WeWorked, Until It Didn’t
“The We Company’s guiding mission will be to elevate the world’s consciousness.”
Those were actual words written in WeWork’s S-1 filing that not only derailed the company’s splashy IPO, but triggered the domino collapse that resulted in founder Adam Neumann being removed and billions of value being wiped out almost overnight. It marked the end of a spectacular tale of startup boom and bust, venture capital greed and uncontrollable egos.
For a quick recap, Adam Neumann created WeWork, his co-working company (sorry, a “tech” company) that eventually hit a peak valuation of $47 billion. The extraordinary figure was thanks to three factors:
- Moving at breakneck speed and burning through cash to suck up buildings and properties — often taking them on long-term leases at inflated prices — it attempted to grow so big it couldn’t fail.
- WeWork framed its business as a tech business to capitalize on the frothy market, pointing to its service offerings and data collected on its member’s work habits as proof. It somehow worked.
- The now-infamous investments by SoftBank, which spiked WeWork’s valuation, but also spiked Adam Neumann’s ego, and all but set off the downfall.
With investors onboard, WeWork had to grow at all costs. Neumann sought to expand and fast. He bought a wave pool company. (lol). He bought up real estate faster than they could fill it. He created WeLive to “disrupt” apartment living; in reality, he just created trendy-looking apartments. His wife, Rebekah Neumann, developed WeGrow, a school that threw out the typical curriculum to feed children’s souls and “unleash every person’s superpower. ” Or, in other words, it was just a school for the super-rich that taught kids to find themselves, rather than maths. Each venture cost buckets of cash and achieved nothing of note.
Finally, he revealed the moonshot — to elevate the world’s consciousness.
Except he didn’t.
Like many ego-driven founders before him, Neumann had developed a god complex, and the consequences of that bled into the company. Crazy parties. Extravagant company-wide retreats. Smoking weed on…