Chinese co-working startup Ucommune has launched a blockchain development platform, in a move to add a high-tech edge to its network of shared office spaces.
The new program, Ucommune Blockchain Lab, was inaugurated in Beijing on Monday. Member companies will have the opportunity to build blockchain solutions on the platform, which Ucommune also plans to leverage to create its own crypto-services for the co-working market.
The venture into distributed-ledger technology comes a few days after rival co-working brand naked Hub, an affiliate of WeWork, announced a new partnership with European coding school Le Wagon that will provide flexible spaces in China for tech workshops.
Putting Co-Working on the Blockchain
Rather than using its new blockchain lab to mine bitcoins, Beijing-based Ucommune, which has some 160 flexible office centres open and in the pipeline and an estimated valuation of RMB 11 billion ($1.7 billion), is hoping to share some cryto knowledge with its community of members.
“The new lab will conduct in-depth research on blockchain application for coworking and develop a whitepaper that sets the industry benchmark. We are also leveraging blockchain for custom-made solutions to better serve our millennials members,” commented Ma Zhiyu, founder and CEO of the Ucommune Blockchain Lab in a statement.
Ma has decades of experience in the information technology sector and previously founded a blockchain lab called Astar, according to the statement. Joining Ma in the new project is Ucommune’s CTO, Xu Binchao, who is described as a 15-year technology development veteran.
“Ucommune Blockchain Lab aims to enable and empower a trust-based virtual network that helps businesses of varied sizes to collaborate, source and trade efficiently and transparently,” Xu noted. “Drawing on our technological know-how and expertise, we are on track to connect enterprises across the entire value chain to form a smart contract platform that all member companies can build their sub-chains upon.”
Best known as the infrastructure behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain has caught the attention of a wide range of industries, from legal to real estate, that are eyeing potential applications of the decade-old technology. Last week, Japan’s Mizuho Financial Group said it would sponsor a new co-working space in downtown Tokyo dedicated to blockchain innovation.
naked Hub Teams up with Coding School
With major shared office players regularly competing for the hearts and desks of mainland occupiers, Ucommune’s global nemesis WeWork is making its own tech play to bring in more clients through its recently-acquired naked Hub unit.
Just last week, naked Hub unveiled its deal with Paris-based Le Wagon, under which Le Wagon members will join the naked community for six-month stretches, enjoying access to naked’s network of premium shared offices and online resources. The partnership, which has kicked off in Shanghai and Beijing, also calls for alumni of the European coding bootcamp to provide monthly technical training workshops to other naked Hub members.
Acquired by US co-working giant WeWork last month, Shanghai-based naked Hub has 50 current and upcoming co-working spaces primarily in mainland China and Hong Kong. The partnership with Le Wagon builds on naked’s reputation as an innovative player in the industry, with other high-tech efforts including its Community-As-A-Service app and naked Hub GO service, which provides online, on-demand access to space.
naked has also announced that it will host the tech conference RISE in Hong Kong on July 9-12. The flexible office startup will provide a space for the high-profile event series in the Investor’s Lounge of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. RISE is produced by the team behind Web Summit, which has become Europe’s largest tech conference with 53,000 attendees last year.