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WeWork sites facilitate China's innovation push

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-04-24 08:15

Global creator community giant WeWork officially launched its startup services platform, WeWork Labs, in China on April 11 in its bid to expand its presence in the burgeoning innovation and entrepreneurship market.

A pilot of the program was launched in Shanghai in 2018, with three locations serving 46 members.

It involves Tsinghua University, Peking University and Aliyun, where there will be exchange programs, through which business professionals will be trained and Chinese firms will be helped to expand at home and overseas.

Designed to empower early-stage startups, WeWork Labs has extended its footprint to 32 cities in 15 countries since 2011.

Building on WeWork's global resources, the platform offers community education, connections and mentorship to help entrepreneurs.

"We have seen many incubators, but do not see ourselves as one of them," says Roee Adler, senior vice-president and global head of WeWork Labs.

Roee says WeWork seeks no equity and sets no time limits for startups' growth, aiming to build an innovation platform that creates an enabling ecosystem with tailor-made programs and services for its members.

As entrepreneurs, it is important to stay curious and learn to understand the nuances of different cultures, Roee says.

"So, the more you understand people, the more you can empathize and the more you might end up with meaningful relationships."

China's innovation and entrepreneurship activities have accelerated since 2015 as the government sees them as drivers for the economy's transition.

As a result, a number of supportive policies have been issued to support maker spaces, incubators and companies to speed up innovation.

Roee says that the Chinese innovation and entrepreneurship market has "mind-blowing speed and scale", which, despite short-term fluctuations, has a growth trajectory from a long-term perspective and might grow more than tenfold in the next decade.

"Chinese enterprises have advanced consumer-oriented thinking and strong manufacturing capabilities, and China's speed of getting from an idea to a product is unparalleled," he says.

Dylan Huang, who oversees WeWork Labs' Greater China operations, says the demand among Chinese startups for all-round support is strong, and the platform will leverage its global resources to facilitate exchanges between Chinese partners and their overseas counterparts.

WeWork Labs helped Whitmoore, a US startup, seek partnerships and opportunities in China last year via its Global Satellite Program, and will organize a study trip to Israel for the Tsinghua School of Economics and Management X-elerator's postgraduates to learn about the country's startup ecosystem this year.

WeWork Labs' interest covers agriculture, sustainability, food and other fields that can improve people's quality of life, and Huang says it will work with local governments and partners in China to foster sectors with competitive advantages.

The platform plans to expand into Beijing, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and other cities with eight to 10 new locations expected this year, says Huang.

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