Chinese co-working giant gets a toehold in New York market

March 29, 2018

Serendipity Labs opens its first New York co-working space with Beijing's UCommune as a minority partner


UCommune, China’s largest co-working-space operator, extended its footprint to New York by investing in the first Manhattan location for Serendipity Labs, a Rye, N.Y.-based operator that is also in expansion mode.

UCommune is a minority partner in the 34,000-square-foot space at 28 Liberty St., which opened in a soft launch on March 12, and will have its grand opening in April. The Beijing-based company was founded in 2015, is in 130 locations with more than 7 million square feet of space, and describes itself as the second-largest co-working business in the world, after WeWork.

A partnership of Serendipity Labs and UCommune opened a co-working space at 28 Liberty St.

The partnership with Serendipity Labs extends beyond the downtown location. Both companies are integrating their memberships on their mobile app, which will allow UCommune members in China and Serendipity Labs members in the U.S. to book desks at the other company’s locations.

Serendipity has set itself apart in the industry by offering co-working operations that meet levels of compliance in privacy, security and technology that are required by large corporations, including those in financial services and health care. The company jumped at the chance to bring in UCommune as a partner.

“We wanted to have access to China’s largest co-working company,” said John Arenas, Serendipity’s CEO and a former general manager of Regus Americas. “It has 10 times as many locations as WeWork in China, and will likely prevail there, as always happens with the state-backed brand.”

Mao Daqing, UCommune’s founder and chairman, said that many Chinese businesspeople need a location when they come to New York, and that the company was open to doing more joint ventures with Serendipity.

UCommune is in the midst of raising $200 million to continue its global expansion.

“It is very important to stretch our footprint to those gateway cities where our members frequently go,” Mao said, referring to locations in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei.

“Co-working is transforming the real estate industry globally,” said Omer Ozden, CEO of RockTree Capital, a founding investor in UCommune and its only non-Chinese investor. “It emerged from New York but we see it as actually more scalable in China.”