Forget secretive headquarters, co-working spaces will foster the next Google

Tomorrow’s most successful companies will emerge from co-working spaces like Moorgate’s WeWork, where people can collaborate, brainstorm and scale quickly, says Monty Munford

A shared WeWork co-working space in New York

The WeWork offices in London’s Moorgate don’t seem to have a door policy; they let anybody in. As long as visitors look like budding entrepreneurs and have minimal hipster credentials, two unbelievably jolly receptionists usher them into what resembles a spacious and very lively university common room.

Excited conversations abound, the space feels as creative as any working environment can be. It is also remarkably similar to Google and Facebook. It’s the place to work, to have meetings and, if necessary, take a free beer from the communal fridge.

WeWork is a phenomenon. Founded in New York in 2011, it is now one of the fastest-growing companies in the world. With almost one billion dollars in funding, it is valued at $10 billion and is now present in most major American cities. Aside from opening in London last October, it has also expanded internationally to Amsterdam and Tel Aviv.

It is not just a place for startups, large corporations also rent space on its premises, and the company is looking to diversify into living accommodation under its WeWork brand. With more than 30,000 clients, the opportunities for continued growth are extensive and its valuation of $10bn seem reasonable, even in this current age of bloated unicorns.

Central Working, the City of London

One of the first successes that has come out of WeWork Moorgate is the three-month growth-hacking scheme Distro Dojo, part of 500 Startups’ accelerator program. For post-seed startups that are selected, they receive an investment from 500 Startups and concomitant mentorship from its growth marketing team, 500 Distro.

Its first companies have now passed through their initial three-month scheme and the four selected startups cover a broad church of businesses and territories.

One is Tamatem, a Jordanian-based mobile games publisher for the Arabic market that 18 months after launch has published more than 40 games with more than 10 million downloads and 1.4 million monthly active users. During its time at WeWork, Tamatem signed a huge publishing deal with mobile games Tapinator to localise their games for the MENA (Middle-East, North African) market.

Another is TRData, a ‘Bloomberg for emerging markets’ that provides valuation, trading and risk analysis to investment companies of any size and there is also Oree, which crafts a collection of technology tools from natural materials to offer a radical alternative to mainstream tech gadgets.

The final Distro Dojo company is Truly Experiences, a marketplace for ‘unique, extraordinary experiences’ including truffle-hunting in Alba, near-space flights and even spy training with ex-MI6 agents. According to the company, this is a $610 billion market and its founder and CEO Jack Huang doesn’t mince his words when describing his experience at Distro Dojo.

“The 500 Startups mentors and guest speakers actually know their shit and roll up their sleeves to get dirty, unlike the thousands of fake advisors and consultants out there,” he said.

WiFi security

One of these knowledgeable mentors is Colorado-born and London-based Distro Dojo partner Matt Lerner who says that 500 Startups has now invested in 1,500 startups worldwide, including 20 UK-based companies and has plans to expand across the UK to become the ‘Number One innovation hub in Europe’.

“My ‘Distro Dojo’ program is basically a growth-hacking studio for post-seed, pre-Series-A companies who have launched their product and are ready to scale their growth. The first month is in-residence at WeWork Moorgate, where we focus on scaling customer acquisition.

“The first batch has been a great success. One of our four companies, Truly Experiences has cut their cost per acquisition by 75pc. Another, TRData, was able to grow their signups by 20pc week-on-week,” he said.

Distro Dojo is currently sourcing Europe for companies with a finished product and good pre Series-A funding customer traction. It takes applications on a referral-only basis, but says its European founder and mentor network is more than 2,000 people strong. Once selected, this next tranche of companies will join the program in Q1 2016.

While this accelerator appears to be proving the 500 Startups business model works, it is only by being located at co-working spaces such as WeWork Moorgate that this success proves possible.

Co-working, co-succeeding, maybe both companies should ‘co-share’ one of those craft beers in the WeWork Moorgate fridge.

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