WeWork cofounder pitches new company in Park City
Adam Neumann, the eccentric cofounder of office space provider WeWork, was in Park City this week to reflect on the company’s implosion and pitch a new idea.
Adam Neumann is not your typical entrepreneur and wasn’t born into success.
Before founding WeWork, two of his startup ventures failed.
One was a collapsible heel on women’s shoes. The other was called Krawlers, which sold baby clothes with knee pads to make an active infant lifestyle more comfortable. The slogan was “just because they don’t tell you, doesn’t mean they don’t hurt.”
In 2010, Neumann created WeWork in partnership with Miguel McKelvey. Neumann was CEO of the company for nearly a decade, and was known for his bizarre style. News reports highlight Neumann walking around New York City sidewalks barefoot, hotboxing private jets, and his love for Don Julio tequila.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Neumann told people he wanted to live forever and be the world’s first trillionaire, along with becoming the prime minister of Israel, where he was born.
WeWorks' fundamental concept was coworking spaces, where employees for different companies share an office space with amenities like wellness rooms and kombucha on tap. The idea was a hit and the company rapidly expanded in the 2010s.
At its peak in 2019, WeWork’s parent company was valued at $47 billion. That’s when things began to turn sour. Investors pressured Neumann to resign due to his erratic behavior and financial dysfunction, and the company delayed its initial public offering - which led to a valuation down spiral.
In 2023, WeWork’s market capitalization is less than $1 billion, and shares of the company are trading for around $0.30 per share.
In Deer Valley on Tuesday, Neumann reflected on his resignation at Fortune Magazine’s Brainstorm Tech conference.
“I’m extremely proud in what we did in WeWork. I’m proud of the team. Today, WeWork has over 700 locations, it’s in 39 countries, it’s in over 70 languages, and I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who’s building a new office space today who is not thinking - what would or wouldn’t WeWork think,” Neumann said. “I think very few people disrupt categories and very few companies reinvent categories. Office is the second largest category in the world.”
WeWork's success inspired coworking space spinoffs, like Utah-based Kiln, which has an office in Kimball Junction at the building formerly occupied by Jupiter Bowl.
Neumann expressed in Park City this week that he's ready to move on from the WeWork debacle. He was excited to talk about his new company Flow, which seeks to transform the rental housing market.
“In the past, Howard Schultz - a great entrepreneur and also a company that I really admire - came up with the concept of the third place. He would say the first place was the home, the second place was the office. And the third place was Starbucks, where you could get a cup of coffee, meet someone, and be surrounded by other people," he said. "I think in a pre-corona world, that was amazing. I think in a post-corona world, what Flow has observed is that it’s not anymore the first place, or the third place, it’s the one place.”
He said Flow has 150 employees and 3,000 apartments. Neumann said a survey of its residents found that a majority work from home at least two days per week.
“In a reality where work from home and living has become one place, where our home has changed, and our relationship to our home has changed - I don’t think a lot of us think there’s anything more important than that - the new solution for the future of living needs to be more, the one place, as opposed to the first or the third. And that is what Flow is going to do," he said.
Neumann said his noncompete agreement with WeWork expires in October, and that Flow will either compete or partner with his former company.
He cited the U.S. surgeon general, who issued a call for action to address the public health crisis of loneliness in May.
Neumann said in a world that is now embedded with technology, people have never been so disconnected.
“I think we live in this world today where I’m not sure we need more followers,” he said. “I think we need more friends, and I think we can all appreciate a lot more face-to-face interaction, and maybe a little less Facetime.”
The top venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz invested about $350 million in Flow last year, valuing the company at more than $1 billion. It was the largest check the firm has ever written, according to The New York Times.