WeWork Cos., the world’s largest co-working space start-up, is embarking on an ambitious expansion in Latin America, setting its sights on the region after recent forays in China and India.
A week after opening its first office space in Brazil, WeWork is planning to boost the number of people working in its facilities across the region 10-fold, to 20,000 by the beginning of 2018, said Miguel McKelvey, the company’s co-founder and chief creative officer.
“Right now we think of Latin America as one of our most important regions and a place where we’re going to continue to aggressively pursue new locations throughout the year and continue to grow very quickly,” McKelvey said in an interview.
New York-based WeWork already operates five locations in Latin America and plans to open 10 more by January. Those new spots include five locations in Brazil, three in Mexico, one in Argentina and a debut in Colombia. Its first office in Brazil, in Sao Paulo, opened last week on Paulista Avenue and filled its 2,000 work spots. A technology company, a law firm and a venture capital firm are among its clients there.
WeWork, founded in 2010 by McKelvey and Adam Neumann and currently valued at about $20 billion, is expanding its concept of shared work spaces to embrace larger companies, like multinationals, and distance itself from up-and-coming rivals that cater typically more to individual freelance workers and small companies.
“Our approach appeals to companies of all shapes and sizes,” McKelvey said.
WeWork has some company clients with as many as 600 people in their sites, he said, but they aren’t always good at creating an enticing work environment, especially for the younger employees. “That is something that we do really well,” he said. “In some ways they are asking us for a solution for a workspace, but they are also asking us for an infusion of uplifting culture and spirit.”
WeWork has adapted its spaces for the specific needs of its larger clients, in a sort of custom fit for offices. At the same time, it tries to balance a dynamic environment with the common meeting areas like the cafeteria. Gaining access to the contacts of its more than 120,000 members is also a plus, McKelvey said.
Besides Latin American countries, India and China are the company’s “primary new markets,” McKelvey said. The company opened its first space in Bengaluru, India, last week and plans to open at least six more locations in the country by January in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi. In China, the company operates in Shanghai and Beijing.
WeWork reached the $20 billion valuation after raising $760 million in a funding round recently, according to a person familiar with the matter. That puts the company among the world’s five most valuable technology start-ups.
McKelvey declined to comment on the company’s financing for the expansion. “To build out locations is a challenge,” he said. “But we came out with a very sophisticated platform of how we manage that whole process and it allows us to run it like a software development process, and it gives us a lot of confidence in our ability to execute.”