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As far back as the early 1970s, academics at the University of Cambridge were using algorithms to calculate walking distance between rooms.
They’d give each room a walkability score and use it to optimize floor plans, reducing walking time.
Seven years after it opened its first coworking spot in So Ho, it has catapulted into a briskly ballooning global business—and it is now trying to position itself as the foremost expert on offices.
In the past two months, We Work has partnered with Softbank to open in Tokyo, where it will own 50 percent of We Work Japan; it has announced a Chinese unit; and it has purchased Singaporean competitor Spacemob.
We Work’s hypothesis is that it has been born into a paradigm shift, and it must understand the nature of that shift in order to design for it.
To capitalize on this, We Work is racing to build a business at the same time as it develops an organization to run it.
It’s a natural extension of We Work’s current business, according to Chief Operating Officer Jen Berrent, who explains that the idea of adding a services business is “something that there’s demand for in the market.”Over time, this could be a much bigger opportunity than coworking spaces, one in which everything We Work has built so far will simply feed an algorithm that will design a perfectly efficient approach to office space.
We Work aspires to be the de facto source to which businesses will turn when they need help figuring out how to spend the least amount possible for an environment that will delight employees and entice new ones.
Since its inception, We Work has been collecting data about how people work, where they are most productive, what they need to feel good, and how much space they really require in the first place.But you won’t mind sharing it, because said employer will make sure you have a private room with green leafy plants, soundproof walls, and warm light between 2 and p.m. At p.m., when you need a conference room for the product managers’ meeting, you won’t even have to book it. And everyone attending remotely will already be invited.“This isn’t right away, of course,” David Fano tells me.“But it’s not that far out.”We’re standing in the epicenter of We Work’s cavernous New York City headquarters, where Fano, the company’s Chief Growth Officer, has set up a demo area to show off new technologies for prospective clients.These offerings include building out custom office interiors, licensing software that companies can use to book conference rooms, analyzing data on how people are using those conference rooms, and providing on-site human community managers indoctrinated in We Work’s community-minded philosophies.Fano calls this grab-bag of services “Powered by We.”Think of it as office space-as-a-service.