WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann said the word “community” at least a dozen times onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY. It’s a mantra of the company that he kept hammering away over and over and over — and, unsurprisingly, that part of WeWork’s massive network of co-working spaces seems to be one of the driving forces of the company’s success. It turns out that’s a good business too; as part of WeWork’s most recent financing round, the company raised $5 billion.
For example, as one of its many measures to see if it’s building a strong community in its spaces, WeWork put cameras in its buildings to track whether people are using common areas, like conference rooms. Its community managers are also incentivized to solve problems quickly and facilitate meetings between community members.
“The one thing we learned about community, you can’t force community,” he said on stage. [Everything] has been organic, we’ve given it five years, we’ve perfected how we throw events, those things that let our members communicate between themselves. “We have a group of community managers, and we bonus them based on how many connections they made that month, that year.”
Another example, Neumann said backstage, is that community managers deliver mail in person and will talk to members personally if they are having issues. Every employee at WeWork gets equity — even those community managers, Neumann said, which are increasingly a key part of the company’s strategy to promote a strong community in its co-working spaces.
Every WeWork building has its own online network that anyone can use to communicate. It’s often a place where people organize events or seek advice from other companies. But the goal is to eventually make sure all those connections end up offline, rather than just on an online network.”
“A lot of times they are comfortable connecting virtually, and because of that you need to foster [offline connections],” he said. “Once that happens that’s a whole different story. When [Hurricane Sandy] hit, our members were helping each other, some people had power and some people didn’t, that was the first time I saw our community really alive.”
Today, the company also said it was giving away a month free of WeWork commons, a $45 per-month subscription that gives people access to the benefits and common areas of the company’s buildings — of which Neumann said there would be around 50 by the end of the year.
WeWork is also “aggressively looking” at Germany as a new area for WeWork buildings, and that he wanted to add an extra 50 buildings next year.