Coworking giant WeWork plans to open a startup accelerator in Portland’s Old Town next month, offering mentorship and services for ambitious young companies.
Portland’s tech scene has had several business accelerators come and go – and, sometimes, come again. WeWork’s global scale sets its effort apart, said Stephen Green, the new Portland director of the Portland WeWork Labs incubator, giving startups access to a broad pool of potential contacts.
“They get immediate access to the network of WeWork Labs around the world,” Green said. WeWork is rapidly expanding its incubator program, which launched in early 2018, at its sites around the world. It now hosts 1,000 startups in 17 cities.
Connecting with other startups around the world will give Portland entrepreneurs a rich pool of contacts for testing ideas, comparing notes and gauging market sentiment for new products and technology, Green said.
“It’s social capital that really separates the founders that make it and the founders that don’t,” he said.
A former banker and business development officer at the Portland Development Commission, Green is active in Portland’s startup scene and founder of the PitchBlack competition for African-American, Latino and Latina entrepreneurs. He joined WeWork, which has operated a coworking office inside Portland’s historic Pearl District Customs House since 2015, at the beginning of this year as the company’s Portland community director.
That was primarily an operational role, Green said. Running WeWork Labs, Green said he will connect directly with Portland entrepreneurs.
“I’ll be giving back and being founder-focused – really, really hands-on,” he said. Green said WeWork anticipates collaborating with other organizations that support startups, such as the Portland Incubator Experiment, rather than competing with them.
WeWork anticipates hosting 15 to 25 young companies with up to 10 employees apiece. The new Portland startup accelerator will have 54 desks initially in the Custom House space on Northwest Eighth Avenue.
The company will charge $380 per desk, monthly, the same as it charges for a regular dedicated seat, and won’t take an ownership stake in the startups it hosts.