This spring, when WeWork was preparing to open its first co-working space in the ancient Chinese capital of Xi’an, local sales manager Gao Zhipeng had a problem. His boss in Beijing told him to recruit big global companies, likening WeWork to a five-star hotel for elite customers. But big global companies in Xi’an, such as Samsung and Siemens, already had their own offices. For most other local businesses, WeWork was too expensive.
“The big bosses had no idea what Xi’an’s market was like,” said Gao, who left the company this summer.