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Billion Dollar Loser

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Billion Dollar Loser

The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neumann and WeWork

Little, Brown US,

15 min read
8 take-aways
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What's inside?

The only thing more gripping than rise of WeWork, a $47-billion start-up, is the sad tale of its fall.

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  • Well Structured
  • Overview
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Journalist Reeves Wiedeman catalogs the epic absurdities of modern start-up culture by tracking the dramatic rise and fall of co-working company, WeWork. WeWork’s eccentric co-founder, Adam Neumann, prioritized hyper-growth. His strategy attracted billions in venture capital, boosting WeWork’s valuation to $47 billion. Wiedeman vividly portrays Neumann as larger-than-life character who served tequila shots at business meetings, sprayed investors with a fire extinguisher and mixed proclamations of mystical spirituality with breathtaking avarice. Over the course of his tale, he shows how even hard-nosed investors can fall under the sway of a charismatic leader with a convincing story.


WeWork was an extreme manifestation of 21st-century start-up culture.

Founded in 2009 by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, WeWork offered co-working office space for rent to freelancers or start-ups. The charismatic Neumann sold investors a grandiose vision of WeWork as a spiritually tinged “platform” for work that would redefine community for the digital age, “elevate the world’s consciousness” and rake in millions. By 2019, the WeWork empire included more than 400 locations worldwide, ​​​​​and boasted a valuation of $47 billion.

Like other start-ups, WeWork competed in an ecosystem that prioritized explosive growth. Private investors who backed this sort of growth helped send the valuations of companies with low or nonexistent profits skyrocketing into the stratosphere.

WeWork opened its first location in 2010.

Neumann and McKelvey renovated a building in Manhattan’s Soho district and opened for business in February 2010 with 17 “members” – as they called tenants. WeWork was not the world’s first co-working company, but it marketed...

About the Author

New York magazine contributing editor Reeves Wiedeman has written for The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone and Harper’s.

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