WeWork Labs, the investment and acceleration arm of WeWork India, on Saturday kicked off Jumpstart 2024 where it aims to support early-stage start-ups by connecting them with mentors and the investor community, providing them access to subsidised workspaces and infusing capital at the pre-seed level to the tune of $200,000.
The two-day flagship event, which took place at WeWork’s Salarpuria Symbiosis campus in Bengaluru, witnessed fireside chats, investor connect, start-up stalls and panel discussions. Jumpstart 2024 had more than 360 one-on-one investor meets and about 220 product mentor sessions.
Through WeWork Labs’ Growth Campus programme, startups and entrepreneurs will have subsidised access to workspaces globally, be able to scale their businesses by connecting founders, investors, and mentors, and be eligible to get up to $200,000 pre-seed capital through investments.
The arm aims to help start-ups across the idea and product validation, helping them get early customers, market expansion, hiring, mentorship, and capital.
For instance, WeWork will work with founders and carry out the product idea validation using its mentor community within its vast network, explained Arvind Radhakrishnan, associate director and head of WeWork Labs, WeWork India.
“We will condense the entire process of product testing such that the founder will set up their product to be tested, in one conference room, and once that is done, they will fill out a quick form with data and walk away with understanding around - ‘Is this product useful?’ ‘Would anyone buy it?’ ‘What else do I need to add to the product roadmap to make it more useful?’ ‘And what would people pay for it?’ So, that's a huge time timesaver,” he said.
The Growth Campus programme will also extend access to WeWork Labs’ tech stack that will help the startups build their businesses across various areas.
“For our partner stack, we identified 13 areas of business building that every founder usually needs, starting from basic ones such as Cloud, Sales, Marketing, Finance, Legal and even mental health,” said Radhakrishnan.
In these business areas, WeWork Labs started finding leaders who have offerings for the startup space that solve a cause with as little friction as possible, he added. Some of the partners include AWS, IBM and Google.
The investment and acceleration arm has formulated a thesis to find suitable startups and identified construction & property tech, healthcare, fintech, consumer services & retail and SaaS as their focus sectors for extending $200,000 in pre-seed level investments.
WeWork Labs currently provides subsidised workspaces to 330 businesses and is expecting to scale that number to 1,000 by next year.
The investment and acceleration arm was launched in 2018 by WeWork India in a bid to help early-stage startups with subsidised workspaces and curated founder communities since the real-estate provider was attracting a lot of small-sized teams and businesses.
However, it was not until 2023 that WeWork Labs decided to start supporting the startups with capital. “You can do all this stuff, but the sort of fuel that's needed is capital. They (startups) are in business to make money. So, after a lot of iterations on how to go about this, we started small in 2023 with investments by WeWork Labs,” said Radhakrishnan.
When asked what offerings WeWork Labs plans to add to the programme in the future, he said: “Rather than add something to the offerings, I think what I want to focus on is being able to deliver it at scale.” He added that he would want to scale up the mentorship community, expand to newer territories, cater to micro markets and move to bigger cheques.