Coworking growth

WeWork announces its Houston-area third location in The Woodlands as the company expands locally

WeWork's newest Houston-area location is headed to The Woodlands. Courtesy of WeWork

In 2018, WeWork more than doubled its presence in Houston in terms of desks available. The company went from one location in the Galleria area with 1,100 desks to adding a second location in downtown with 1,500 desks. In 2019, WeWork is expected to again double the number of coworking desks the company will have by the end of the year — most new desk space will come from WeWork's new location in The Woodlands.

"In 2018, WeWork grew its footprint in a very big way in Houston. Now, in 2019, we're growing even more, but in a way that's as much about desks as it is impact," says Roniel Bencosme, WeWork Houston's community director, in a news release. "In this next year, WeWork will build a constellation of opportunity through new spaces spread across Houston, and opening in the Woodlands is key to that effort."

WeWork will have 1,000 desks at the new northwest location (1725 Hughes Landing) across two floors and 52,000 square feet of space, according to the release. WeWork Galleria will add 775 desks in the fourth quarter of 2019, and 1,000 more desks will be added by end of the year pending new leases, the release says. Regionally, WeWork has a presence in five cities in Texas — Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and Plano — but will launch in its sixth Texas city, San Antonio, in early 2020.

In 2019, WeWork will also be growing its social impact programs on a national level in addition to its footprint. Recently, WeWork formed a partnership with the Female Founders Alliance, the Tent Partnership for Refugees, to hire 1,500 refugees at WeWork over the next five years. The company's veterans hiring initiative will also be hiring 1,500 veterans over the next five years.

Houstonians can also expect to see new WeWork Labs, WeWork's accelerator concept, around town, as well as the Veterans in Residence third cohort. WeWork's Flatiron School, which is in its downtown Houston location, will see new cohorts and boasts of a 98 percent job rate placement rate. The school alsy awarded $200,000 in scholarship dollars last year.

"Impact for WeWork is about enabling opportunity. We unlock access to thriving workspaces for companies of all sizes that would otherwise be out of reach," Bencosme says in the release. "We help cities like Houston attract top companies and reduce friction for them to put down roots. We're creating synergies and connectivity across the metro region at a level and scale that's never been done before. That's impact.

WeWork recently released its Global Impact Report for 2019, and the research tracked specifics about its Houston membership. Here were some key findings of the study locally:

  • The majority of Houston WeWork members (83 percent) are in the innovation economy, compared to 12% in the region as a whole.
  • When it comes to sustainable commuting, 42 percent of WeWork members walk, bike, or use public transit to go to work.
  • The Houston WeWork economy contributes over $1 billion to the city's GDP — either directly ($480 million) or indirectly ($530 million)
  • WeWork's small and medium-sized member companies in Houston have an average job growth rate of 32 percent (compared to 1 percent for all companies in Houston).
  • In Houston, 58 percent of WeWork members say the organization has helped their company accelerate its growth.
  • While 44 percent of senior roles at U.S. WeWork member companies are held by women, Houston's percentage of female-led companies at WeWork locally is slightly lower at 36 percent.
  • Of WeWork members that are entrepreneurs in Houston, 26 percent are first-time entrepreneurs, and 1 in 20 of the city's first-time entrepreneurs are WeWork members.

Houston small businesses are struggling to pay their rent with doors closed and operations ceased — but where should the relief come from? Getty Images

It's not too huge of an assumption to make that many Houston startups and small businesses failed to pay their rents in full yesterday. Since the city's stay-at-home mandate on March 24 — and even preceding that — most businesses have seen a slowdown of revenue as a result of COVID-19-caused business disruptions.

Business owners are frantically looking in their leases and searching online to see what rights they have and what sort of protection they have in such an unprecedented time.

"People are confused. They don't know what to do, and finding information is hard," says Meredith Wheeler, co-founder and chief creative officer of Sesh Coworking, which opened earlier this year.

Wheeler and Sesh's co-founder, Maggie Segrich, have created a petition to get on the radar of local elected officials to challenge them to pass legislation to protect small businesses in this time.

"At the end of the day, it would be so wonderful and idealistic to say that we could rely on the niceties and the moral compasses of our landlords, but it's probably not true for everyone and so that's why we need legislation to dictate what is right," Wheeler says.

But landlords are also in unchartered territory, says Josh Feinberg, who has worked in Houston as a commercial real estate broker and co-founded CRE tech platform, Tenavox.

"There's this idea that there's this acrimony between tenant and landlord, and I think, as a former broker, we're set up that way to get our side the best deal. But in reality, that's just not true," Feinberg says. "The majority of commercial real estate is owned by regular people — not usually some faceless, gigantic corporation."

And they have a piper to pay too, Feinberg adds. Ninety percent of CRE is owned by debt, he says. If the government steps in anywhere, it should be on the lender level, as well as creating some sort of tax relief.

"If there's any relief here, it's going to have to come from lenders, and I think you'd hear that from owners and brokers," Feinberg says.

In somewhat convenient timing, Tenavox has recently co-founded a new company that provides a bit of a solution for small businesses. Otso provides landlords with an alternative to cash security deposits. Traditionally, deposits are held onto by landlords — they aren't legally allowed to spend it unless the tenant defaults.

"In general, I think cash deposits are wasteful," Feinberg says. "It's critical capital that the business can hire with, invest, and use."

Tenavox teamed up with Euler Hermes, a 135-year-old credit insurance company, to create Otso, and the credit company backs the lease performance of each tenant that is approved by Otso. The transaction calls for a fee added to the rent, but no large cash deposit would be required.

The tool can be used on new leases, and, in light of the current situation, Otso can also be used to create an addendum in existing leases so that the tenant can get back their deposit and use it in this time of crisis. Either landlord or tenant can apply online and hear back that same day — Feinberg says he's focused on a speedy response to help get this deposit money back to the tenant.

"If we can get some liquidity back into the hands of the business, they have some a better chance of survival," Feinberg says.

Other than looking into Otso, Feinberg has some other recommendations for small business owners. He says they should be applying for relief from the Small Business Administration, which has more money to dole out than they have ever had. And, as it pertains to working with their landlords, communication is key. Show financials and specific information — like what March 2019 looks like compared to 2020 — so that landlords can take that to their lenders.

"An unprecedented crisis is going to require unprecedented solutions," Feinberg says.