American startup WeWork expanding to Thailand

WeWork, the American startup that shot from nothing to become a $21 billion company in less than a decade, is poised to open its first co-working spaces in Bangkok to cater to growing demand for cooperative office space among Thai millennials.

“The market for co-working space is driven by demand from new generations,” said Phattarachai Taweewong, research manager at Colliers International, a global real estate consultancy with offices in Thailand. “They want a place to work that is easy to reach at an affordable cost.”

Colliers estimates that co-working spaces in Thailand will increase by 25 percent this year with both Thai and international firms contributing to the expansion. Hubba, a local company, opened the first co-working space in the Kingdom in the Ekamai area of Bangkok in 2012. Since then about 150 co-working spaces have opened across the country.

Phattarachai said there will be 269,000 square feet of new co-working space from 10 projects opening up in Bangkok in 2018, which will increase total co-working space to over 1.3 million square feet in the capital. While growth has been rapid, co-working spaces account for less than 2 percent of total working space in Bangkok.

Four international companies – two from the United States and two from Singapore – are among those slated to open co-working spaces in Bangkok in coming months. Aside from WeWork, U.S.-based Spaces will also open in three locations, while JustCo and The Great Room from Singapore will open in a total of six locations.

WeWork is one of the pioneers of co-working spaces. Founded in Brooklyn, New York, by Miguel McKinley and Adam Neumann in 2010, the company now operates in over 40 cities around the world. The company says it integrates technology, psychology and design to make offices a better place to work.

McKelvey was a near-penniless architecture graduate working as a “glorified handyman” for a small company when he developed the idea for WeWork. “I was at the bottom of the totem pole of a three-person firm,” he said.

“We were in a building in Brooklyn that was one of those stereotypical lofty industrial warehouses full of a bunch of diverse companies – everything from hat makers to architects to tech start-ups. It was cool, but it was very disconnected,” McKelvey told the Huffington Post.”

“When we saw how good people felt in this more open, collaborative environment we just started running with it – and we haven’t stopped since.” McKelvey said. “We have been running as fast as we can since then to keep up with the demand.”