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WeWork Wants to Build the ‘Future of Cities.’ What Does That Mean?

The co-working startup is hatching plans to deploy data to reimagine urban problems. In the past, it has profiled neighborhoods based on class indicators.
We believe in data: WeWork's algorithmically optimized site locations and décor reflect the company's trust in numbers.
We believe in data: WeWork's algorithmically optimized site locations and décor reflect the company's trust in numbers.Arthur Mola/AP

The We Company, the all-encompassing life-services platform formerly known as WeWork, is entering the booming business commonly known as “smart cities.” Di-Ann Eisnor, the former Google executive who helped grow Waze into a traffic-data juggernaut with 90 million monthly users, will lead the recently rebranded We Company’s efforts to build data-driven products and partnerships with cities and community groups, aimed at tackling barriers to jobs, housing, education, and other problems related to urbanization.

It sounds like a characteristically ambitious move for the startup, which began by renting desks in a Manhattan storefront in 2010. With its signature free-flowing beer taps, ping-pong tables, and “Thank God It’s Monday” ethos, the We Company has since grown into an empire of co-working spaces in more than 100 cities around the globe, with a valuation of $42 billion. It has also built out a host of new services, including dormitory housing (WeLive), Montessori-style early childhood education (WeGrow), fitness (WeRise), and social outings (Meetup, acquired in 2017).