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WeWork has made a big name for itself in a short period of time as a global co-working space. In fact, WeWork is now the largest private office tenant in all of Manhattan.
But whether the real estate play alone can support its reported $47 billion valuation still remains to be seen. That might explain the company’s 2018 acquisition spree, as well as today’s newly announced changes to the WeWork app.
The new feature set is aimed at fostering collaboration and real-life communities among WeWork’s 400,000+ members, but if executed properly and adopted, could also provide a way for WeWork to potentially harness the data of its users to find new revenue streams.
Up until now, WeWork has always offered its members the opportunity to connect via the WeWork app in a relatively unstructured way. With the new updates, WeWork is looking to give users the chance to offer up their skills to other WeWork members who may be looking for a freelancer or service provider.
It starts with the profile. WeWork has added new fields for members to include their skills and interests. The interests portion will allow WeWork to customize programming based on location, so that a building with a high number of people interested in mindfulness (for example) can have access to specific programming in that field.
Where skills are concerned, WeWork has given users the tools to be hyper-specific. For example, alongside noting that John Doe is a graphic designer, he can also specify that he is particularly interested in/skilled at designing brand logos or web pages.
We Company CPO Shiva Rajaraman told TechCrunch that adding structure and matching algorithms to the website allows for members to get the most out of both their local WeWork community and the global community as a whole.
“We think that, in many of these interactions, it’s better to have someone close by,” said Rajaraman. “Being face to face can often help solve problems more efficiently, but there are instances when members might need the expertise of someone within our global community, and the app offers the ability to do both.”
Members who make a request for help from someone in the community are matched with a person who has the skills they seek by the algorithm, which is overseen by community managers who’ve gotten to know the members in their building. The app facilitates setting up a time and place to meet, and interactions are ranked after the fact to ensure that the meetings are productive.
It’s not hard to imagine entrepreneurial-minded individuals building up a customer base among WeWork members in fields like design, engineering and accounting.
In fact, language skill consultant Jen Carmody of the Miami Brickell City Centre location says she’s reached 100 percent of her clients through the WeWork app.
For now, Rajaraman says there are no current plans to add the ability to complete a freelance contract or transaction within the app.
“For us, it’s about removing as much friction as possible when facilitating these connections between people,” said Rajaraman. “We want to learn from these connections and see what might help. This is largely about making the value proposition of what we do richer than just providing space.”
We Company CEO Adam Neumann has said before that WeWork has made space, which has traditionally been a fixed entity, much more flexible. But it seems that WeWork itself is becoming more flexible as well.