find this in any other co-working spaces. We are able to really make a difference to entrepreneurs by helping them focus all of their energies on building a successful business, rather than worrying about suppliers.

Why is WeWork investing heavily in London?

London is a global leader in culture and commerce that strongly supports its entrepreneurial community and is the perfect fit for WeWork’s international expansion. London is very similar to New York in that it has a strong small business infrastructure and creative class. But a high demand for space has emerged as the city’s independent workforce has grown. We want to grow with this workforce and help match this demand with a beautifully designed work space, but also provide a network of business support services and, most importantly, a dynamic community.

Is outside of London relevant for you?

The UK is a key market for us in terms of our international expansion plans, and we know there are certainly other cities here that have strong entrepreneurial communities such as Bristol and Brighton. However, our current focus is on growing our presence in London with the opening of our second building in Soho in February. We want to ensure we establish a strong, thriving London community before we look elsewhere.

What is your process in selecting an area in London?

We love joining neighbourhoods and inhabiting buildings with a story, and creating a new story together.

Moreover, we know affordable space for startups and growing businesses is at a premium in the capital, particularly in the now crowded East End. We are excited to grow with the independent workforce in London and help fulfil the demand for workspace, but also provide access to our rich network of members.

What do you think some other co-working spaces do wrong?

Other co-working spaces tend to be just that – spaces. Without having a focus on creating a strong culture and community, what you are left with is an office space that is impersonal, and could be anywhere. That suits some people, but what we’ve found is that the growing generation of millennials in the workforce are looking for something more and are committed to working and living in a new way. They want to create their life’s work and be part of something larger than themselves, and we’re accelerating this movement.

  • hostuniversal

    Clearly hype with little or no research there are plenty of community coworker communes in london and some of us go back decades. We all work in our different ways.