Japan’s SoftBank Group will invest an additional $1 billion in co-working company WeWork. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son views this investment’s potential similar to his bet on Alibaba Group Holding.
“WeWork is the next Alibaba,” Son said, referring to SoftBank’s early investment in the e-commerce company, which enjoyed meteoric growth as the internet took off in China.
“I believe it will grow to a substantial scale and become one of our core companies,” he said, according to Nikkei Asian Review.
The funding comes in the form of convertible bonds, according to WeWork. This follows a $4.4 billion investment, announced last year, by SoftBank and the Saudi-backed SoftBank Vision Fund. SoftBank and WeWork have also expanded the co-working business into Japan through a 50-50 joint venture.
It is rare for Son, who casts a wide net with his startup investments, to commit so much resources to a single company, said the report in Nikkwi Asian Review. But he said WeWork is more than just a renter of office space: it is ‘something completely new that uses technology to build and network communities.’
The SoftBank chief caused a flutter at an earnings briefing last week when he said half-jokingly that his company has discussed moving its headquarters into WeWork offices.
Mobile phones and the internet have made it possible to work from anywhere, fueling demand worldwide for shared office spaces, said the report. WeWork, founded in 2010, is among the most prominent players, with well over 250,000 registered members and nearly 300 locations in 20-plus countries. It logged about $900 million in revenue for 2017 – up 12-fold from four years earlier.
What sets WeWork apart from peers is its use of big data to connect people and companies for new business opportunities. It collects data on members, which is shared with other locations and can be accessed by users of the WeWork app around the world. The idea is that more data means more innovation.