By: Cynthia-Helena Rif: Co- Founder and Director of Operations at WitWork
Cynthia came to the UAE looking to realise her first dream of becoming Cabin Crew. With a degree in Sociology, Anthropology and Public Relations – coupled with almost a decade of experience in business development, marketing and project management – Cynthia-Helena brings her expansive and multidisciplinary knowledge to the WitWork co-working space platform and team.
WeWork’s unsustainable business model
WeWork was founded in 2010, in New York, with the aim of providing a co-working space, primarily for freelancers and small startups.
In the nine years since its inception, the company has grown rapidly and consists of 528 locations in 111 cities and 29 countries.
WeWork started operating with a much higher degree of risk by taking on significantly more operating lease commitments with longer terms and higher geographic concentration.
The money WeWork made was used to pay for all its long-term commitments and long-term leases, not realising that the concept was not favouring the company, due to the heavy investments it was putting in, which in turn, is making it liable to its investors and partners.
Every year, WeWork made millions and lost millions. Due to its liabilities, there was no actual income, which created a lot of speculations. Its earlier claim was that WeWork is a tech company, but in reality, it’s a real estate service provider. It wanted an IPO saying it was worth $40 billion but it was noticed it was actually valued at $1 billion. Long before this was unveiled, there were a few experts that questioned WeWork’s core business model.
How WitWork is different from WeWork
Coworking as a business model heavily relies on assets. At WitWork, we are asset-free thanks to our collaboration with social spaces. Our aim is to provide our members with the essentials every digital worker needs – high-speed wifi, free-flowing coffee, plenty of seating space, reliable and accessible power sources, quiet areas that help with concentration, and parking.
WitWork collaborates with existing outlets – restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, and pubs – reviving overlooked areas that don’t receive much footfall. This keeps WitWork’s mission sustainable, without acquiring new assets.
Coworking spaces haven’t suffered a dent in their reputation, it’s only WeWork’s reputation that’s taken a hit. The solution that coworking spaces provide to freelancers and digital nomads is more relevant than ever, in the current age. Armed with nothing more than a laptop, digital workers achieve great tasks and develop relationships with professionals from various industries. What links them is their shared coworking address.
Coworking spaces are also a saving grace for new businesses that have not settled into an office yet, but need to “show up to work” every day. Coworking spaces are the perfect place to grow your business, mingle with professionals that may evolve into strategic partners or new clients, work out of home without the stress of renting an office, and enjoying access to staples like printers, wifi, conference rooms, bike storage, and access to food.
The future of coworking spaces
Earlier this year, Forbes shared a forecast into the future of consumption trends. The article cited that the “future of stuff” is either shared or rented.
This couldn’t be more true for the coworking world.
Agility is the dictating factor in business, and the places where this business is conducted, follows suit. Even though serviced work spaces emerged in the 60s, they are only just gaining traction in the GCC. According to a report by Deloitte Real Estate – there’s an expected worldwide reach of 30,000 co-working spaces around the world by 2022.
WitWork is one of a handful of emerging co-working spaces that’s part of a pioneering movement towards office-free working.