In 2011, WeWork ran an accelerator-type program called WeWork Labs. That program was a bit neglected as the company began to focus on other initiatives, such as international expansion, Powered By We, and acquisitions. But today, WeWork is relaunching WeWork Labs, with 27 spaces secured in 16 markets for 2018.
WeWork Labs, which will be run by former Head of Digital Roee Adler, wants to offer super early stage startups a place to work and learn.
There will be a loose curriculum and access to educational resources for WeWork Labs members. For example, Flatiron School is currently working to build a portfolio of courses for new members, including accounting, finance and marketing classes. WeWork Labs will also bring in expert speakers for lectures, and hold smaller group sessions to deep dive on an issue.
Adler told TechCrunch that each community manager at a WeWorks Labs location has entrepreneurial experience, and will use that to help their members reach the next level.
But the mentorship opportunities stretch far beyond the WeWork Labs framework. WeWork now has 212 locations and more than 200,000 members. The company expects these members to be potential mentors, vendors, customers, or collaborators with the WeWork Labs members.
You can think of it a bit like Y Combinator’s Alumni network.
Plus, WeWork does not want to be competitive with accelerators. The company plans to partner with as many organizations as possible to share curriculum and insights.
And the company is also looking to customize the WeWork labs program based on location.
“Because we’re taking startups in at various stages with various needs, and because different countries have different cultures in that matter, we’re building a custom program for different startups coming in to different locations,” said Roee Adler.[gallery ids="1597221,1597222,1597223,1597224"]
But what differentiates WeWork Labs most from your typical accelerator is the format.
Instead of taking equity, WeWork is simply taking rent. In NYC, a desk costs between $500 and $600/month, but that represents the high-end of the spectrum. Other locations will likely see a lower price point.
There is also no set graduation date, but rather WeWorks Labs members and community managers will work toward each member company’s end goal, whether it’s to be accepted to an accelerator or get that first seed money.
On the business side, you can see how existing connections to startups might turn into some serious green for WeWork. Not only do they pay to be a part of the program, but those that succeed and grow may one day come back to WeWork for an enterprise office or a Powered By We HQ.
WeWork Labs has already opened its first location, at 205 Hudson. On March 1, WeWork Labs will open up the Soho West office. Both locations are above 90 percent occupancy, but there are plenty more spaces coming to the program.