Market expansion for coworking giants in the U.S. and China

by Melissa Mesku

According to Bloomberg this week, WeWork is buying Chinese coworking company Naked Hub for approximately $400 million. It’s WeWork’s latest move in China, having only entered the Chinese market as late as 2016. In the span of a year and a half, the company now operates in three Chinese cities and has acquired over 10,000 new members there.

After recently raising $4.4 billion for expansion in Asia, one of the first moves WeWork made in China was to bring suit against its largest coworking company, UrWork, citing trademark violations. UrWork then changed its name to Ucommune and, not to be outdone, Ucommune itself is now making inroads in the U.S. coworking market.

In a joint venture with NYC-based Serendipity Labs, Ucommune just opened its first U.S. location with a soft launch in March. A 34,000 square-foot space at 28 Liberty Street in downtown Manhattan, it is the first of a number of U.S. locations planned by the coworking giant. Its choice of partnership is a wise one, as Serendipity Labs itself is a leading coworking chain in the U.S. and is poised to roll out a nationwide network of more than 125 locations over the next three years.

For a company with 130 locations in 35 cities in China and around the world, Ucommune boasts a member base of 100,000. With this move comes the introduction of its technology platform, UMart, which connects resident companies to each other. Serendipity Labs and Ucommune are integrating their memberships on their mobile app, which will allow members to book desks at the other company’s locations. “Our goal is to help our members achieve long-term success for their business using customized solutions that [are] sensitive to local needs,” said Mao Daqing, Ucommune’s founder and chairman.

In late March, Reuters reported that Ucommune was seeking $200 million in investment to expand its global operations in its bid to garner “a bigger U.S. presence to tap into cross-border trade” and help businesses who seek inroads in China. Entering the NYC coworking market was a step that was bound to happen as the company seeks to establish a presence in the U.S., though Omer Ozden of Rocktree Capital, the firm who spearheadeded Ucommune’s expansion into the U.S., says Ucommune’s ambitions are somewhat limited.

Image credit: Photo of UrWork space under construction, via Daniel Cukier.