WeWork is growingrapidly, and while they are relatively new to the market, they aretaking a long-term view of the office industry. At the annualCRETech conference in Los Angeles yesterday,WeWork leaders opened the event with a look inside the company'sbusiness model and perspective, including its growth, the future ofoffice and how WeWork is impacting the office market. Panelistsincluded Sarah Pontius, SVP and global head ofreal estate partnerships; Granit Gjonbalaj chiefreal estate development officer; Rohit Dave,senior director of mergers and acquisitions; CraigRobinson, global head of powered by We Services.Michael Beckerman, CEO of CRETech, moderated thepanel.

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The firm launched as an office services company first andexpanded into a real estate company as it grew, but today, it stillfocuses on its core mission: to create energy where people work andspend the majority of their time, according to Robinson. As aresult, the firm is always looking for ways to add value tocustomers and is focused on the future: what will office look likein 10 years; what will employment look like in 10 years. In thesame vein, WeWork is asking where it wants to be as a company in 10to 15 years, and how to position itself today to achieve thatgrowth. In many ways, it is similar to any other real estateinvestment company. In fact, Pontius, who joined the company threemonths ago and formerly worked at Brookfield, drew comparisonsbetween the growth strategies of the two companies. “People say weare growing fast. I have had the time to get under the hood andthere is a lot of diligence happening. This is a long-term play andwe are long term players,” she said on the panel.

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The majority of WeWork's growth has come in the last two tothree years, and today it is working with several fortune 500companies and 35% of members are large companies. “The intent isdifferent,” said Robinson, who reminded the audience that WeWork'sultimate mission is to elevate the world's consciousness. “60% ofpeople are looking for a job. If you are unfulfilled, you are notgoing to be a high performing worker,” he added.

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In that time, the company has evolved to incorporate moretechnology and partner with landlords, companies and even employeesto curate a unique workplace experience. In many ways, according tothe panelists, the company has a lot of data that can impact thedecisions of landlords and internal workplace strategies.Technology has helped scale the platform. Today, WeWork has 1,500to 2,000 software engineers. “We are always thinking aboutreplacing manual processes through tech. Tech is part of thebusiness solution. [Our software engineers] are solving problemsand working with the team to create that solution,”Gjonbalaj   said. Robinson adds that WeWork ishelping accelerate the adoption of technology in real estate byinvesting in new and emerging technologies. “If we could be a bigenough customer, we could take a good idea and bring it to scale,”he said on the panel. “There are always good ideas that never getto scale. We need to find ways to get innovation better distributedand more quickly.”

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So, the three pillars of the company have become landlords,tenants and technology, and working simultaneously with those threegroups and bridging them has helped to drive disruption in office.“We are not only leasing space but working alongside largecompanies to make change in this industry,” said Pontius. “AtWeWork, we have so much data because we are working with bothsides. “That is how we are moving this industry forward and catchup with other industries that have been using tech.”

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Looking ahead, the firm is focused on developing thosepartnerships to grow memberships and its physical footprint. “Now,we want to be strategic, and we need physical space to grow ourcommunity,” said Gjonbalaj. “We are adding a lot of value.”Robinson added, “We are changing the conversation. We are having aconversation about the human experience. That is creatingopportunities for everyone.”

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Kelsi Maree Borland

Kelsi Maree Borland is a freelance journalist and magazine writer based in Los Angeles, California. For more than 5 years, she has extensively reported on the commercial real estate industry, covering major deals across all commercial asset classes, investment strategy and capital markets trends, market commentary, economic trends and new technologies disrupting and revolutionizing the industry. Her work appears daily on GlobeSt.com and regularly in Real Estate Forum Magazine. As a magazine writer, she covers lifestyle and travel trends. Her work has appeared in Angeleno, Los Angeles Magazine, Travel and Leisure and more.