Six years ago, we opened the first WeWork location on the corner of Grand and Lafayette streets in downtown Manhattan. We had one floor in an old building, a limited budget, and the will to challenge the world. We spread the word on Craigslist and brought in our first members on February 15, 2010.
It quickly became apparent that people were ready for a new approach to work, not just their workspace. They wanted an experience built around community that brought meaning to their lives. This was a time when the financial crisis was fresh in people’s memories, so the enthusiastic reaction to our first space was a powerful validation of the world we wanted to create: a space where we can achieve more together than we can on our own. A space where people can come together to make a life, not just a living.
And that was how the WeWork journey began. Growth came slowly but surely and by the end of 2011, we had 2,000 members in five locations in the U.S. Today we have nearly 80,000 members globally — our membership has more than doubled in the last year alone. We have literally and figuratively come so far together and grown so much as a community that it’s hard to fathom we are opening WeWork’s 100th operating location in Berlin.
The opening of Hackescher Markt marks an important step in our journey. Berlin, in its own special way, captures the spirit of WeWork. It is a European center for culture and art as well as a focus for Germany and continental Europe’s entrepreneurial efforts. It has been truly humbling for us to see how Berliners have embraced the WeWork concept and how our community there has grown so quickly. We opened Sony Center, our first location in Berlin, earlier this year, and now they will be connected with another 550 Berliners alongside our members around the world.
For WeWork, the journey continues to grow from here. We note with excitement that by 2050 almost 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. The workforce, indeed the world, looks very different to this generation than it did for its parents. That is why we must continue to have the will to challenge everything, and why we must keep pushing for change.
The generational change we see in individuals’ attitudes about their personal and professional lives is as true in Berlin as it is in New York and London. It’s true for the major global financial institution that recently joined our Tower 535 Community in Hong Kong with 400 employees, and it’s true for the Boston-based entrepreneur whose digital health company is revolutionizing the way specialty drugs are managed.
So, as we reflect on six years of hard work, dedication, and our 100th WeWork location, we must also think about the challenges that lay ahead. We’re witnessing a historic and exciting shift in where and how people live, but our cities aren’t currently built to accommodate this change. A positive vision for the future of cities will require us, WeWork and WeLive, to make smart decisions, on a healthy mix of 70 percent magic and 30 percent logic to rethink our approaches to designing multi-functional spaces for how urban populations live, work and play.
Opening our 100th location at Berlin will not solve anything overnight, but our determination is stronger than ever. We hold strongly to the belief that our physical and digital platforms encourage social and professional interaction and therefore build communities.
By designing with community in mind from the outset, not only do we utilize space more effectively—we also cultivate a distinct culture of collaboration. WeWork creates environments where people from all different backgrounds, industries, and demographics come together to create their life’s work. And it is this concept, this approach to work that is as powerful now as it was when we first started.
So here’s to our new members in Berlin—you are now part of the We Generation. We hope the WeWork community provides you with a sense of intent and meaning in your lives and that you use that to affect positive change. When you do, we are sure that you will become an essential part of a solution to some of the great challenges of our time.