WeWork has built its brand image on crafting the modern-day work experience around flexible desks, office snacks, and communal couches. Now with its latest acquisition, Meetup, a 15-year-old platform for community workshops and gatherings, it’s creeping further into what happens after work, and offline.
This year coworking giant WeWork has been on a tear; building out office spaces for other companies; acquiring coding bootcamp Flatiron School; endeavoring to fix education for the grade-school set; investing in an up-and-coming women’s networking space; buying the iconic headquarters of Lord & Taylor; and hiring Soulcycle founder Julie Rice to shape its brand. WeWork already provides everything from coworking to (in two locations) co-living to a sauna-equipped co-sweating fitness facility. Last year, it even invested in a company that makes wave pools.
All this movement comes amid a major influx of $4.4 billion from the venture arm of Japanese conglomerate Softbank, which has valued WeWork at close to $20 billion, in league with Uber and Airbnb.
New York-based Meetup, which has 35 million members on its platform, will give WeWork access to a giant new audience: people who may eventually be converted to WeWorkers. (The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but chief executive and cofounder Scott Heiferman will remain in place.) In return, WeWork could give Meetup a home inside its 170 locations. Meetup could also serve as a way for connecting WeWork members to one another through shared interests.
This is of keen interest to Rice, the company’s new chief brand officer, who wants WeWork devotees to have a sense of belonging and connection to one another. “Right now we are really helping members to grow their businesses–I think there is probably even more that we can probably do,” she told me last week.
As WeWork tries to cultivate an image as a company that specializes in “community” rather than real estate–and as the work of its members becomes more remote and virtual–acquisitions like Meetup put an emphasis on what seem like increasingly rare commodities: learning and networking in real life.