In its prospectus, the company’s well-worn slogan about selling ‘space as a service’ made 40 appearances, but there was also a clear change in brand direction with the declaration that The We Company should now be thought of as a tech business. Given that stock investors have previously gone crazy for just about any business that can slap a tech label on itself, the strategy was a clear (perhaps even slightly cynical) message to the market.
This IPO tactic may seem obvious but The We Company has been not the only big operator in its sector to distance itself from the co-working. US company, Convene is taking 102,000 sq ft at the 22 Bishopsgate development for its first UK centre. Perusal of its website would suggest that it looks, feels and sounds like a co-working provider, but the company emphatically told Bisnow last week that it is a ‘hospitality’ business, not just another a co-working provider.
To be fair, it does dedicate half the space in its centres to facilitating meetings and events. It believes the hospitality angle is often overlooked in the UK, and plans to leverage this to carve itself a unique niche in the London real estate market. The argument runs that flexible working is only half of what it provides so it has a competitive edge on other operators.
So it would appear that the ‘co-working’ label – which previously out-manoeuvred the ponderous ‘serviced offices’ descriptor – may now also be moved aside for something more of the moment.
For years, the property business had no brands or product differentiation. Then everyone in the business was agreed that co-working is here to stay. However, it now appears that it might not always be called that.