SINGAPORE/BEIJING – WeWork Cos., the world’s largest provider of shared work spaces, will invest $500 million in Southeast Asia and South Korea as the New York-based company steps up its expansion in global markets.
As part of the effort, WeWork will acquire Spacemob, a Singapore-based co-working startup founded in early 2016 by entrepreneur Turochas “T” Fuad and backed by Vertex Ventures and Alpha JWC Ventures. WeWork declined to disclose the value of the deal.
WeWork, which will absorb Spacemob’s team of about 20 people, appointed founder Fuad as its managing director of Southeast Asia. WeWork also named Matt Shampine, currently head of marketing and revenue for Asia, as general manager for South Korea.
“Both are seasoned entrepreneurs,” Christian Lee, managing director of WeWork Asia, said. “It was just a really obvious decision to bring them on board to significantly accelerate growth.”
The expansion is the latest in Asia for WeWork as it takes its model of co-working spaces to new markets beyond the U.S.
In recent weeks, it announced a $500 million investment with SoftBank Group Corp. and Hony Capital to expand its business in China, as well as a joint venture with SoftBank to start operations in Japan.
“Given who our partners are, and given WeWork’s speed, you can expect to see buildings coming soon,” Lee said. “We will be in Japan in a major way.”
WeWork, reportedly valued at about $20 billion, is seeing robust growth in South Korea since opening its office there less than a year ago, according to Lee.
“Korea’s been great for us,” Lee said. “There are a lot of economic changes that are going on, and we can play a huge role in helping companies of all sizes.”
But its expansion in China is under threat from local startup UrWork, which said Monday it has secured a fresh round of funding worth 1.2 billion yuan ($178 million) from backers including Beijing Capital Land Ltd. and Xingpai Group.
UrWork’s increasing global footprint and continued fund raising — it raised $58 million in May — are key challenges for WeWork as it attempts to crack the world’s second-biggest economy.
Within three years UrWork plans to open 160 sites in 32 cities around the world. It is already working to expand operations in New York, London, Singapore and Los Angeles.
Still, Lee said WeWork can stand out by offering 130,000 members access to more than 163 locations in 52 cities across 15 countries. “There may be local competition, but there is really no one that’s bridging this global platform,” he said.