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 work space 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.
Calling to mind the recent demise of Theranos and the hubris of the dotcom era bust, WeWork’s extraordinary rise and staggering implosion were fueled by disparate characters in a financial system blind to its risks. Why did some of the biggest names in banking and venture capital buy the hype? And what does the future hold for Silicon Valley ‘unicorns’? Wall Street Journal reporters Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell explore these questions in this definitive, rollicking account of WeWork’s boom and bust.
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