WeWork is targeting Japan, with its notoriously harsh work culture, as one of its prime international markets for growth. Naturally, the co-working giant is receiving a helping hand from its backer, SoftBank, which is Japan’s second-largest company.
“When you are a newcomer and a US company entering Japan, there is only so much reach that you can have, but having SoftBank helping us is nothing but helpful,” WeWork Japan general manager Masami Takahashi, who was formerly the head of Uber’s Japanese operations, told the Financial Times.
WeWork Japan is a 50-50 joint venture between the co-working startup and SoftBank.
And WeWork executives think Japan is prime for expansion, especially with large corporate companies that are eager to partner with tech companies.
“We feel the opportunity is big enough here that we can grow faster than anywhere else,” said Chris Hill, WeWork Japan’s chief executive. The company is reportedly aiming to have 10,000 users in the country by the end of the year.
Co-working space makes up about 7.9 percent of the office space in Tokyo, compared to less than 0.5 percent in 2009, according to CBRE.
WeWork’s partnership with SoftBank gives it credibility in Japan, where other foreign companies like Uber and Aibrnb have struggled to take off.
But the company is going to have to deal with vacancy rates in major cities that are at near-record lows, and many of the country’s office buildings lack the conditions WeWork seeks out like natural light and staircases that can be reshaped. Japan is also facing a sales tax increase next year, which could hurt start-ups and big corporations. [FT] – Rich Bockmann