Cash-rich WeWork is making a strategic investment in The Wing, a high-end ladies-only coworking space, leading a $32 million round of funding.
Jen Berrent, WeWork COO, says she first learned about The Wing through her wife, Caroline, a self-employed lawyer who also takes care of their young son. “Unmoored” from an office setting, Berrent says, her wife missed having a place she could touch down in; a place in which to develop a professional community. The WeWork in Dumbo, she admits, wasn’t cutting it. But the fem-first Wing did.
The Wing’s kid-friendly offices provide amenities like showers, on-demand blow-outs, lactation rooms, beauty samples, access to a library of all female authors and, of course, snacks. Berrent sees the deal as falling within the bounds of the company’s mission to humanize the way people live and work (notably WeWork’s recent hire, SoulCycle founder Julie Rice has also invested in The Wing).
So why not buy The Wing outright? After all, WeWork has already purchased four companies this year, including coding bootcamp the Flatiron school. In her answer, Berrent points to another WeWork acquisition: Case. WeWork contracted with the buildings information technology company for three years before acquiring it. WeWork likes to takes its time getting to know the companies it works with, she says.
Under the deal, WeWork will share insights into how best to source property and give the Wing access to cost savings through its network of vendors (much the way it does for its Powered by We product). The partnership will effectively help the Wing to expand. The company recently opened a new shop in SoHo and has plans to have four locations by the first quarter of 2018. “They have a really deep level of domain expertise in areas that are key parts of our business,” says Wing cofounder and CEO Audrey Gelman.
WeWork will also help the Wing tackle problems that may come up as the company addresses a broader audience, says Berrent. For instance, The Wing’s membership fee currently ranges from $215-$250, a price that is roughly equivalent to New York City members-only club Soho House. But Berrent insists that the price can be brought down to include more women. “That’s part of what we want to address with them,” she says. Scholarships are one option, Berrent explains, but as the network grows there will be even more opportunity to drop membership costs.RR