Although female-centric coworking company The Wing has been inadvertently funded by Saudi Arabian investments, it is outspoken about the country’s ongoing women’s rights issues.
“The Wing’s mission is the advancement of women,” said Wing spokesperson Zara Rahim. “Like anyone with a moral pulse, we have been disturbed by the treatment of women by the Saudi Arabian government, and we have made our views on these issues clear to our investors.”
Saudi Arabia’s presence in the US startup community is predominant as it has invested at least $90 billion into companies such as Uber, Doordash and others.
So how does a company that advocates for women empowerment get entangled into the Saudi government? In 2016, Japan-based SoftBank launched its investment branch The Vision Fund, which received much of its money from Saudi Arabia. One of the fund’s very first investments was $2.7 billion into major coworking company WeWork. A few months later, WeWork led a $32 million funding round for The Wing in turn for a quarter of the company.
While a smaller startup like The Wing can’t realistically vet every investment dollar that comes their way, the lack of acknowledgement from larger companies is unsettling.
So far, WeWork and other bigger companies that have received these investments have declined to comment about their stance on the subject.