Six alternative data points to know about WeWork before its IPO

2 weeks ago by Joshua Fruhlinger in Facts, Features

If you haven't heard, WeWork, the co-working company that radically changed the office leasing industry, is going public. In nine short years, WeWork — soon to be rebranded as The We Company — has grown into a global network of rentable spaces for startups and rapidly expanding businesses. At the time of writing, it is valued at $47 billion.

Despite its impact on the business world, headlines about WeWork's IPO have been reticent at best. The New York Times dropped this doozy: "WeWork Files for I.P.O., Joining Wave of Cash-Burning Start-Ups in Going Public". A cash burining startup leading into a public offering isn't all that uncommon, but, as the Times article points out, WeWork's losses doubled last year to $1.9 billion on revenues of $1.8 billion.

Growth is good, but when it outpaces revenue, investors may be concerned. So how quickly is WeWork growing, and does it reflect the massive operating costs and losses? We have some of those answers here.

1. Workforce size has almost tripled in last year

One of the strongest indicators of company growth is its workforce size. At this point last year, around 4,000 LinkedIn users listed WeWork as their employer. As of this week, that number has grown to around 9,500.

This comes as a slight surprise, as WeWork laid off about 3% of its workforce in March. But as WeWork continues to invest in talent and open new locations worldwide, expect this number to grow and even accelerate once that public cash rolls in post-IPO.

2. Hiring has slowed a bit

Despite the rapid workforce growth, WeWork's approach to hiring appears to be somewhat sober. While a massive spike in hiring can be normal for startups after investment infusions, so far WeWork has stayed the course, and in some instances, even slowed its hiring activities as it has expanded its business over time.

That said, job opening numbers are healthy: nearly 1,500 openings are currently listed on WeWork's careers page, down from a spike of 1,600 in April.

3. Finance team appears to be in place

We'll often see hiring sprees for finance experts as a company enters pre-IPO territory. WeWork appears to have gone through this phase at the end of 2018, when jobs categorized as "Finance" on its careers site showed a noticeable rise in activity. This activity slowed into the new year and spring, in a sign that new finance roles are being filled and new finance employees are focused on WeWork's role as a public company in the future.

4. A focus on technology leading into IPO

If finance hires have slowed a bit now that that team is in place, WeWork is in the process of increasing its search for Technology professionals. In the past quarter, job listings at WeWork categorized as "Technology" outpaced both Building Design & Development and Community for the first time. This is potentially significant for WeWork's future. As it goes public, it will need to be focused on scalability, and the company's technology platform will play a major role in that.

5. A truly global footprint in business hotspots, but with some blind spots

WeWork's location strategy is pretty clear: open offices where space is at a premium and where startups are common. It's no surprise, then, that its retail footprint, when mapped, reflects the globe's business centers. There are some blind spots, however, most notably in mainland China where business growth is fierce and opportunities abound. That said, one-sixth of WeWork's 360 locations are already in China, and we certainly expect to see that number grow as the company sees fit.

6. The best news: Foot traffic is growing

If WeWork is to continues its rapid growth as a public company, it will need to remain focused on its core product: shared office spaces. Facebook "Were Here" count — the number of status updates, selfies, and checkins posted from WeWork locations — has grown at a consistent clip since 2017, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

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Joshua Fruhlinger

Joshua has been writing about technology, lifestyle, and business for over 20 years. He's one of the original writers and editors for Engadget, and still writes a...

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