World's biggest co-working space provider WeWork to acquire Singapore-based Spacemob

People visit the booth of WeWork as they attend the TechCrunch Disrupt event in Manhattan, New York, on May 15, 2017.
People visit the booth of WeWork as they attend the TechCrunch Disrupt event in Manhattan, New York, on May 15, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - WeWork Cos, the world's largest provider of shared work spaces, will invest US$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 of Korea.

"Both are seasoned entrepreneurs," Christian Lee, managing director of WeWork Asia, said in a phone interview. "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 US. In recent weeks, it has announced a US$500 million investment from Japan's SoftBank Group and Hony Capital to expand its business in China. The firm has also announced 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, said to be valued at about US$20 billion, is seeing robust growth in South Korea since opening its office 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."

In Asia, WeWork faces competition from local rivals such as UrWork, a Chinese company that opened up co-working space in Singapore earlier this year.

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.