Here’s a Jackson Pollock:
It looks like splatter paint.
Like he casually threw stuff all over the canvas.
Actually, that’s not a Jackson Pollock.
Many of us see that and think that we could do that, just like the painting above. We think that there’s no skill or technique, or little talent involved.
Yet there’s one thing however that separates you from Jackson Pollock:
He did it first. You didn’t.
I get the same feeling with WeWork, the epic yet so-obvious coworking company that’s literally taking over the U.S.
The company feels more like a real estate play with some hipsters thrown in here and there.
Anyone could do that, right? Yeah, sure, but you didn’t.
And now they’re crushing it in 20 countries across the world.
In many of ways, it seems like a fluke (check out this podcast for more on that). The founders of WeWork lucked out into some unused office space, created a coworking space with the landlord, and then decided to get out and do their own thing.
They bought a new space, spiffed it up, and rented it out to their creative friends who were either freelancers or involved in small businesses that couldn’t afford their own office space.
Anybody could do that. But not everybody did.
Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey did.
Opportunity met execution and they wildly succeeded.
A different point of view is that the founders were uniquely wired to take advantage of this opportunity and co-working idea. Both Neumann and McKelvey were part of communal living situations growing up, with mindsets that focused on building relationships rather than individualism.
This grounded perspective made them more than simply crass landlords.
Their hope of building something bigger and grander caused them to eclipse their peers. In fact Regus, is valued at only a fraction of WeWork despite being more well-established.
Their optimism coupled with revenues nearing $1 billion per year has given them a valuation of $20 billion dollars, which puts them in the realm of SpaceX and Airbnb for the most valuable startups in the world.
Those are high expectations.
And WeWork isn’t staying still.
They’ve purchased an iconic New York City building, formerly the flagship store for famous department store Lord & Taylor.
They’ve purchased Meetup.com, the website that joined up hobbyists with other like-minded people.
They’ve created WeLive, which lets ambitious (mostly young) people live right next door to their office, with high-end amenities, pools and fitness centers.
WeWork members who may be working in a different city can also stop in and book a room for a few days at WeLive.
They’re also starting WeGrow, a school where business owners can send their children while their parents work diligently upstairs–potentially.
The setup isn’t quite firm yet, but WeGrow wants children to think more broadly about what their life could be before they get to high school or college. They’ll also be integrating more curriculum about business into what they teach.
These ventures connect to another acquisition of theirs which didn’t get as much national coverage but could be even more important. They recently acquired the Flatiron School, the online and in-person coding bootcamp currently offered in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Their in-person coding bootcamps have been successful in prepping non-technical students into job-ready programmers and coders. It’ll take some time, I’m sure, but the expectation is that Flatiron’s method could be incorporated into many of WeWork’s locations.
Why Would WeWork Buy Flatiron School?
1. Hub, Here’s Another Spoke
Think of WeWork as a wheel, with the concept of work or your job as the hub of the wheel. If you have a job, then you need a place to work in. That’s their co-working space offering.
And while you’re at your job, you would like people to hang out with, speak to and learn from. That’s a slightly different spoke, but one accomplished through the WeWork and WeLive concepts.
What’s another spoke? Job skills. That’s where the Flatiron school comes in. People can gain important skills, become comfortable with the WeWork community and model, and then potentially find a job within the WeWork infrastructure.
They now have another spoke of the wheel to feed into “work.”
The lower education school is another version of this concept, just on a different scale without as many immediate payoffs.
2. Ready, Set, Find a New Employee
Another spoke of the wheel could be recruitment and job placement. WeWork hopes this process happens naturally, but they could also feed several new entry-level software developers straight into their member network.
This would help their current members, especially if they get to interview the students and work with them through their Flatiron training. And then job offers wouldn’t be too far behind. It’s not too different from other job training programs, except that it all happens within the exact same WeWork infrastructure.
3. Members Can Get Skills, Too
Lots of companies offer on-going skills training, but honestly, most of them aren’t as dynamic or helpful as on-site coding classes from one of the leading coding academies in the nations. To roll out a needed skill with a proven method to its locations throughout the U.S. and the world could be a boon for current members as well as students.
Companies could sign up their employees right on-site. The friction of the transition would be minimal, which is what every company would love. I’m sure WeWork would also consider discounting the classes for any of their current members.
4. The Future Is Training
If this collaboration with Flat Iron proves successful, then you’d have to suspect this won’t be the first one offered. You could see WeWork opening up their training development, like more coding classes, engineering, or squishier skills like a fast-track MBA.
And The Downside Is…
The potential certainly exists for workers to come directly through WeWork’s pipeline of schools, be mentored by business leaders who rent office space, and then acquire jobs with these same companies.
It sounds a little crazy. The downside, of course, is that WeWork could create its own automatons who only think a certain way, much like the criticism levied at public schools today or colleges. The diversity of thought could be lacking, and only certain types of companies and people would thrive at WeWork…which is probably the case already.
But the flipside is that they create a meaningful change to the way workers and students gain skills and interact with one another.
The Wheel Could Get Bigger
The end goal is for WeWork to become stickier and enmeshed within their members’ lives so that it will be even harder to leave. WeWork has always been about community, and it’s naturally much harder to leave a community than it is to change your office space.
That could all change of course, as companies grow and the people in those companies grow older, too. WeWork is banking on a redefinition of not only what the modern workplace looks like (exposed brick!) but to reformulate how it functions in the daily lives of its members.
Skills, schools, and living spaces do that. And that’s just a few spokes of the wheels. You’d have to think that WeEat can’t be too far behind. After all, we all have to eat.