First WeWork lands in Australia

Australia’s first WeWork co-working hub opened in Sydney.

One of America’s biggest workplace experiments has landed in Australia — and it’s not doing things by halves.

If anything, it has set itself a rather lofty goal.

WeWork is a shared workspace business that has sky­rocketed from a tiny Manhattan start-up in 2010 to a global giant valued at $US16 billion ($21 billion).

It is trying to move away from the term “co-work” as it launches into the Asia-Pacific, instead asking members to revolutionise the way they fit work into their lives.

Balder Tol, the company’s community manager, goes so far as to say the only thing the company is competing with in Australia is “the way we work itself”.

“We don’t think about co-working, that’s not how we think,” says Tol, who is in Sydney with WeWork general manager Hong Kong, Korea and Australia, Henek Lo.

“What we are doing is innovating around the change in the workplace and what people want from their work — you see that there is a pivot around more ­collaboration and we are really building the platform for a new way of working.”

WeWork’s Henek Lo, left, and Balder Tol are moving away from the term ‘co-work’. Picture: Britta Campion

WeWork’s Henek Lo, left, and Balder Tol are moving away from the term ‘co-work’. Picture: Britta Campion

WeWork in ­Sydney officially launches on Tuesday with its 99th office located in Martin Place, spread over three floors of the old Money Box building.

It contains all the signature quirks that have made WeWork famous — beer on tap available from the lobby bar, free weekly yoga classes and “Wellness Wednesdays”, a steady stream of micro-roasted coffee, discounted computer software, virtual global networking platforms and internal workshops — all squarely aimed at the up and coming entrepreneurs, freelancers, start-ups and small businesses that work within the space.

This year, our job is to really listen to our early members in the region and see where to go from there

A dedicated desk at Martin Place will cost $850 a month, while a private one-person office starts at $1150 and an eight-person office is $8250 a month.

It’s already at more than 90% capacity, and another space on Harris St in Pyrmont is due to open in November.

The Australian executive team is tight-lipped about opening any further locations but acknowledge cities such as Melbourne would fit the WeWork mould.

One of the conference rooms at WeWork in Martin Place.

One of the conference rooms at WeWork in Martin Place. Picture: WeWork.

“Let’s get to this one first,” says Ole Ruch, managing director of the company’s Asia-Pacific branch.

“Of course, there is definitely scope to expand further in Australia as well, but we have nothing planned at this stage.

The Australian expansion comes several months after The Wall Street Journal published reports, including leaked forecasts from the company, indicating it wasn’t meeting some targets, which were based on a model of “super growth” and related to the late rollout of its dorm-like ­residences called WeLive.

But Ruch is quick to refute the start-up is in any trouble.

“(Those documents) were something that was prepared for us a long time ago … it does not reflect where we are,” he says.

“We added 7000 members in June, we are adding 10,000 members in August.

“We are growing as fast as ever, and especially in Asia and Australia we are very much building as we expand across the region.

“Our business is performing ­incredibly well, much stronger than it’s ever done before.”

Eyes will be on the two Sydney shared office spaces over the ­coming months, as Australian entrepreneurs size up the value of the WeWork set-up.

“This year, our job is to really listen to our early members in the region and see where to go from there,” Tol says.

This article originally appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au/property.