• Bloomberg


WeWork Cos., a co-working space startup backed by SoftBank Group Corp., is making its debut in Japan with three locations in downtown Tokyo starting February.

The first space will occupy two floors of Mori Building Co.’s Ark Hills complex, Chris Hill, WeWork’s chief executive officer for Japan, said in an interview Thursday. That will be followed by penthouse space at a recently opened building called Ginza Six and a nine-story office building near Shimbashi in March and April, Hill said.

WeWork Japan is a joint venture equally split between the New York-based shared-office provider and SoftBank. The Japanese conglomerate’s founder Masayoshi Son and his Vision Fund agreed to invest $4.4 billion in WeWork last month to finance an aggressive global expansion plan that includes a $500 million project in China. WeWork plans to open 10 to 20 locations in central Tokyo, a person familiar with the matter said in July.

“SoftBank is bringing instantaneous localization for us,” said Hill, who was previously WeWork’s chief operating officer. SoftBank has made no commitments on taking space so far, but “eventually we will figure out how to work alongside their portfolio companies,” he said.

WeWork has already received more than 1,000 inquiries but has yet to sign contracts, Hill said. The tenants will probably be a mix between startups, mid-sized companies and large enterprises, he said. WeWork is also in talks with Mitsubishi Estate Co., Japan’s biggest real-estate company, about possible future locations, he said.

The space in Ark Hills, a 37-story-tall twin-tower complex built in 1986 that once housed Goldman Sachs Group Inc., will have about 850 desks, Hill said. Ginza Six in Tokyo’s pricey Ginza district is home to Versace, Kenzo and other luxury brands, and was completed in January. That WeWork location will have room for as many as 750 desks. The Shimbashi building, the least glitzy of the three, will house 600 desks.

The U.S. startup, valued at about $20 billion, has been amassing funds to bankroll a global push that’s already taken it to about 15 countries. It just unveiled a deal to buy Singapore’s SpaceMob and open its first locations in Southeast Asia. It’s also announced a $500 million investment with SoftBank and Hony Capital to expand its business in China.

Demand for co-working spaces are growing in Japan driven by trends toward more flexible work styles, an expanding startup community and increasing interest from large companies, according to an August report from broker Savills Plc. Competition from new entrants such as Regus Plc, security concerns and performance during economic downturns are among the risk factors for real-estate firms, the report said.

“We have looked at a lot of office space here in Tokyo and much of it is inefficient,” Hill said. “We are going to take advantage of making it a lot more efficient, a lot more user friendly, a lot more conducive to collaboration.”

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