London’s serviced office scene has been shaken up by WeWork, a designer-led solution for businesses wishing to put down roots in stylish locations without signing long leases. We visited the company’s new base in the capital to discover why SMEs and corporates are choosing a venue with collaboration and technology at its core
Last October, WeWork brought its concept of high-spec serviced office spaces to London, attracting established names such as Tech City UK, 500 start-ups and companies such as Farfetch, Skyscanner and Amazon to its hubs. Technology, community and über-cool interior design are at its core.
Founded in New York five years ago by 30-something entrepreneurs Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, WeWork is now valued at $10bn (£6.4bn).
It boasts 49 locations worldwide, with a presence in 12 US cities, has two hubs in Israel and spearheaded its European rollout from London with the opening of premises on the South Bank, Soho and Devonshire Square.
The Moorgate space, which opened in July, is set to be WeWork’s largest international building with capacity for 3,000 people over seven floors.
“London is one of the most vibrant entrepreneurial cities in the world,” says WeWork’s head of global expansion, Patrick Morselli. “It’s natural for a company born in New York City to choose London as one of its first international locations.”
WeWork’s business model is to lease floors of office buildings – in Moorgate’s case a shiny, glass mid-size tower – and divide them into glass-fronted offices of varying sizes, arranged around communal areas to encourage interaction between members (as WeWork refers to its tenants).
Why Moorgate? “It’s in the middle of the City, very close to the start-up environment in Shoreditch, with excellent transport links to the West End,” says Morselli.
Current members include digital agencies, fintech businesses and recruitment companies.
“The architectural design of our buildings is top-class. They are fun to be in,” says Morselli, giving a nod to WeWork’s in-house design team, which has handpicked everything from the Chesterfield sofas and granite-topped kitchen units to the mid-century Scandi sideboard and vibrant butterfly print wallpaper adorning one of the many conference rooms.
Space to work
Offices vary in size – from a one-person space to workspaces that comfortably fit 45 people. (Larger businesses can request several of these adjoining.) All come with high-quality furniture, WiFi and internet access, a monthly printing allowance, IT support and mailroom deliveries.
“We are seeing more and more larger companies taking space at WeWork. The environment is amazing. People can connect with other companies,” says Morselli.
Instead of six-month or year leases, businesses sign a monthly rolling membership agreement for however long they require. “Companies have the flexibility to increase or decrease in size and we always find ways to accommodate them,” he adds.
Members have 24/7 access to their home building and conference rooms around the world. WeWork also provides 16 hours of monthly meeting-room credit for a four-person office. Offices are equipped for video conferencing and presentations.
Each floor has a fully stocked pantry with tea, coffee and refreshments and even free beer on tap into the evening.
It’s all part of WeWork’s raison d’être to create environments that promote interaction and collaboration between businesses of all sizes and sectors.
“WeWork is a platform for creators,” says Morselli. “It’s about having a community of people that really connect members to each other and a community where there is very strong collaboration.”
Director gatecrashed a discussion between two members, at least 30 years apart, who bonded over micro-roasted coffee and biscuits. Nearby another pair, dressed in shirts and ties, were taking time out from the daily grind with an impromptu table-tennis competition, while two children – offspring of a member collecting her mail – looked on.
“One of our community benefits is the [near-nightly] events we organise to make sure members know each other. Members can showcase specific aspects of their company or we partner with external organisations to throw networking events,” says Morselli.
Tequila nights are becoming legendary – as is WeWork’s app. “Our app is an integral part of the WeWork platform. It allows members to get in touch with each other around the world as well as allowing any member to book meeting rooms in any WeWork space around the world.”
During our visit a small tech company was offering other members the opportunity to beta-test its new software, while another member put out a global request for talent. It received replies and recommendations from members as far away as Tel Aviv and Texas.
“We believe that members are our best way to foster a powerful community. We rely on the members’ experience and their interactions with other companies and visitors from all over the world in our space,” says Morselli, looking ahead to the imminent opening of Amsterdam’s second WeWork.
“Other serviced offices may offer a space but WeWork is a true platform with services and community. Communities are not easy to create, it takes effort and care for the members in order to allow them to interact effectively.”
If Director’s visit was anything to go by, WeWork is getting the formula just right.
To find out more about the network of shared office spaces, visit wework.com
Email the team at Moorgate WeWork or call them on 020 3695 6045
WeWork vital stats
Founders Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey
Value $10bn (£6.4bn)
HQ New York City
Global operations WeWork has bases in the US, the UK, Israel and the Netherlands