Was WeWork a tech company? A trillion-dollar business? A way of life?
With the benefit of hindsight — after the failed initial public offering, the loss of billions and the golden parachute for co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann — it’s easy to say, emphatically, “No.” But looking back at the pitch decks and investor enthusiasm that propelled WeWork to a $47 billion valuation, we’re left wondering if the people involved have learned anything.
“Capitalism, there is a sense [it] should work differently than this. There should have been these guardrails,” said Wall Street Journal reporter Maureen Farrell. “Why was there only a comeuppance for the people who work there but not for the founder who built the company, but did a lot of things to take it down?”
Now, WeWork is back with more modest aims and a valuation to match. It’s going public through a special-purpose acquisition company valuing the company at $9 billion, and it’s leaning into real estate and remote work. No more private schools or plans to “elevate the world’s consciousness.”
We called up Farrell to talk through WeWork’s rise, fall and possible comeback. She co-wrote the new book “The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann and the Great Startup Delusion.”
Later in the show, we’ll talk about Simone Biles’ exit from the Olympics and the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine approvals, and a listener calls in with some polyamory pedantics. Plus, Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck answers the Make Me Smart question.
Here’s everything we talked about today:
- Read an excerpt from “The Cult of We”
- Revisit our previous episodes on WeWork and SPACs
- “WeWork Prepares For A Second Act — Banking Its Future On The Rise Of Remote Work” from NPR
- “Simone Biles withdraws from women’s team gymnastics at Tokyo Olympics as ROC wins gold” from CNN
- “CDC reinstitutes mask recommendations for some vaccinated people” from The Verge
- “FDA says its ‘working as quickly as possible’ to review for full approval of vaccines” from ABC News
- “Biden Projects Final F.D.A. Vaccine Approval Within Months” from The New York Times
- Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s pro-vaccine (but anti-mask) Washington Post op-ed
- “Sallie Krawcheck on what the pandemic means for women’s finances” from Marketplace
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