WeWork Takes on Education, Habitation and Leisure
Founded in 2010 by a pair of American and Israeli entrepreneurs, WeWork has recently taken steps to move beyond its original focus of hip work spaces and delved head first into education, lifestyle, and social engagement. With locations in more than 50 cities around the world, investments valued at $20 billion, and headquarters at the iconic Lord & Taylor Building, WeWork is branching into a ‘We’ lifestyle brand that encompasses all aspects of modern life.
After raising some $4.4 billion from Japanese telecommunications corporation Softbank, the US tech startup has gone on to create a private kindergarten for entrepreneurial children, bought Meetup, a social media platform that brings together social enthusiasts and hobbyists, and made WeLive, co-living apartments with shared amenities. Cofounder and CEO Adam Neumann describes the company as a place where people work to make a life, not just a living. WeWork plans to re-shape modern existence by changing the way people look at education, co-habitation, and social life.
As part of their goal to change the way people live their lives, WeWork has delved into education, launching a private elementary school for ‘conscious entrepreneurialship’. The pilot program, consisting of just seven students, including one of Adam and Rebekah Neumann’s children, aims to teach young children business skills and leadership. There’s no reason children in elementary schools can’t be launching their own businesses, Neumann said in an interview. She believes children should develop their passions and act on them early, instead of waiting to grow up. The students, who are aged between five to eight years old, spend one day at a 60-acre farm purchased by WeWork, and the rest of the week in a classroom near the company’s offices in Manhattan. On the farm they use math to run their vegetable stand and learn about the cycle of plants, while in class they receive lessons in business from employees and entrepreneurial customers of WeWork. According to Neumann the idea is to re-think the whole idea of what an education means, without compromising on academic standards.
Another way in which WeWork is re-thinking modern life is through WeLive, the latest offshoot of the company’s ‘We’ brand. WeLive comes in the form of furnished apartments, which encourage co-living by offering communal spaces, planned public events and shared amenities. The communal housing project, one of which is located on Wall Street five floors above WeWork’s offices, aims to inspire inhabitants to share their lives with their neighbors. An expansive kitchen enables people to cook and dine together, they can mingle by playing ping pong or shooting pool while waiting in the laundry room, or they can bond over free cocktails in the communal bar. However, the project has garnered some criticism due to the high cost of living and the co-habitation arrangements. A studio apartment at the Wall Street location can cost up to $3,000 a month, and shared living is not a new concept. Critics have described the idea as a dorm room for adults.
Last month saw WeWork branch out into yet another area of life by buying the social events and activity platform Meetup. With over 35 million members currently using the service, Meetup enables enthusiasts of social, leisure, hobby or sporting activities to create, organize and join groups around specific interests. Although the deal was undisclosed, according to news site Axios the price was around $200 million. According to WeWork, Meetup members belong to some 300,000 groups and organize 500,000 events per month. As events regularly happen at WeWork locations, the purchase enables the company to branch further into areas of leisure time and play.
The success of WeWork’s recent acquisitions remains to be seen, as the company has not always bought with such a uniform approach. According to Business Insider it was revealed recently that WeWork bought shares in Wavegarden, a maker of wave pools, FieldLens, a mobile communications app for people in construction, the Israeli startup Unomy, which shut down in September, as well as, Flatiron coding school, and an investment of $32 million in The Wing, a woman’s co-working club and space. Although the ‘We’ brand shows no signs of slowing down, only time will tell if WeWork can really change the way people choose to live, learn, and play.