Sometimes, it takes a community to raise a businessDiya Koshy George
As the founder of a fledgling startup, leasing a full office space for yourself is often a luxury you can ill afford. While working from the proverbial garage or the neighbourhood café with the free Wi-Fi may work initially, these spaces will gradually outlive their use, and leave potential clients unimpressed. Luckily, we live in the era of the shared economy and one of its most significant offerings is the co-working space. While most offer custom workspaces and all the latest technology your startup needs, some go the extra mile and create a diverse community that offers a rich learning and growth experience.
For WeWork co-founders, Miguel McKelvey and Adam Neumann, building a powerful community of entrepreneurs who foster each other’s startup dream was the primary driver, and the cool office space aspect was a bonus. The company’s core belief is that ‘we work better together’, and success should be measured not in terms of numbers but personal fulfilment. A large part of WeWork’s philosophy is also tied into how they align their offices to their core operational pillars of community, design and thoughtful selection of spaces and support teams.
16 countries, one community, multiple success stories
In the seven years since its inception, WeWork has been at the vanguard of the change in the way people have come to view the workspace. The backbone of this growth story has been the ability to create a community of entrepreneurs who support each other.
“Everything we do from the design of our buildings to the curation of our events is based on how we can create the best collaborative environment for our members. When there is someone from just about every industry in one building, working together, the experience and expertise you have access to, is unlike anything else. Our community teams focus on this aspect of our business so each member feels inspired and excited about how we can help you grow your business,” says Amanda Taylor, Community Manager, WeWork India.
And it is this sense of community that has driven the demand for WeWork spaces among startups across the globe. As part of the WeWork community, startups will gain access to an online network of more than 145,000+ WeWork members, and be a part of community networking events. These events, organised at the WeWork spaces, usually involve ice-breakers such as games and beer on tap. Members frequently derive value from the business leads their fellow community folk might provide in a no-pressure, casual environment. The aim is to foster business partnerships and forge friendships.
What it takes to manage a community
While one often hears words like collaborations and connections in the startup community, at WeWork these words are not just on a motivational poster, but at the heart of what they actually do. Each space across the globe has a community manager on-site who ensures that WeWork members are connected instantly to other members who can help their growth.
“Connections between members are crafted personally by our community teams that make an effort to not only get to know our members, but their business as well. We want to know exactly what you do, where you’re at, what you need, and how we can help. Then, we get to work! ” says Amanda
She gives the example of a member at WeWork Williamsburg, 41 Winks, who she says attended the most events in buildings across New York than any member she’s even seen. “They used the member network and interacted with so many people each week that through the connections they made at WeWork, they redesigned their website using freelance graphic designers in the building, consulted with experienced e-commerce members for help tackling first-time manufacturing hurdles, and even got help with their taxes,” she adds.
So, whether is that photographer or web designer for your creatives or that lawyer who can help you make sense of the legalese in a contract, WeWork empowers you with the resources to form the right connections. The founders of WeWork also go to great lengths to hire and train only those employees who are committed to the spirit of community. The founders’ commitment to community runs deep as is evinced by this episode. When one of the company’s employees was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, WeWork’s CEO Adam Neumann called on the entire 100,000 strong community to help her find a match for a bone marrow transplant.
The greatest advantage that a community building space like WeWork offers its members is the opportunity to work with like-minded people. Startups can bounce their ideas off each other, offer fresher perspectives and network in low-pressure environs like community events. This atmosphere can also foster collaborations and give rise to new ideas for innovation.
Amanda shares the example of two companies in Brooklyn – a dog food company and a dog toy company. They partnered together after meeting at a WeWork networking event. They now share investors and a website optimising their customer experience by offering two amazing products, together.
Ultimately, a WeWork space creates an environment where everyone is looking forward to coming to work, and are passionate about what they’re trying to build. Having like-minded people around you who are working to make their own business soar may just be the missing ingredient in your recipe for success.