WeWork’s infamous co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann opened up about the lessons he’s learned after nearly running the company into the ground just weeks after the company’s much-anticipated public offering.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think, and there have been multiple lessons and multiple regrets,” Neumann said at the New York Times DealBook Summit on Tuesday, speaking publicly for the first time in two years.
WeWork raised billions of dollars under Neumann’s leadership, expanded its coworking operations to hundreds of cities around the world, and was valued at a staggering $47 billion during one investment round, a figure he admitted “went to his head.” However, the company failed spectacularly in its attempt to go public under Neumann’s leadership, in part because the IPO paperwork revealed his unchecked power, numerous potential conflicts of interest, and WeWork’s staggering losses. WeWork went public on the New York Stock Exchange last month, with a market capitalization of $9 billion. Neumann walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars despite being forced out.
WeWork wasn’t just trying to sell coworking spaces; it was also trying to sell a new way of life. Co-living apartments with bustling communal areas, schools that promised to teach children entrepreneurial superpowers, a WeBank, and an airline were all part of Neumann’s vision.
Following investor pressure, Neumann was forced to resign in 2019. WeWork’s plans to go public were halted shortly after, and thousands of employees were laid off. Neumann expressed regret for the workers who lost their jobs and saw the value of their stock in the company plummet in the interview on Tuesday. He also addressed the criticism he received for his management style, which included allegations of drug use and excessive spending.
“We had a fun culture, but first let’s start with the fact we built a global brand and in over 110 cities in over 40 countries,” he said. “We became a household name. So that culture had a lot of things that worked really well. …. But there also comes a moment where you grow out of that to the next stage. I think that could have happened sooner.”