China’s biggest co-working operator has finally opened shop in New York City – and it only took nine months, a legal settlement and a name change to get there.
Mao Daqing’s Ucommune, formerly known as UrWork, gave a series of interviews in the New York media over the last week to let the world know about its new Manhattan co-working space that it has opened in cooperation with New York-based flexible office provider Serendipity Labs.
Ucommune secured its North American toehold via a cooperation agreement with Serendipity Labs, which opened the 34,000 square foot (3,158 square metre) space at 28 Liberty Street in Manhattan on March 12th, according to an account in Crain’s New York. Ucommune is described as a minority partner in the new centre, where Serendipity Labs is leasing from Shanghai-based Fosun, which purchased the building formerly known as 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza for $725 million in 2013.
New York Part of Ucommune’s Global Plan
Ucommune, which has been rapidly acquiring smaller competitors in mainland China, see its New York venture as a way to expand into the North American market and provide global service to its clients.
“There is a lot of Chinese companies that come here,” Daqing said of the New York market in an interview with New York’s Commercial Observer. “So we wanted to [have] some service for them and our members in China.”
Ucommune’s members in China and elsewhere in Asia can use the company’s app to book space at the new Manhattan space, and the co-working provider is said to have explored the possible with Serendipity Labs of opening more New York locations.
Ucommune Aims for More Expansion
The Chinese co-working operator’s New York opening comes after Ucommune has acquired a pair of smaller competitors during the first quarter of 2018.
Just last week Ucommune announced that it was taking over Shenzhen flexible office operator WeDo, a move that provides the Beijing-based company with 12 more coworking spaces serving over 300 enterprises in southern China’s second-largest city.
That Shenzhen deal came less than two weeks after Ucommune absorbed Beijing competitor Woo Space, which allowed it to add a network of 23 more locations in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin.
In January of this year, Ucommune signed its first lease in Hong Kong, and the company opened its first overseas location last year in Singapore. The Chinese co-working firm, which has investment from heavyweights such as Sequoia China, as well as from little-known provincial investors on the mainland, has recently declared a $1.7 billion valuation.
Ucommune Ready to Take on WeWork on Its Home Turf
For Ucommune, the New York opening comes after nearly a year of expectations and trademark battle which resulted in the name change from UrWork.
When Mao Daqing’s mainland upstart announced plans last May to open as UrWork in New York and Los Angeles, WeWork took exception to the idea of Mao’s company using a strikingly similar name to open a closely-related business in New York.
After WeWork then took those concerns to a judge, UrWork announced the name change to Ucommune at the end of last year.
Now, Ucommune, which Mao describes as the world’s second-largest co-working operator after WeWork is bringing his act to his rival’s home town.
“Definitely the competition is there,” Mao said in his interview with the Commercial Observer. The former China Vanke executive added that, “If the industry has no competition, then I think it’s horrible.”
WeWork, which opened its first Asian centre in Shanghai in 2016, has not commented on this latest development.