In 2001, Adam Neumann arrived in New York after five years as a conscript in the Israeli navy. Just over fifteen years later, he had transformed himself into the charismatic CEO of a company worth $47 billion. With his long hair and feel-good mantras, the six-foot-five Neumann looked the part of a messianic Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The vision he offered was mesmerizing: a radical reimagining of workspace for a new generation. He called it WeWork.
As billions of funding dollars poured in, Neumann’s ambitions grew limitless. WeWork wasn’t just an office space provider; it would build schools, create cities, even colonize Mars. In pursuit of its founder’s vision, the company spent money faster than it could bring it in. From his private jet, sometimes clouded with marijuana smoke, the CEO scoured the globe for more capital but in late 2019, just weeks before WeWork’s highly publicized IPO, everything fell apart. Neumann was ousted from his company, but still was poised to walk away a billionaire.
In this interview, I speak to Wall Street Journal reporter Eliot Brown on The Cult of We: WeWork and the Great Start-Up Delusion. We discuss WeWork’s extraordinary rise and staggering implosion, why some of the biggest names in banking and venture capital bought the hype and what the future holds for Silicon Valley ‘unicorns.’