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2017 IPO Prospects: WeWork Diversifies to Drive Revenue

Posted on Wednesday, Mar 15th 2017

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Analysts estimate that the global coworking market now has more than 7,000 vendors. Coworking operators help make it easier for companies to have a physical office location by enabling sharing of workspace. One such vendor, now looking to go public, is New York-based WeWork.

WeWork’s Offerings

WeWork was founded in 2010 by husband-wife duo Adam Neumann, Rebekah Paltrow Neumann, and their partner Miguel McKelvey. Prior to setting up WeWork, Adam and Rebekah had created a few failed startups. They finally hit on something more successful in the form of WeWork.

WeWork provides its online network of members with access to a shared office space. It rents out space from landlords, transforms the leased office into a sleek, well-designed workspace, and subsequently sublets that space to its customers.

It earns revenues through subscriptions that start at $45 a month and allow access to events, benefits, and its digital app. The users can access its member network and rent out space as and when needed for a price that varies by location. For $400 per month, it offers a dedicated desk, printing capabilities, and additional benefits such as booths for phone calls, conference rooms, mail, and package handling.

WeWork’s offering has attracted customers that range from companies, small businesses, startups, entrepreneurs, to freelancers. It currently has workplaces in 19 cities in the US along with 12 other foreign countries. WeWork is now looking to expand in developing nations like India as well.

Additionally, WeWork is diversifying into a new offering – WeLive. Like WeWork, WeLive relies on the sharing economy for residential real estate. It is expected to work on the same principle as its office model, but this time for homes. It will connect tenants with living areas where there will be shared kitchens and bathrooms.

WeWork’s business model has inspired others like it as well. And, some of those are opting for less riskier and more flexible options. For instance, San Francisco’s RocketSpace lets landlords build out office spaces and then charges a fee from the landlord for running operations. RocketSpace lets out the space, keeps its commission and does not need to invest heavily in capital. Then there are the likes of companies like LiquidSpace, PivotDesk, and ShareDesk which offer existing businesses with spare office space to rent out unused space for shorter periods of time.

WeWork’s Financials

WeWork is privately held and does not disclose financials. But last year, some leaked documents revealed that it was forecasting revenues of $532 million in 2016 with $14 million in adjusted earnings. It forecast a negative free cash flow of $385 million for the year. WeWork expects to have exited 2016 with an annualized run rate of $882 million. While detailed revenue breakout is not available, analysts estimate that its WeLive segment will account for nearly 18% of its revenues by 2018.

WeWork is venture funded and has raised $3.7 billion in ten rounds from investors including SoftBank, Hony Capital, Fidelity Investments, T. Rowe Price, Benchmark Capital, Aleph, Goldman Sachs, Harvard Management, Hony Capital, J.P. Morgan Chase, Legend Holdings, and Wellington Management. Its latest round of funding was held in February this year when it raised $3 billion from SoftBank at an undisclosed valuation. An earlier round in October last year had valued the company at $16 billion compared with a $10 billion valuation in March 2016.

Analysts are hopeful that WeWork will file to go public this year. Unlike other start-up founders, WeWork’s founders too are committed to going public as they want to pay back their investors and get liquidity for themselves. The timing of the offering has not been disclosed yet.

Photo credit: Jambounce Music/Flickr.com.

This segment is a part in the series : 2017 IPO Prospects

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