The United Nations projects that, by the year 2030, roughly 1 billion more people will be living in cities than do now. As of last year there were 31 cities with more than 10 million residents, and in about a decade, there will be 41.
These demographic trends are a source of fascination for urban planners and theorists around the world. Those who study what these shifts will mean view the coming era of urban mega-density with both excitement and fear. Others, however, see a clear business opportunity. Adam Neumann, the CEO of WeWork, a firm that rents out office space and apartments, puts it this way: “We don’t have enough room.”
Neumann says he isn’t scared by this prospect. Speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum, an annual conference presented by The Atlantic, he said he’s betting on the increasing crowdedness of city life as he thinks about his company’s future. As more and more residents flow in—Neumann predicts that the bulk of the urban-population gains will be concentrated in roughly 200 cities—people will need to “find a better way to live together.”
WeWork has sold access to lavishly designed office space since it was founded in 2010; it has several competitors in that realm, some of which similarly offer tenants amenities such as coffee, beer kegs, and highly Instagrammable lighting and plants. More recently WeWork has transposed its aesthetic onto communal-living apartment buildings called WeLive. These are not unlike dormitories: Residents have their own bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom but share common spaces.