WeWork “the millennial workplace as a capitalist kibbutz” gets the Vanity Fair treatment, thanks to Gabriel Sherman, who has written an explosive and entertaining story about the life, time and crimes of WeWork founder Adam Neumann, who is a billionaire, thanks to the largesse of Softbank and its backers. There are a lot of juicy details about them trying to raise money from the likes of Google, Apple, and even a consideration to buy Slack.
Sherman’s reporting reveals a company in chaos, with little or no structure or accountability, even though it was pretty clear that there was demand for something like WeWork. “So many of the people were young and had never worked in a real company. They bought all of it,” a former senior executive told Vanity Fair. “I realized after I got there it was a cult.” And like all cults, WeWork seems to have been a jaw-dropping clusterf**k.
Another big takeaway from the story — employees will put up with any abuse, ignore any urge to do the right thing and turn a blind eye to stupidity as long as it lines their pocket. Facebook, Juul, WeWork — just the names are different.
The story of WeWork and the “passel of geezer capitalists” is a well-worn tale of romancing of the young by old men, who are trying to capture the elixir called the “future.” Those of us with short attention spans, you could see a remarkable similarity between WeWork and Theranos — the financial seduction happens only when there are those willing to be suckers. I have seen this movie play out again and again and again in Silicon Valley over two decades. Only the names change.