Exclusive: WeWork's Europe Real Estate Head On The Office Giant's Dublin Debut
It is the most valuable flexible office firm in the world, and it is coming to Dublin this year.
WeWork is the most talked about company in global real estate today, having shaken up the office sector, and had a $20B valuation put on it.
While it prepares to open its doors in a 50K SF office at Iveagh Court and another on George's Quay, Bisnow spoke exclusively with WeWork's Head of European Real Estate Patrick Nelson to talk about why Dublin is the next logical step in the WeWork journey.
Bisnow: What made WeWork enter the Dublin market?
Nelson: Dublin is an obvious choice for us for so many reasons. It’s a hub for tech, media and transport and a really desirable business location.
Our hope is that WeWork Iveagh Court will contribute to the local economy by bringing new members into the city, providing a hub for entrepreneurs, startups and freelancers alike to create their life’s work.
Bisnow: Do you anticipate your main customers in Dublin to be corporates or smaller startups?
Nelson: We know WeWork suits all sectors and that our community works best when it’s a mix of startups, freelancers, small businesses and corporations, or enterprise companies as well.
Corporates are keen to take advantage of the services and opportunities WeWork provides, such as flexibility as you grow, access to our amenities and programming, our global network, etc. Startups are able to benefit from corporates’ expertise, and corporates benefit from being surrounded by an innovative environment which leads to greater creativity and new ideas.
Bisnow: How does the market in Dublin compare to other global cities?
Nelson: There are a lot of similarities as there is a significant and global trend amongst all people, but particularly the young, towards a new way of work, one that’s focused on a movement toward meaning. And we’ve seen that in all markets, particularly as the world becomes more and more connected.
On a location level, we’re also always focused on providing a strong local offering. Yes, WeWork is a U.S. company and there’s an aesthetic and standard of services members can expect, but we use local operations and local products for each site.
Dublin’s reputation as a centre for innovation, media, business and technology makes it an incredibly important city for our members, and we can’t wait to open here.
Bisnow: How big a presence do you see yourself having in Dublin? How many locations would be your ideal?
Nelson: We do not have a specific figure to share at this time as we are continually looking for the right spaces. Our vision for the U.K. and Ireland is big and bold, and we’ll share more news when we have it.
Bisnow: What was the thinking behind the Irish pub-based ethos of your Dublin office?
Nelson: We always try to incorporate local artists and themes that represent the city in which the building is located. I’m sure there will be notable, Irish elements within WeWork Dublin, but there isn’t much I can say in regards to the design just yet.
Bisnow: What do you say to people who say WeWork is a market disruptor?
Nelson: There is a significant cultural shift taking place in the way we work. In cities across the globe, people desire more interaction and communal spaces. WeWork is responding to that, and our members are given the space, community and services they need to create their life’s work, and [it] connects them to 175,000 members around the world.
Bisnow: What makes WeWork different from other co-working set-ups?
Nelson: We actually don’t consider ourselves to be a co-working company. We are actively bringing an already-burgeoning community of local entrepreneurs, startups and bigger companies together with like-minded people all over the world — they’re connected on-site in the physical location, but also to the global WeWork network.
The effects of a WeWork presence can be felt for non-members in the neighbourhoods and cities we open in: WeWork has become one of the most attractive anchor tenants for landlords all over the world because a WeWork office attracts companies, large and small, to the building and the area, which brings business to the neighborhood.
Bisnow: What can WeWork offer that is unavailable in a traditional company office?
Nelson: Our members have access to dozens of events each week from networking to workshops and member-hosted events. Our community managers also make it their business to know each and every member and make relevant connections for them, almost like business matchmaking.
Bisnow: If a whole company was to move in to a WeWork space, how much control do they have over the space or is there a limited amount of things they can change?
Nelson: Whilst companies come to us for office space, we’re seeing a demand in companies wanting us to go to them. Beyond providing them with that space, community and services, we’re starting to really change what office space looks like, from the design you see in our offices now to the data and technology we’re developing to make offices smarter and better for employers and employees.
Powered by We is the next iteration of WeWork’s product. Companies can tap into our software and hardware infrastructure to better manage, design and operate their own real estate portfolio. We’re vertically integrated and have teams that find locations, design and construction teams that build space and digital and community teams that operate spaces.
Bisnow: How expensive are Dublin rents compared to other cities and might rental growth stymied your expansion?
Nelson: We have WeWork locations across the world, from Shanghai to Seattle and San Francisco to Sydney, and prices vary depending on the membership and location.
Bisnow: Why do you think co-working spaces are growing in popularity?
Nelson: There is definitely a rise in entrepreneurs and small businesses which coincides with a movement towards creative entrepreneurship, where people are ditching the traditional ‘9 to 5’ grind in favour of a more flexible approach which makes work ‘work’ for them. For many, this involves starting up their own business and creating a working routine which compliments their lifestyle.
Bisnow: Do you think the rise of flexible working and co-working spaces like WeWork will bring an end to traditional company offices?
Nelson: I believe that the way people want to work, live and play has been completely shaken up in the last decade or so. People want human-to-human connection now more than ever, and coming together in real and meaningful ways, whether at work, home, at the gym or when in leisure time is here to stay.