WeWork’s New Startup Incubator Promises ‘Fertile Paradise’

Frank
November 21, 2018
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If you work in a WeWork co-working space, you are used to seeing New Age versions of vaguely Soviet-era propaganda imploring you to “Hustle Harder” and “Do What You Love.” It’s a place for idealistic strivers, consumed by business success.

Now, the real-estate company aims to help some startup founders take their hustling to a new level. WeWork is quietly recruiting startups to a new project called Area 51 Paradise Ranch, WIRED has learned. The invite-only program is meant to be an incubator and “launchpad” for startups. Despite its Nevada-oriented name, Area 51 will start with a “beta” program at WeWork’s Hudson Street office space in New York City. WeWork declined to comment on the project, which is still being developed.

The business of startup incubators is competitive, and success can build on itself. Y Combinator, the country’s most famous program, earned prestige with early successes like Dropbox, Airbnb, and Reddit, luring other promising startups to apply. WeWork’s intentions behind Area 51 are not clear, though the company is selling it as the next iteration of WeWork Labs, its program for early-stage startups that promises “tools, community, and connections” to help companies get off the ground. Applications on WeWork Labs’ website redirect to Area 51 Paradise Ranch.

Images from a WeWork pitchdeck for its Area 51 incubator.

Images from a WeWork pitchdeck for its Area 51 incubator.

Images from a WeWork pitchdeck for its Area 51 incubator.

Images from a WeWork pitchdeck for its Area 51 incubator.

Area 51 could also be viewed as a further extension of WeWork’s desire to build community. That community—be it via “co-living” spaces such as WeLive or elaborate summer camp festivals in upstate New York—is what the company believes distinguishes it from an increasingly crowded field of co-working competitors, while justifying WeWork’s lofty $20 billion valuation. To augment the company’s so-called “community-manufacturing machine,” WeWork last month acquired Meetup, an offline community building site. It also recently led a $32 million investment in The Wing, a social club and career-oriented community center for women.

WeWork Is Buying Meetup Amid an Increasingly Disconnected World

Why WeWork Thinks It’s Worth $20 Billion

Inside WeLive, WeWork’s Dorm-Style Take on Urban Housing

Area 51 differs from other startup incubators in that it doesn’t offer investment or take equity in exchange for participation, or offer a free workspace for the duration of the project. (WeWork has no shortage of cash, having raised $9.8 billion from investors, including money used to buy out early shareholders, according to Crunchbase.) Rather it will charge the startups a typical WeWork desk fee (which start at $350), according to recruiting communications.

Area 51 offers “all the amenities of a fertile paradise,” according to a pitchdeck featuring black-and-white photos of the Nevada desert. Those amenities include a “curated community” of startups, a workspace that is apparently designed by an algorithm meant to foster meaningful relationships, mentorship from unnamed mentors, introductions to other WeWork members, events, and funding opportunities from unnamed venture capital firms. Events will include happy hours and “weekly standups.”

One slide in the pitchdeck declares that the best decisions are not made with one’s mind, but with one’s instinct. Another features a chart comparing Area 51 Paradise Ranch with other startup incubators and coworking spaces, including Y Combinator, TechStars, Starbucks, Regus, and WeWork itself. Area 51 will offer demo days in the same vein as traditional incubators, though there are no demo days currently planned for the beta program, according to emails reviewed by WIRED.

The pitchdeck describes the program as “a fluid yet systematic platform,” that is “effective so pioneers, inventors, leaders and members can be vision oriented and results driven.” And typical WeWork messaging, it promises “LIBERTY + DISCIPLINE,” and declares that “POTENT COMMUNITY = PROFOUND SUCCESS” — potential new slogans for the ambitious company’s walls.

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Frank’s source: https://www.wired.com/story/weworks-new-startup-incubator-promises-fertile-paradise/

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