When we originally heard the rumors that WeWork was considering opening a Portland branch, I can say the initial reception was best described as “cautiously optimistic.” We’d always expected it to happen at some point, given that cofounder Miguel McKelvey was from Eugene. But it took a while for those rumors to come to fruition.
When WeWork announced that it was taking residence in the historic Custom House, it was point of validation for our community. And, we assumed, the heralding of a new level of community engagement and putting Portland on the map. In 2017, we began to see glimmers of that engagement, with WeWork hosting events, filling desks, and engaging with organizations like StarveUps and OEN. Still, their impact on the broader Portland community hasn’t been as deeply felt.
But all of that may be changing in 2018, thanks to three big recent moves by the coworking giant. Moves which suddenly have Portland feeling a whole lot more WeWork-y.
WeWork Portland now has has three locations
The company’s latest space is in the Power + Light Building at 920 S.W. Sixth Ave., just blocks away from another WeWork location in Pioneer Place. The newest location, slated to open June 1, offers another 1,100 desks.
WeWork announces the Creator Awards
If you’re in the performing arts, nonprofits, a startup, or a community builder, WeWork is looking to celebrate what you’re doing and reward you with the WeWork Creator Awards.
WeWork’s Creator Awards is committed to supporting innovative projects and the people behind them. This global competition is open to entrepreneurs, performers, startups, and nonprofits—anyone who embodies our mantra, “Create Your Life’s Work.”
I know there are a ton of creators and builders in town who could use both the promotional and financial support. So if that opportunity sounds interesting to you, it only takes a few minutes to apply.
And the biggest news from my perspective: WeWork Portland hires Stephen Green
If you’re in Portland, you’ve likely met Stephen. And if you haven’t? It probably won’t be long before you do. An all-but-his-first-three-months lifetime Portlander, Stephen is a force of nature when it comes to building community here in the Rose City. Be it with marquee events like Pitch Black or grabbing a quiet cup of coffee with a founder at Deadstock, he has served as one of the critical nodes connecting black and Latinx founders and raising the visibility of founders of color for nearly two decades.
Now, he’s taking all of that expertise and taking on a new challenge: bringing WeWork Portland to a new level of engagement with the entire Portland community as WeWork’s Director of Community.
I took a few minutes to sit down with Stephen to get his take on Portland, his new role, and its potential impact on the Portland startup community.
Tell us about what your new role. What are you going to be up to at WeWork?
At WeWork Portland, our main goal is to be a home for the city’s startups, larger business and nonprofits to come together as one community. To do so, we will focus on developing WeWork’s downtown spaces into lively civic commons that play host to community conversations, events, and much more. I also hope to establish collaborative—not competitive—relationships with other local workspace companies.
What makes Portland a great town for WeWork?
Portland has a vibrant and active entrepreneurial community, which makes the city a great location for any company. One of our main goals at WeWork is for our members to help each other’s businesses thrive, so living in such a close-knit and collaborative community like Portland is a natural fit for what we’re trying to accomplish: to create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living.
What can WeWork Portland learn from other WeWork communities?
We’re a global company with a local playbook. No matter how large WeWork gets, or where we expand, whenever we enter a new market, we work to launch with local operations, local programming, and local employees.
What can other WeWork communities learn from WeWork Portland?
I think other WeWork communities will be able to look at how our Portland locations function and grow and use those as examples to study and improve their space, culture, and community. Portland already has a very open and accepting attitude towards the changing ways in which people work and live. But this isn’t the case in all cities that WeWork operates in.
What are the most immediate opportunities to get WeWork Portland more involved in the community?
As mentioned, Portland has a thriving entrepreneurial and startup community, so there’s tons of opportunities to get involved every single day. On any given day, WeWork will be a home to pitch events, meetups, clubs—all of the things that make this city so special. WeWork is like the new town hall, a gathering place of all kinds.
You know as well as anyone that building community takes time. What are some of your long-term plans for WeWork Portland?
WeWork is helping to create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living. There has been a macro shift toward a new way of work—one focused on a movement towards meaning. WeWork is accelerating this movement. When WeWork started in 2010, it sought to build more than beautiful, shared office spaces. They wanted to build a community. A place you join as an individual, “me,” but where you become part of a greater “we.” A place where we’re redefining success measured by personal fulfillment, not just the bottom line. Community is our catalyst.
I’ve always appreciated your take on the differences between “placemaking” and “spacemaking.” Am I correct in thinking that WeWork Portland has the opportunity to be successful at both of those pursuits?
Yes, I do believe we have an opportunity to be successful at both placemaking and spacemaking, largely because WeWork utilizes both in the design of all our spaces. We work hard to ensure our buildings have the right mix of design and function so that they create physical and digital places where ideas can be exchanged, and creativity can thrive.
Two major aspects factor into our placemaking/spacemaking. First, we work on creating a strong residential feel. We want our spaces to be warm, inviting, and cozy to make people comfortable while they work. Another is the concept of biophilia—the human connection to nature. In addition to adding lots of plants and greenery, we use natural materials to generate an environment that has proven to make people more creative, less stressed, and more at ease.
We all know Portland as a collaborative town. But coworking can be a competitive market. How do you see WeWork Portland balancing those two?
Portland’s collaborative nature is a perfect complement to WeWork’s focus on building community. Our spaces play host to regular office hours with venture capitalists and other industry professionals, and there’s tons of these folks in Portland willing to collaborate with our members to help support innovation and encourage human connection.
On that same collaboration note, how can a global corporation like WeWork positively engage with local government for effective public/private partnerships?
We’re focused on creating human connection; by connecting people through our spaces with the best of design, technology and community, we are able to humanize the way people work and live. This applies to our interactions with everyone across sectors. WeWork’s Portland communities can serve as liaisons between sectors and can bridge gaps in the economy.
How do you see the global WeWork network positively impacting the Portland startup community and Portland as a whole?
Our global network provides our members with some tangible benefits, including the ability to book workspace and meeting space in locations all around the world. This will help Portland entrepreneurs connect with more resources and see how people in other cultures are approaching similar topics and businesses.
Thanks to Stephen for taking the time. WeWork has already had an impact on Portland in its short time here. With Stephen on board, I’m really looking forward to seeing how they take advantage of even more opportunities that improve the Portland startup community. And those other recent moves don’t hurt their chances, either.
For more information, visit WeWork Portland.