The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion
by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell
This is the definitive story of the rise and fall of WeWork by the real-life journalists whose Wall Street Journal reporting rocked the company and exposed a financial system drunk on the elixir of Silicon Valley innovation.
The plan was for WeWork to be worth $10 trillion, more than any other company in the world. It wasn’t just an office space provider. It was a tech company—an AI startup, even.
Its WeGrow schools and WeLive residences would revolutionise education and housing. One day, mused founder Adam Neumann, a Middle East peace accord would be signed in a WeWork. The company might help colonise Mars. And Neumann would become the world’s first trillionaire.
This was the vision of Neumann and his primary cheerleader, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son. In hindsight, their ambition for the company, whose primary business was subletting desks in slickly designed offices, seems like madness.
Why did so many intelligent people—from venture capitalists to Wall Street elite—fall for the hype? And how did WeWork go so wrong?
In little more than a decade, Neumann transformed himself from a struggling baby clothes salesman into the charismatic, hard-partying CEO of a company worth $47 billion—on paper. With his long hair and feel-good mantras, the six-foot-five Israeli transplant looked the part of a messianic truth teller. Investors swooned, and billions poured in.
Neumann dined with the CEOs of JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, entertaining a parade of power brokers desperate to get a slice of what he was selling: the country’s most valuable startup, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a generation-defining moment.
Soon, however, WeWork was burning through cash faster than Neumann could bring it in. From his private jet, sometimes clouded with marijuana smoke, he scoured the globe for more capital. Then, as WeWork readied a Hail Mary IPO, it all fell apart. Nearly $40 billion of value vaporised in one of corporate America’s most spectacular meltdowns.
The Cult of We is the gripping story of careless and often absurd people—and the financial system they have made.