Startup News & Analysis

US billionaire Miguel McKelvey on why he brought global co-working giant WeWork to Australia

Dinushi Dias /

Major global co-working community WeWork has officially launched in Australia, with its grand opening taking place at its new Martin Place space in Sydney on Wednesday.

Amid excitement from the local startup community, WeWork opened co-working spaces in Martin Place and Pyrmont about four months ago, which have signed up more than 2000 members already. Its newest space is expected to open in June this year.

Co-founded in the US by Forbes-listed billionaires Miguel McKelvey and Adam Neumann in 2010, WeWork has grown its global membership to 100,000, with more than 150 offices in cities around the world, including San Francisco, Beijing, Tel Aviv and Berlin.

“The community at WeWork is quite diverse,” McKelvey tells StartupSmart.

“[It ranges] from the person with an idea, to freelancers, to independent workers, [and] to small startups in a lot of different fields.”

Only about 20-25% of WeWork’s members in Australia are tech startups, says McKelvey, with the rest coming from a wide range of companies such as architecture, fashion and modelling agencies.

“From the very beginning of our business, we really thought about being in the best cities in the world and Sydney was on that list,” he says.

“It was part of our strategic plan to be global … Being here is a great validation of that.”

McKelvey says the primary goal of WeWork is “enabling organic connections”, with members getting access to daily events and networking opportunities with a diverse group of people.

“We’re not an accelerator, we’re not an incubator … we’re more just creating an open environment,” he says.

“The community is stronger the larger it is.”

Sydney members could also have the chance to win big, with WeWork recently unveiling its first Creator Awards — a yearlong initiative to celebrate the achievements of WeWork members around the world with about $US20 million ($26 million) in awards up for grabs.

The awards will debut in Washington DC on March 28, before the global final competition is held in New York on November 30, 2017.

“We could not think of a better way to [honour] our members and all the creators who inspire us every day,” Adam Neumann said in a blog post this month.

Recent estimates have valued WeWork at more than US$20 billion and the co-working giant is forecasting to hit a revenue run-rate of $US1 billion ($1.3 billion) in 2017, according to comments made by Neumann during a tech conference in Colorado in July last year.

However, McKelvey declined to confirm or deny that figure to StartupSmart.

WeWork’s official Australian launch comes as 500 Startups embarks on development of its first Australian hub in Melbourne, after securing funding from LaunchVic this week.

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a journalist at StartupSmart and multimedia content producer. When she’s out of the office, she works on social projects with her We Love It Productions family and buddying filmmakers.

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  • Colin Spencer

    Dear Mr. McKelvey, you have been horribly mislead. Sydney is not one of the best cities in the world. Melbourne certainly is though.