WeWork, the world’s largest provider of co-working spaces, officially introduced its new startup acceleration space WeWorks Labs in South Korea on Thursday, pledging to help early-stage startups here grow and expand globally.
WeWork Labs is a shared working space for young startups, where tenants can access a variety of acceleration programs, networking support as well as consulting and mentorship from strategic investors, venture capitals and veteran entrepreneurs.
Korea is the first country in Asia where a WeWork Labs has been launched, according to the co-working space giant. The firm is currently working to bring the lab to other countries in Asia, including China and India.
WeWork Labs will not be operating acceleration programs or an investment fund of its own for now, but instead will match startups with financial resources and guidance.
The New York-based co-working space operator has partnered with heavyweights in the startup sector including Korea’s biggest startup hub D.CAMP and Naver-backed startup hub Startup Alliance.
Other partners include the financial technology sector’s Dayli Financial Group, consumer tech accelerator Vintage Lab and bio-health accelerator New Flight. Well-known local entrepreneurs including Naver’s former CEO Kim Sang-hun and Nexon co-founder Kim Sang-bum will be working as mentors.
In addition to external partnerships, WeWork Labs has recruited in-house “managers” from different backgrounds to provide support to startups, be it procuring seed funding from angel investors, or finding partners with the networks to help break into a specific overseas market.
“Our goal is to leverage our extensive network to help startups at different stages connect with the right investors and mentors who can address their needs,” WeWork Labs Korea’s head Samuel Hwang said during a press conference held at the lab’s Yeoksam location in Seoul on Thursday.
In particular, Hwang -- a former entrepreneur and venture capitalist himself -- touted WeWork’s global networks it has built through operating co-working spaces around the world that could be helpful to the startups advancing abroad.
Any interested startup can join WeWork Labs on a pay-per-month basis through an application process. The tenant fee is around 40 percent cheaper than that of WeWork’s regular co-working spaces, according to Hwang.
Recognizing the price barrier, WeWork Labs is currently in talks with large corporations that are willing to pay the tenant fees for selected startups in exchange for investment opportunities, Hwang said.
WeWork Labs is available in four locations in Seoul -- Yeoksam, Euljiro, Yeouido Station and Seolleung. The Seolleung location will officially open on July 1.
Each location, housing around 100 desks, will specialize in a different business area. The Yeoksam branch will focus on consumer and tech startups, while the Euljiro branch will target education and ed-tech startups.
The Yeouido branch will focus on fintech and blockchain startups while the upcoming Seolleung branch will zero in on biotechnology and health care service technology startups.
By Sohn Ji-young (email@example.com)