WeWork Labs is off and running with its first West Coast location where the co-working giant is aiming to help spur startup activity in Seattle.
WeWork held an opening ceremony party at its startup incubator concept on Tuesday evening, as members of the Seattle tech community helped welcome the new program.
There are more than 30 Seattle-based companies (see full list below) that are already working out of WeWork Labs, a program that offers extra support for startups beyond core WeWork services such as mentoring, education, talent development, and access to services like legal representation and human resources.
WeWork Labs differs from other accelerators and incubators in that it doesn’t take equity in the companies it houses, but it does charge rent ($390 per person, per month in Seattle). WeWork, now valued at $45 billion, benefits by bringing companies into its ecosystem early.
WeWork Labs, active in 15 cities worldwide, also helps entrepreneurs get access to capital via WeWork’s sprawling global network.
Heading up WeWork Labs in Seattle — and the broader Northwest — is Elizabeth Scallon, who was previously the director of University of Washington’s CoMotion Labs innovation hub for nearly five years.
Speaking at the event on Tuesday, Scallon said there’s a certain profile of who WeWork Labs is targeting.
“These founders are risk takers,” she said. “They need our connections and global access to capital that we can assist with, and we need their entrepreneurial obsession for this partnership to succeed.”
Scallon added that WeWork Labs is uniquely focused on removing barriers to entrepreneurship. She hopes to invite startups that may not fit the status quo or are having trouble getting seen by traditional venture capital firms.
“We welcome the outsiders, the unlikely founders,” she said.
WeWork’s decision to open its first WeWork Labs West Coast location in Seattle underscores the growing global prominence of city’s startup scene. Heather Redman, managing director at Flying Fish, a new Seattle venture firm that moved its office to WeWork Labs, also spoke to the crowd on Tuesday.
“I really want you all to feel like WeWork and FlyingFish are as accessible to you as you all are to us,” Redman said. “We’re all in this together. Seattle is still a startup, right? We have a long way to go. We have huge potential, as do all of you, and we really need to embrace that.”
WeWork Labs was first introduced in 2011, but hasn’t grown as fast as some of WeWork’s other initiatives and increasing focus on larger companies. Earlier this year, the company “re-launched” WeWork Labs with plans to expand. WeWork is opening a WeWork Labs in Portland next month.
WeWork Labs in Seattle has 116 desks, including 14 private offices for members and six desks for Flying Fish. Overall, WeWork has taken 12 of 15 floors at the 1411 Fourth Ave. building in downtown Seattle.
The Labs program in Seattle is also unique given its location, sitting above several floors of traditional WeWork co-working offices and just below Flatiron School, the coding bootcamp acquired by WeWork last year that opens its new Seattle program next month. It’s the first Flatiron campus on the West Coast and the first to be in such close proximity to a WeWork Labs, which is launching a “Learn and Launch” event series with the coding school to help facilitate connections between students and entrepreneurs.
Flatiron is also focused on expanding access to technology to underrepresented groups. Its first Seattle cohort is 40 percent women and includes people from varying previous professions, from baristas to chefs to business analysts.
“Access is certainly a part of what we think our responsibility is,” Flatiron COO Kristi Riordan told GeekWire in October. “We’re not here to only serve those who can afford education, but those who really want to work for it.”
WeWork is bullish on Seattle, and the Labs location is the latest example. The co-working giant is in the midst of a massive expansion in the Seattle area that will put its presence on par with other major hubs like Los Angeles and San Francisco. By early next year, WeWork will occupy nearly 1.7 million square feet spread across 14 buildings, with even more activity further down the line. That’s up from four buildings at the end of 2017. It is now the fourth-largest occupier of office space in the Puget Sound region.
WeWork is one of the highest-valued private companies in the U.S. and has 400 locations in more than 100 cities around the world. There are more than 400,000 members.
Here’s a list of the current WeWork Labs Seattle members:
- Avenda Health
- Brad Cerenzia
- Carl Haynes
- Cloud Paper
- David Stephania
- Electric Dream Factory
- Flying Fish
- Haiti Coffee
- Immersive Square
- Lightning Networks
- Locket Estate
- Sound ProSeeds
- Source Tech
- Transparent Path
- Visom Tech
- XR Journeys