'My superpower is change': The cult of WeWork was laid bare in a revealing interview with CEO Adam Neumann

Getty ImagesWeWork CEO Adam Neumann.
  • WeWork has a cultish reputation.
  • This shone through in a Bloomberg Businessweek interview on Wednesday with CEO Adam Neumann, who cofounded the company in 2010.
  • Neumann speaks in almost spiritual terms about WeWork, its relationship with SoftBank, and his superpower, which he says is “change.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

WeWork is not your average real estate company.

Over the years, it has earned somewhat cultish reputation thanks to it founders’ emphasis on its community, or the so-called “We Generation,” which it keeps loyal with its annual three-day summer camp festivals and offices stocked with beer kegs, among other things.

This mentality shone through in a Bloomberg Businessweek interview on Wednesday with WeWork CEO Adam Neumann. He cofounded the firm with Miguel McKelvey and his wife Rebekah Paltrow Neumann (a cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow), and is known for his hyper-energetic and idiosyncratic leadership style.

Bloomberg observes that Neumann is served a bowl of super oats with what he calls “amazing qualities” midway through the interview, his cofounders go around wearing shirts with slogans like “High on We,” and WeWork’s walls are adorned with signs telling tenants to “Hustle Harder.”

Bloomberg prodded Neumann around recent events related to funding; WeWork did not receive the full $US16 billion investment it was expecting from investor Softbank earlier this year, bagging just $US1.9 billion instead.

Despite this, Neumann said their relationship was still, “very, very, very, very positive.” In fact, Neumann views this as an enlightening moment. “Let’s not build a company just for the sake of revenue,” he told Bloomberg. “Part of creating value is not maximizing.”

Toward the end of the piece, Neumann asks Bloomberg journalist Ellen Huet what her superpower is, he then responded with his own. “My superpower is change,” he said, “and change is painful.”


Read more:
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Neumann’s approach is in-keeping the company’s mission on its website: “A place you join as an individual, ‘me,’ but where you become part of a greater ‘we,'” it writes. “A place where we’re redefining success measured by personal fulfillment, not just the bottom line. Community is our catalyst.”

While some industry experts say this image has helped the company to achieve substantial growth in a relatively short period of time – it has opened 425 office locations in 36 countries and become Manhattan’s biggest tenant, according to Bloomberg – it’s also haemorrhaging cash.

“If you had positioned this as a real-estate company, it wouldn’t be worth this,” Barry Sternlicht, who runs Starwood Capital Group LLC, told The Wall Street Journal in 2017. “Mr. Neumann “dressed it up and made it into a community, and that turned it into a tech play.”

Read Bloomberg Businessweek’s full interview with Adam Neumann here.

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