WeWork expands South African presence but who is it for?
We sat down with WeWork South Africa’s General Manager, Stafford Masie, to find out about the company’s growth in South Africa and what makes them different from every other co-working space in the country.
rf: WeWork offers multiple office and hot-desking configurations, but most importantly it has great global brand recognition. Is that what sets you apart from all the other co-working spaces in South Africa or is there more to it?
SM: I think what makes it different too is you know, it’s great to be aligned and compared to a co-working space but I think that as much as we offer that as a mandatory meat-and-potato service, there’s so much more and I think that’s probably the differentiator around the question: “Why should I be in a WeWork versus another co-working space?” I think it’s the way we connect human beings globally, not just locally globally. You know, the stats show that your survivability as a startup – and your longevity as a real business – goes up if you’re based inside of a WeWork. It’s our ability to take technological tools that we’ve developed over time that allows people to find each other and discover things that happen inside of our buildings. There’s a lot of events that happen in our buildings. If you move into a place that’s great from an immediacy perspective, but I think what’s even more important is that it’s the place where most of the events that are meaningful will happen. For example, we have events for where an attorney is getting up and doing a pro bono service for startups through to the LGBTQIA community doing something in our space through WePride. I think if you took a look at the kaleidoscope of things that happen and the ability that we have to offer two to three of those events per day for building, which our members can pop into and attend for free, that’s as a huge value proposition. Our events are driven in two parts, one is impact and purpose, and the other one is making sure that we uplift your business and we give you longevity because we want you to grow in our space. There’s a clear value proposition for us because if you grow you take more space.
So things like WeWork Labs that we’ve announced in South Africa that incubates you. We put you out into our hot disk area and we cross-pollinate you with a lot of people and a lot of skills. Through our member application, you can find other people you can tell people about your service, so they can utilize your service not just in that building, in multiple buildings nationally and globally. For example, this happened to me. A graphic designer tapped on the shoulder a month and a half ago at The Link in Rosebank Johannesburg and he said: “Are you the GM?, and when I said yeah, he said “I want to show you something.” He had an invoice on his laptop for over eighteen thousand Rand and I asked “What’s this invoice for?” and he said that in the member’s app, Naspers put out an announcement asking if there’s a graphic designer in the building because they urgently needed one. He ran up he did and did a day-and-a-half worth of work and he billed the eighteen grand and that paid for his fees for seven to nine months. A few weeks ago he was in London offering the same types of services to our members.
07:35 So businesses come into our space, they get cross-pollinated with other people, they to get to meet them, they get to be a part of the events, they can offer events and the big thing is the ability to offer those services within the WeWork community. We have over six hundred thousand members in our space and of those members, about forty-three percent are some of the largest enterprises in the world.
It’s not just a space that’s co-working, that’s not what we do. We have a member team in Cape Town who is here to connect you to. They want to understand your business. You become part of our family and it’s a very real and authentic thing.
We don’t really want to contextualize ourselves in the context of what others are not doing. I think there’s space, the industry is big and this is the way people are going to work. If you take a look at large enterprises, they’re going to move their innovation teams into flex spaces. The fact that you’re going to do something with a digital innovation project in your space as a bank, for example, It’s going to be quite difficult. You may have the idea and the opportunity but to hire the right people to create the competence and capacity to execute against that, that could be a challenge because those are generally millennials. And millennials don’t work in fixed office space, they work differently. They don’t want to work at home because it’s lonely and it’s expensive and they don’t like that. They want to be a part of something that’s a platform that connects them. So, if you’re going to hire the right people and you’re going to retain those people, you’ve got to do it inside of a WeWork.
Those are all examples of what we can do for people in our spaces. That’s the intention and that’s why we’re here, that’s why we work for this company.