As an executive at WeWork, Frank Bistrian’s vision for coworking differed from the company’s notoriously bold, energetic culture.
“You go home on the train,” he says, “and it looks like people are just beaten up at the end of the day.”
Bistrian left WeWork, where he had served as head of domestic development from 2015 to 2016, and is now the chief executive of a new coworking startup that aims to make office life more pleasant by bringing in a focus, in both design and amenities, on health and wellness. The company, Work Well Win (or “work well win,” as it styles itself in “wework” fashion), says it has raised $22 million (paywall) from five investors with ties to real estate, and plans to have 90 locations in five years’ time.
Work Well Win’s spaces (of which it currently has one, located in Greenwich, Connecticut) are carefully designed for mindful, serene working, and its target demographic is older and more corporate. Amenities include purified air, custom-built layouts, yoga and meditation rooms, and fruit-infused water. Ideally, over half the clients will be Fortune 500 companies looking to set up satellite offices, as opposed to the scrappy startups making up the bulk of WeWork’s clientele.
Says Bistrian, “WeWork is much more for the angel Series A companies. We’re for the Series B companies—you graduate to our space.”
An ex-WeWork executive setting up a competitor to his former employer is somewhat representative of the times. As Quartz’s Sarah Kessler observed last year, coworking is no longer just a social experiment attracting quirky freelancers. WeWork has gone from a New York City startup to a global entity with more than 100 locations and a $20 billion valuation. Others are crowding quickly into the space, especially as freelance and independent gigs become more popular features of the modern economy. Work Well Win is trying to nab those workers—”We want to address the loneliness,” Bistrian says—but the heart of its business is larger corporations.
Asked whether Work Well Win plans to directly take on his former employer, Bistrian says: “I don’t see WeWork as a competitor. Our design is meant for companies to come together on the same floor; our physical layout is different, our demographic is different.”
But WeWork, which declined to comment for this article, does already offer some of the amenities touted by Work Well Win: fruit-infused water, custom-designed spaces, and wellness events. And a quarter of its membership is big corporations.
Work Well Win says it has 20 sites in the pipeline across the US right now, from Santa Monica, California, to Austin, Texas, to Brooklyn, New York.
There is ample appetite in the market for both startups, and probably many more—coworking only represents less than 1% of the world’s office space right now—but how any one of them will lure companies to choose one over the others is a trickier matter.