WeWork: How co-working is changing the way small businesses operate

First of all, tell us a little more about what WeWork is and what you provide:

At its heart, WeWork is a platform to support creators and innovative enterprise. We provide everything businesses of all sizes need to succeed: beautiful inspiring work spaces, professional business services, training and education, with the benefits of working within a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

Our whole approach is centred on helping our members make a life out of their passion, and not just a living.

You recently opened a building on London’s South Bank as your first international location. What made you choose London over other cities?

As a global leader in culture and commerce, London strongly supports its entrepreneurial community and so was the perfect fit for WeWork’s first international location. London is very similar to New York in that it has a strong small business infrastructure and creative class, but one challenge that has emerged as the independent workforce has grown in the city is a high demand for space.

We want to grow with London’s workforce and help match this demand with not only a beautifully designed work space, but also a network of business support services and, most importantly, a thriving community.

WeWork space

Do you have any plans for further locations in London?

The UK is a key market for us in terms of our international expansion plans. We’re already close to full occupancy in the South Bank building, which is phenomenal, and we are opening our second location in Soho on Sheraton Street in February. We plan to continue to expand in London in 2015.

The South Bank isn’t considered to be one of London’s traditional start-up hubs – what influenced this choice?

The South Bank is an emerging area with a strong existing community of media and technology firms, and has a long heritage in the creative arts. Its central London location means we are within touching distance of other key commercial areas – finance in the Square Mile to the East, media on Fleet Street to the North, and government and Westminster to the West.

It also has proximity to key transport hubs such as Waterloo and Blackfriars making it easily accessible. Additionally, the building itself (the old Sea Containers House) and the complex was particularly inspiring to us. We love joining neighbourhoods and inhabiting buildings with a story, and creating a new story together. The South Bank felt reminiscent of Brooklyn – both beautiful and affordable.

How do you think co-working is changing the way people work?

The co-working phenomenon is addressing the challenges faced by startups today, but there is currently no community based co-working space that connects entrepreneurs within their buildings and to the global business community like WeWork. We are dedicated to the success of our members in a way that most others co-working platforms aren’t or can’t be.

Rather than just offering work space and occasional events, our approach is holistic. We handle all of the key aspects of business development for our members, including access to health care, IT support, payroll and legal services which you won’t find in similar spaces elsewhere.

We’re trying to find new ways of empowering our members every day. We want to be able to really make a difference to entrepreneurs by helping them focus all of their energies on building a successful business.

What are some of the main benefits for businesses operating in a co-working space such as WeWork?

There are multiple 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.

We have already seen the impact of this in our communities across the US, where 60% of our members have done business with each other. This is proof that once a strong community is established, it creates a virtuous cycle of benefits.

Visit WeWork to check out their London locations. You can also connect with them on social media by following them on Twitter and liking their Facebook page

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