Looking beyond real estate, WeWork wants to provide content marketing services to startups

WeWork is not just the world’s biggest real estate company; it wants in on providing content marketing services.

In March, WeWork acquired content-marketing shop Conductor for an undisclosed amount, one of several high-profile purchases in the last year. Conductor analyzes what people are searching for via Google, YouTube, Pinterest and other search engines to help companies figure out what questions they can answer and market themselves. Conductor also provides people and other resources to do the latter.

Conductor already had some big customers like Citibank, Salesforce and WeWork itself. WeWork is sharing resources with Conductor including funding to expand its business, opening new offices, hiring engineers and adding new customers — many of which work in WeWork locations. Conductor’s second quarter of 2018 was the best quarter in its 12-year history, growing its new business segment by 130 percent compared to a year prior and adding more than 50 employees to a 275-person team, the company said.

“I felt WeWork was a platform that we could take our mission and vision, give it more scale and visibility. There’s no point in having a mission that nobody knows about. If we can make it something that’s universally known, that’s phenomenal,” said Seth Besmertnik, CEO of Conductor.

Besmertnik said before the sale, WeWork’s executive team invited him to all-hands meetings so he could see if the leadership was as transparent and decentralized as it professes to be.

WeWork has “lots of leaders, building a platform for businesses to expand. When they thought about the bigger picture of WeWork, physical space is and was the place to start. But on a more broader level, they want to help businesses grow, grow employees, grow revenue, and digital marketing is a space that really needs help,” Besmertnik said.

WeWork began in 2010 as a single coworking space in New York. Over its 8-year history, its grown to be one of the biggest office tenants in Manhattan with more than 200 locations globally. Throughout those offices are thousands of startups — and larger companies — needing services like coffee, internet and perhaps some marketing. Some, especially direct-to-consumer businesses, have opted to do nearly all of their marketing in-house. Conveniently, Conductor offers a platform and customer service representatives to help them with their content marketing, with or without an agency.

To Besmertnik, unsurprisingly, content marketing is the foundation for marketing. While Adobe and Salesforce provide technology on how brands can better serve their existing customers when they’re already on their website, Conductor focuses on generating new customers.

Conductor has more than 1,000 clients. Since the WeWork acquisition, its new business has increased by more than 19 percent with notable names like SoFi, Visa and Nordstrom Rack. WeWork clients are a small but growing percent of Conductor’s client base; since the deal, it’s added 12 new customers who are also WeWork clients, for a total of 70. Besmertnik said Conductor doesn’t cater to a specific vertical but seeks out companies interested in being customer-first rather than growth-hacking to scale.

Both businesses are hoping to add more enterprise customers, Besmertnik said. About 25 percent of WeWork’s clients are enterprise, a service it launched in the spring of 2016, Besmertnik said. That’s up from 20 percent around the same time last year. Conductor, which is headquartered in New York, has mostly U.S.-focused clients, also is growing internationally with offices in Kiev and San Francisco and now London.

Conductor provides technology to any brand, whether they use an agency, a consultancy or simply work alone in a WeWork.

“I think the future of agencies is a combination of very dark and very bright. Agencies historically, particularly in digital marketing, have built their businesses on providing a competency. You outsource something. Successful agencies don’t see the companies getting bigger as a threat but an opportunity,” Besmertnik said.


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