The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell

Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to 10 years in jail; Adam Neumann got a billion-dollar payday and has returned from the ashes to found a cryptocurrency startup. Both founders are liars; Holmes’ lies were dangerous, but of the two founders Neumann may have been more brazen. Theranos was a sham, but Bad Blood by Carreyrou describes it as a busy place where top-class scientists signed ironclad NDAs and strove to make Holmes’ lies come true in a toxic and stressful work environment. Neumann is 2000’s “hustle culture” personified: he is a hustler incarnate. The incredible thing about WeWork is that Neumann managed to sell snake oil in the plain view of other snakes. He made vague claims about big data and gamified apps, but the core business of WeWork was always an idea as old as the hills: shared physical office space. And everyone knew it. Regardless, outfits like Softbank, bloated with Saudi oil money, poured funds into WeWork as if in the grip of some mysterious enchantment.

Veterans of the real estate industry chanted into a vacuum: there is no “secret sauce” at WeWork! Buildings are still bricks and mortar! It all fell on deaf ears. Charlatans with the force and charisma of Neumann have always existed, and have usually managed to find fools to enrich them. Side note: I did enjoy the account of how Neumann effectively manages to cheat at surfing.

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