Every founder, especially at an early stage, is looking for any advantage they can find to move their startup in the right direction. This can mean finding free credits, bringing in people to work for equity, or not taking a salary. When you are building an early stage startup every dollar is precious.
I have said it countless times that companies should not charge early stage (pre-revenue) startups for anything. I have made this even more clear when it comes to meetups or events in which sponsors are covering all of the costs. Nothing drives me more insane than watching a well funded organization charge founders to attend an event simply because they want them to have “skin in the game.” It is an absurd excuse. Founders who are working on their companies full time have more skin in the game than you can fathom.
Enter WeWork Labs. The global program offers founders programming and resources in exchange for renting a space in their locations. This means founders having to pay nearly $500 per month in most locations ($380 in Portland) to be included in an ongoing cohort of startups who are all looking to find a path to grow and scale their businesses.
Initially when I learned of this program my reaction was why a company like WeWork would look to bring in founders into their space, ask them to pay a fee, and give them a bit more access than they already give regular tenants of their spaces. In fact, when you read their site to sell people on their space vs. the page that outlines the value with WeWork Labs the language is not very different.
So why would I jump into an organization that was (at its surface) just trying to find different ways to fill seats in their spaces?
The answer is in the programming. It is the fundamental thing that I believe helps founders in a way that is different than other programs I have seen. Let me explain.
I am a Techstars founder. I went through the program in Chicago a few years ago. The program, if you are unfamiliar, is three months in length and offers founders the fundamental tools to help them build a business with fundraising in mind. The program is global having programs in places like India, China, England, and more.
The biggest challenge with this type of program is that you end up giving away a percentage of your company for a program that is only three months long. Granted you get access to one of the most incredible networks I have ever been part of, but if you are a company in need of ongoing help beyond the three months your options are limited. With WeWork Labs you are giving up ZERO equity while gaining a global network with mentors and some incredible programming.
Not every program works for every founder and/or company and this post is not meant to tell you which one is better. Having gone through a traditional program I can tell you that our company was far too early to go through a program like Techstars which makes something like WeWork Labs so valuable and compelling. If you are just starting out you want to look for resources that help move you to the next step and a program like WeWork Labs is a great resource to help founders find their footing to get to the next step.
I am really excited to be joining WeWork Labs. I recognize I have some big shoes to fill. My predecessor, Stephen Green, is a local startup champion. Being able to follow in his footsteps is a tremendous honor and I am forever grateful for his guidance and friendship.
If you are a local Portland based founder I look forward to getting to know you and what I can be doing to be helpful. There are so many great people and programs that make Portland a wonderful place to start and grow a startup. The programming we are going to be creating at WeWork Labs Portland will be complementary to all of them and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Onward!