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SoftBank-Backed Startup WeWork Is Making First Foray into Japan, Source Says

  • Mitsubishi, other real-estate firms in talks to lease space
  • Roppongi, Marunouchi and Shibuya among targeted areas

WeWork Cos, a co-working space startup backed by SoftBank Group Corp., is making its first foray into Japan with 10 to 20 locations in central Tokyo, a person familiar with the plans said.

Mitsubishi Estate Co. and several other building owners in Japan are in discussions with the New York-based company, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t yet public. WeWork is looking to open offices in prime areas including Roppongi, Marunouchi and Shibuya, the person said.

WeWork, valued at more than $17 billion, rents out desks and offices to startups, freelancers and other people seeking temporary working space. WeWork, which aims to offer stylish workspaces that foster collaboration, has also attracted larger corporate clients and is now in more than 50 cities across the globe. The new Tokyo locations would make the city WeWork’s biggest operation in Asia, where it already runs 16 locations in Bangalore, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney and Seoul.

Ryosuke Usui, a spokesman at Mitsubishi Estate, declined to comment. Rebecca McClain, a New York-based spokeswoman at WeWork, declined to comment.

WeWork is aiming to open as many as 20 locations by the end of next year, the person said. Startups in Tokyo have increasingly embraced co-working spaces, especially ones like TechShop and DMM.make that are equipped with machines and tools to fabricate test products. The high initial costs of leasing real estate in Japan make a pay-as-you-go service like WeWork an attractive option for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

SoftBank, which invested $300 million in WeWork earlier this year, will eventually take a much larger stake, a person familiar with the matter has said. While WeWork has seen some growing pains amid rapid growth, WeWork President Artie Minson said in May that “those issues are very much behind us.”

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