Tech

Former WeWork China Tech Head Introduces On-Demand Work Pods for Mental Health


As China’s zero-COVID policy continues to disrupt offline work and in-person interactions, Dominic Penaloza, former head of innovation and technology at WeWork China, has a bold idea. The location — and I was able to quickly raise money for my business.

Penaloza named his new venture Peace in hopes of improving the mental health of those who avoid crowded offices and noisy cafes and take advantage of the company’s quiet, privacy-first spaces. Peace announced this week that it has raised his seven-figure funding round from a group of business partners and entrepreneurs.

Peace is the latest in Penaloza’s ongoing experimentation with flexible working. In 2019, executives spearheaded internal projects, metered space WeWork in China. A year later, he founded his studio, a proptech-focused startup that spawned his service on demand as well as his workspace, Third party landlord eavesdropping.

The 7-month-old Peace launched its first batch of portable pods last week in three high-end shopping malls and two office buildings in central Shanghai. In a video call from one of her pods in the mall, Penalosa said she aims to deploy 1,000 of her units across the metropolis within the next year.

“We sell privacy on demand,” the founder said when asked if the booth would be equipped with security cameras.

“We are not planning to put cameras in. I think it is more important for users to feel that it is truly a 100% private space. you can’t see them.”

Each Peace Pod measures 35 square meters and has a conference table for 4 people. The mobile box comes with an app-enabled lock, outlets, WiFi, sound barriers and ventilation fans. It also has COVID-19 prevention technology provided by a startup called lumen lab It utilizes a new far-ultraviolet method that inactivates viruses and bacteria.

Piece work pods fit 4 people each.Image: Peace

The long list of equipment explains the high cost of manufacturing pods, in the tens of thousands of yuan (US$1 = 7.16 yuan at the time of writing).

Penaloza believes his team has found a sustainable revenue model. The fee for each pod is 11.25 yuan per 15 minutes, but this is a reference price and the price may change in the future depending on the location and real-time supply and demand, the founder said. It’s not cheap — an Americano is around 25 yuan in an average cafe in a top-tier Chinese city like Shanghai or Shenzhen, but when 4 people split the cost of 45 yuan, the benefits a pod brings — privacy and stable internet — if peace reaches meaningful densities, it could be a viable business.

Peace has also found a sweet spot in its relationships with landlords, including retail spaces, office building lobbies, urban renewable spaces, transportation hubs, exhibition centers and residential developments.

“We don’t rent spaces,” explained Penalosa. “Our formula for working with real estate companies is one of our most secret sauces, because this hardware is actually an asset enhancement, in the landlord’s words. Needing to be part of the annual renovation budget to make it better and keep the building competitive, the Peace Pod attracts white-collar people to spend more time in the building. increase.”

“Even if you put it in the office lobby, even if everyone has an office upstairs, people are still using it. is often put to full use and everyone needs peace, and sometimes it’s quiet,” the founder added.

By working with landlords, Peace can also save on maintenance costs. Since the outbreak of COVID, the Chinese government has started requiring operators of enclosed spaces to clean their facilities after use. Peace’s tech platform automatically alerts the property her manager at the end of every booking to send cleaners to the pods, a process as quick as spraying and wiping down surfaces with sanitizer.

Most of Investors in Peace are entrepreneurs including Joachim Poylo and Francois Ammand of Aden Group, Chris Brooke of Brooke Husband, Pablo Fernandez of CleanAir Spaces, Patrick Berbon of CM Venture, Hei Ming Cheng of Kailong, Wei Cao of Lumenlabs and Penaloza himself. consists of a house and Panda Eagle Group.



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