WeWork and Alibaba deepen collaboration with WeWork Labs accelerator program

WeWork is offering discounts to startups under this program, hoping to retain them as future office space renters.

Co-working unicorn WeWork is partnering with Alibaba’s cloud unit to launch the WeWork Labs accelerator program in China, Technode reports.

The two companies plan to open eight co-branded spaces in 2019 across Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Shenzhen, and are aiming to help 20 foreign startups enter China and 30 Chinese startups to expand overseas.

Alibaba Cloud will provide technology and entrepreneurship support across a variety of categories, including e-commerce, fintech, logistics, healthcare, and entertainment.

WeWork Labs, meanwhile, will provide rental prices at a 10% to 25% discount, and won’t seek equity stakes in participating startups. Instead, it hopes to earn a return by retaining startups as lessees as they grow over time.

WeWork and Alibaba previously teamed up in March 2018, when the US company began waiving rental deposits for customers with high scores on Zhima Credit, the credit scoring platform developed by Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial.

The two companies have also partnered with China’s top universities—Tsinghua University and Peking University—to develop exchange and training programs for Chinese entrepreneurs that are of part of WeWork Labs, according to Xinhua.

To further facilitate overseas expansion, China-based WeWork Labs startups will also be able to visit WeWork’s locations worldwide and meet with investors and companies. The co-working giant counts over 640 locations in 112 cities across 35 countries.

WeWork re-launched WeWork Labs internationally in February 2018, beginning with two locations in New York City. Since then, WeWork Labs has expanded to over 50 locations across 32 cities and 15 countries.

Last year, WeWork Labs began a pilot program in Shanghai, where it now has three locations serving 46 startups. WeWork Labs plans to set up shop in 10 more cities this year, according to the head of WeWork’s Greater China operations, Dylan Huang.

WeWork first entered China in 2016, and had around 60 locations across the country’s first-tier cities as of November 2018. In April 2018, the company acquired NakedHub, a Shanghai-based rival, for USD 400 million (RMB 2.68 billion), before raising a USD 500 million (RMB 3.4 billion) Series B in July for its WeWork China subsidiary.

Editor: Nadine Freischlad