- WeWork, a $20 billion startup that leases trendy millennial-friendly office spaces around the world, is getting into the business of childhood education. A spinoff called “WeGrow” will open its first school in New York City in fall 2018. The startup hopes to expand from one school to many globally. Students in the WeGrow pilot program learn business from entrepreneurs who rent office space from WeWork, and spend one day a week at a farm.
According to Bloomberg, WeWork will open a private elementary school called “WeGrow” inside a New York City WeWork office next fall. The goal is to mold the next generation of entrepreneurs.
“In my book, there’s no reason why children in elementary schools can’t be launching their own businesses,” Rebekah Neumann, chief brand officer of WeWork, told Bloomberg.
WeGrow already has a pilot program with seven students underway at the startup’s Manhattan headquarters.
Children ages five to eight spend one day a week at a 60-acre farm north of the city, where they learn business and bits of math and science by running their own farm stand. The other four days of the week, students engage in more traditional instruction.
On occasion, WeWork employees and entrepreneurs who rent office space from the company offer lessons. Adam Neumann, cofounder and CEO of WeWork (and Rebekah Neumann’s husband), led a workshop on supply and demand. Students can also secure mentorships with WeWork customers.
In the future, there will also be classes around mindfulness through yoga and meditation.
The Neumanns join a growing list of tech entrepreneurs trying to disrupt the classroom. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan run a private company that funnels the couple’s Facebook stock into programs that improve schools. They also own a school in Palo Alto. Tech investors spent a combined $2.35 billion on education-technology startups in 2016.
There have been some missteps in Silicon Valley’s attempts to revolutionize education.Last week, AltSchool, an educational software developer and network of “micro-schools” with locations in California and New York, announced it is shuttering at least two schools at the end of the academic year. Bloomberg reported that its losses are “piling up.”
With WeGrow, WeWork envisions a network of micro-schools inside the company’s office rentals. The first school will be located inside the startup’s headquarters in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood; when WeWork moves into its new headquarters at the flagship Lord & Taylor location on Fifth Avenue in 2018, the WeGrow school will relocate with it.
Rebekah Neumann plans to enroll about 65 students next fall.
Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’ firm BIG has been tapped to design the first school. According to Fast Company, the design will break down traditional classroom environments into “more tactile and visually stimulating” work stations.
Tuition at WeGrow has not been publicly announced.
The startup has raised at least $8 billion to date, with $4.4 billion flowing in since July. At a whopping $20 billion valuation, WeWork is the sixth most valuable startup in the world.