Jack Ma, Jedi, and surfing: These are the 10 juiciest details from Fast Company's deep dive into WeWork

Jackal Pan/Getty Images; Jacqueline Larma/AP Images; Samantha Lee/Business Insider



1. “The last person I felt this with was Jack Ma”

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son reportedly told WeWork’s cofounder and former boss Adam Neumann that he reminded him of Alibaba’s founder, the driving force behind Son’s most successful investment ever.

“The last person I felt this with was Jack Ma,” Neumann recalled Son saying to him before WeWork’s IPO collapsed, Neumann was pushed out, and SoftBank bailed out his startup.

Son was so impressed by Neumann that he drew up the terms of a $US4.4 billion investment on an iPad in the back of his car, and he and Neumann signed at the bottom, Neumann told Fast Company.

“When Masa chose to invest in me for the first time, he only met me for 28 minutes. OK?” Neumann told the magazine.

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2. “Masa is a Jedi”

YouTube/Star Wars Clips

Neumann reportedly compared WeWork to Amazon to make its astronomical valuation look cheap by comparison.

He likened WeWork to Amazon when it only sold books and music, and pledged to expand from desk rentals into education, exercise, networking, and other sectors just as the e-commerce titan widened its offering, Fast Company reported.

“Masa is a Jedi,” Neumann told the magazine, referring to SoftBank’s Son and the Amazon narrative he pushed for WeWork. “He has a lot of superpowers.”

Read more about this story here.


3. “Adam’s only boss is Rebekah”

DAVID X PRUTTING/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Neumann’s wife, Rebekah, played an integral role in drafting WeWork’s IPO prospectus, according to Fast Company.

Rebekah served as the company’s branding chief and founded WeGrow, its private school in Manhattan. She was also a member of the committee – later disbanded – that was tasked with choosing Adam’s successor as head of WeWork.

“Adam’s only boss is Rebekah,” a WeWork executive told Fast Company.


4. Neumann’s surfing process is like “helicopter skiing on a bunny hill”

Getty ImagesAdam Neumann

Neumann relies on an “unusual number of instructors and guides” when he surfs, Fast Company said, citing people who have watched him ride waves.

The WeWork cofounder is often towed out from the shore by jet skis rather than paddling himself, which surfers view as “bizarre and unnecessary,” the magazine said.

The process is comparable to “helicopter skiing on a bunny hill,” it added.

After Neumann surfed with Laird Hamilton – one of the sport’s legends – in Hawaii, WeWork took part in a $US32 million financing round for Laird Superfood, Fast Company reported.


5. “If only MBS would listen to me, I could counsel him on how to be a better leader”

Reuters

Neumann reportedly said he could help Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, recover after his country was implicated in the gruesome death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

“If only MBS would listen to me, I could counsel him on how to be a better leader,” Neumann said, a WeWork insider told Fast Company.

Neumann held talks last year with the Saudis about a possible role for WeWork in Project Neom, the crown prince’s planned metropolis, the magazine reported.


6. One of Neumann’s outfits was inspired by Jared Kushner’s Harvard roommate

AP Photo/Mark LennihanAdam Neumann

Neumann wore traditional Indian clothing for his meeting with Narenda Modi, the nation’s prime minister, in January 2016.

His outfit choice was inspired by what Jared Kushner’s Harvard roommate wore to Kushner’s birthday party on the night before Neumann flew to India, according to Fast Company.


7. “We haven’t really had a torpedo below the waterline”

YouTube/Rice Development and Alumni RelationsBenchmark Capital’s Bruce Dunlevie

One of WeWork’s earliest investors may have jinxed the startup by highlighting its lack of problems.

“We haven’t really had a torpedo below the waterline,” Bruce Dunlevie, a partner at Benchmark Capital and a WeWork board member, told Fast Company in April. “The company has been lucky to not have a really negative thing happen to it.”

Benchmark was an early investor in Uber, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Dropbox, and other technology companies. The venture capital firm seemed to cool on WeWork as it didn’t take part in later financing rounds.

Dunlevie became more and more concerned by Neumann’s behaviour, such as his sale of stock ahead of the company’s IPO, Fast Company reported.


8. “You can sell the space like an airline”

Koki Nagahama/Getty ImagesSoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son

After Neumann resigned as CEO, SoftBank’s Son spent four days at a WeWork in Tokyo, analysing WeWork’s business and members’ usage patterns, Fast Company reported.

“We realised that not everyone shows up at work all the time,” someone familiar with the study told the magazine. “So you can sell the space like an airline.”

The comments suggest WeWork may double down on “hotdesking” by selling access to its coworking spaces by the day or hour, instead of renting them out on a monthly basis.

SoftBank is aiming for WeWork to turn a profit and generate positive cash flow in 18 months’ time, Fast Company said.


9. Neumann discussed turning WeWork into a “monopoly”

Sam Jonah/ ShutterstockHasbro’s ‘Monopoly’ board game

Neumann talked about turning WeWork into a “monopoly” during a company meeting, a WeWork executive told Fast Company.

When the executive raised the legal and regulatory risks of dominating a market and driving up prices, Neumann “shrugged” and said he would use a different term, the executive told the magazine.


10. SoftBank’s Son was “disturbed” by a report of Neumann smoking weed

Jackal Pan / Getty ImagesAdam Neumann

A Wall Street Journal story published in September included an account of Neumann allegedly smoking weed on a private-jet trip to Israel.

The report “disturbed” Son as weed is outlawed in Japan, and he viewed the transporting of drugs across country lines as indicative of poor judgment and a legal risk, Fast Company reported.

Under mounting pressure from investors and other board members, Neumann stepped down as CEO six days later.

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