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The Riveter CEO Amy Nelson accepts the 2019 Startup of the Year award at the GeekWire Awards. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Seattle-based startup The Riveter, which set out to build a national network of women-oriented co-working spaces, is shutting down all nine of its locations due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 3-year-old startup will focus on its online community that it launched earlier this year.

In a statement to GeekWire on Friday, founder and CEO Amy Nelson called the safety and health of Riverter employees and members a top priority during the ongoing health crisis.

“As these safety concerns and unforeseen circumstances continue, we’ve been forced to make the tremendously difficult decision to close our coworking operations,” Nelson said. “We’re beyond grateful to our Riveter family for helping us create an incredible in-person community across the country. We will be shifting our focus towards strengthening our online community of 30,000 and continuing to be a resource for all working women during this time.”

Nelson shared a similarly worded message in a blog post published to the company’s website (see below). We’ve followed up with Nelson for more details and we’ll update this story as we learn more.

The move will impact co-working operations in the Seattle area, where The Riveter has three locations, as well as Austin, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Portland, Ore.

The shutdown comes as questions swirl about the future of physical offices. In the span of a few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic turned a somewhat theoretical debate over the pros and cons of remote work into a global, real-world experiment. Fifty percent of Facebook’s workforce could permanently move to remote work in the next 5-to-10 years, CEO Mark Zuckerburg told employees last week.

The dramatic shift is bad news for co-working companies such as The Riveter and industry giant WeWork, which is also struggling as companies rethink their return to the office amid health and safety concerns.

Inside The Riveter’s co-working space in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. (The Riveter Photo)

Founded in 2017, The Riveter differentiates itself from other co-working spaces by providing amenities, programming, and other membership perks geared toward female professionals. It describes itself as “a modern union of working women and allies.”

After raising a $15 million Series A investment round in December 2018, it set an ambitious goal to reach 100 locations by 2022. Less than half of the company’s revenue had come from co-working rent fees, and 80% of its membership base does not work out of its physical locations, Nelson told GeekWire at the beginning of this year, before the launch of its digital community.

Riveter members pay $19 per month to be a “Riveter Ally,” and previous fees of $199 to $400-plus allowed access to co-working space. Other perks include travel discounts, event tickets, and access to a network.

The Riveter is shifting its focus to its online community and a digital platform.

The Riveter held its first The Riveter Summit: Women Building the Future event this past November in New York City.

It earned Startup of the Year honors at the 2019 GeekWire Awards and was one of three Seattle companies to make CNBC’s list of the 100 most promising startups to watch last year.

The company cut a small number of employees this past January.

WeWork saw its valuation drop from $47 billion to $8 billion late last year after investors balked at its financial metrics amid a cancelled IPO and layoffs. The struggles sparked natural questions about the future of other co-working models.

In an interview with GeekWire this past November, Nelson said the fallout from WeWork didn’t have negative effects on The Riveter, which had nearly tripled revenue year-over-year.

Investors in The Riveter include Alpha Edison; Madrona Venture Group; WestRiver Group; Backstage Capital; The Helm; Gingerbread Capital; Women’s Venture Capital Fund; and several individuals.

Nelson, a former corporate attorney, established the company in 2017 with Kim Peltola, who left The Riveter shortly after the launch.

Here is Nelson’s full blog post:

Dear Riveters,

I hope you are all safe and well. I am writing today to share news about The Riveter’s future.

During the course of this devastating pandemic, the safety and health of our employees and members have been our top priority. As these safety concerns and unforeseen circumstances continue, we’ve been forced to make the tremendously difficult decision to close our coworking operations.

The Riveter will be shifting focus towards strengthening our online community – 30,000 and growing – and continuing to be a resource for all working women during this unprecedented time.

Our mission has always been to create change for working women. We launched our digital community in February, and then the world changed. The need for support increased, and our mission became more urgent. The Riveter’s online community has been sharing their stories, resources, and experiences, learning new skills and attending virtual events. We invite you to join us there if you haven’t already.

I am so grateful to you for believing in The Riveter. We are excited to continue to champion and support working women everywhere. I look forward to seeing you online and to our paths crossing again in real life soon.

Amy Nelson, founder & CEO, The Riveter

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