'WeCrashed' Tells the Story of Adam Neumann's Fall. Now He's Mounting a Comeback.
If there's been one overarching theme in 2022 television so far, it would be that we are truly in the year of the scammer. If you want, you could call them grifters, or, hell, even just business failures in some cases. But across numerous networks, we've seen the story of Anna Delvey in Inventing Anna, Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout, and Travis Kalanick in Super Pumped. Next up: Adam Neumann, and the rise and fall of WeWork, will be portrayed in Apple TV+'s WeCrashed.
Viewers looking for more of "prestige TV" take on things are in luck with WeCrashed, which features a pair of Academy Award winners in the leading roles. Jared Leto, using his eccentricities to an almost surprising level of success as Adam Neumann, and Anne Hathaway, going far more understated, lead the series. Based on the podcast of the same name, WeCrashed is creatively done, and written in a way that makes sense. The show doesn't pity its main subjects—like Inventing Anna mistakenly did—but rather presents them for what they were: people who were able to convince a lot of other people to believe in their half-baked visions and ideas. And led to a lot of people getting hurt along the way.
Over the course of WeCrashed's eight episodes, you'll see how Adam Neumann went from a "serial entrepreneur," trying to get any idea off the ground, to the CEO of a $47 billion dollar company, to being ousted from the company he started—but leaving with a big chunk of change in the process.
What did Adam Neumann do before starting WeWork?
After growing up on a kibbutz (a commune-style living arrangement) in Israel, Neumann moved to New York City in 2001. His earliest business ventures included ideas like Krawlers (a company that made baby clothes with kneepads), which had the tagline “Just because they don’t tell you, doesn’t mean they don’t hurt.” He also had the idea for a collapsible women's heel. Neither company got far off the ground.
During his early years in New York City, Neumann met Miguel McKelvey. The two bonded at first over both being super tall—Neumann, at 6'5'', didn't often find people taller than him, but McKelvey is 6'8''. McKelvey also grew up on a commune in Eugene, Oregon where he had five mothers, which Neumann immediately connected to his own background living on the kibbutz in Israel.
In 2008, McKelvey got Neumann to move the Krawlers office to DUMBO, Brooklyn, where eventually the two came up with an idea: they got their landlord to let them divide unused space in another building for offices; this was a huge hit. This company was called Green Desk, and was, in many ways, the prototype coworking space of WeWork. The landlord wanted to expand in Brooklyn, but Neumann and McKelvey decided to sell their shares of the company and instead venture into Manhattan. They were aiming big, and in 2010, the first WeWork office was opened.
Did Adam Neumann get fired from WeWork?
WeWork soon became one of the world’s most valuable public startups, valued in October 2018 at $35 billion and then $47 billion before it attempted to go public.
The company grew so fast that some were calling the venture a “house of cards,” with WeWork burning through much of its investment cash leasing office spaces. (According to the New York Times, WeWork became “the single-largest private occupier of office space in London, New York and Washington.”)
In 2019, the company began to implode. The New York Times describes 80 days of mayhem beginning in late summer:
"WeWork filed for an initial public offering with a prospectus that was quickly ridiculed for its incoherence; investors learned of several red-flag financial arrangements by Mr. Neumann; the company’s valuation plummeted; Mr. Neumann was forced to resign; and the I.P.O. was withdrawn. Once estimated to be worth $47 billion, WeWork was reduced to $7 billion, after a rescue by the Japanese giant SoftBank."
While Neumann wasn’t fired, he was voted out as chief executive. Reuters reported that Neumann even cast a vote against himself.
Where is Adam Neumann now?
Neumann was given an extraordinary exit package, which included $245 million in company stock and $200 million in cash—the result of his shareholdings accounting for a large number of votes.
But a year later, Neumann, apparently, wants back in.
In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Neumann said he wants to found new startups and use his wealth to invest in others. He explained the comeback in terms of surfing:
“To be an entrepreneur, you have to regularly make decisions on the spot. And to be successful, you have to, over time, make more right decisions than you did wrong — actually, a lot more right. And the higher the growth of the business, the faster you move, the tougher that it is to do. But the longer you practice, just like surfing over time, the better you get at it. So you fall in surfing, and then you get up and do it again. And you do it just a little bit better.”
Only time will tell if Neumann does things a little bit better.
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