It appears WeWork has expanded too fast, too far and wide, and too thinly. Whereas the product models, of both WeWork and WeLive, are most definitely finding favour with consumers, the financing model is becoming ‘problematic’.
WeWork has pulled their much vaunted flotation amid signs their expansion has been overly aggressive. With the back-loaded nature of the agreements they have signed, there are rumours WeWork will run out of cash in 2020 unless one of their major backers provides more working capital. Of course, additional funds cannot be ruled out, and are probably likely, but when a flotation at around $47bn is pulled, with the share price receding so the company valuation is now closer to $10bn, some ‘restructuring’ looks inevitable.
WeWork is undoubtedly the most significant driver in this market but perhaps their short term problems open a window of opportunity for others to follow an adapted model. Their co-working product works well. Their co-living product is less well tested. Opportunities abound for agile entrants to hone the commercial model, using the best of the proven product strategies with a more secure financing structure. It feels like there is a significant opportunity, right now, to catch up and nip at their heels.
As we all know, deals ‘fall out of bed’ all the time. The co-working project is just another one, having fallen through today.
Although, this one is a bit unusual as the reason it will not be going ahead is that the prospective landlord / vendor signed up another party to their site without any indication.
We had conducted a little over 2 months of due diligence, specifying our product, the scope of works required, JV partner relations, etc. including 3 site visits and then conducting competitor and market research.
So are there any lessons to learn from this? From a due diligence point of view, no. We had to do what we had to do. Perhaps we could have been a little quicker but then we needed to make absolutely sure of our project parameters given it was a new partnership and a new business.
From the point of view of conversations with the landlord / vendor, yes, we could have done differently and better.
We always consider good communication as essential in everything we do and perhaps, on this occasion, we didn’t maintain frequency of contact. Having arranged a meeting to finalise contracts just under 3 weeks into the future, we didn’t want to hassle the other party so assumed, and then found after 2 weeks the bomb was dropped. Perhaps a friendly weekly call may have prevented this from happening. We can’t know but we won’t be making any more assumptions in the future – so the lesson? – keep checking in regularly with the other party.
An opportunity has arisen to establish a new business centre in Harrogate encompassing co-working alongside regular offices.
We are currently exploring a partnership with an established provider to expand their brand into a new location in Harrogate.
Of course, there’s a long way to go – we need to research market demand, current competitor offerings and then negotiate the terms on the site we have identified. These things take time, especially when we are effectively setting up a new business. The business centre will be a stand a lone entity, in a partnership under a SPV Limited Company.
At the moment all our market research indicates this project has great potential. ALthough Harrogate has plenty of normal offices available to rent, there is a dearth of serviced offices and no co-working space readily available.