In their endeavors to scale operations and improve their brands, VC-backed companies have turned to robust M&A activity in recent years. Taking notes from consumer-facing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, who led the way to establish how private companies can grow from strategic acquisitions before their historic rides to the public markets, WeWork has acquired 21 startups to date, with a bulk of those investments sealed in the last three years.
The co-working giant raised nearly $1 billion in VC funding before it made its first acquisition in 2015 with Case, which provides building design and information-modeling services. And in a bid to either grow the current business or explore opportunities in other industries, WeWork is currently one of the most active VC-backed acquirers in the space.
How many of those investments were directly related to the company’s space-as-a-service offering? According to a recent PitchBook analyst note, the split of acquisitions made by WeWork related to the core business versus noncore is an estimated 60-40. Notable acquisitions that currently have little to do with WeWork’s office rental focus include Flatiron School, which offers a coding education platform and Islands Media, the developer of a messaging app for college students.
The co-working giant revealed mounting losses in its S-1 filing last month. However, its appetite to acquire startups that range from the developer an office sign-in system to a behavior-analytics platform, indicates that buying tech or venturing beyond its core business via an acquisition seems to be the preferred route for WeWork, instead of building the same thing in-house.
While mega-deals from deep-pocketed investors such as SoftBank or eye-popping valuation step-ups may have favored WeWork’s acquisition strategies so far, it’s difficult to say whether the business will continue to pick up startups at the same rate in the future, especially as it plans to seek a valuation of between $20 billion and $30 billion in its upcoming IPO, slashing its last private market valuation, according to The Wall Street Journal.