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WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $ 47 Billion Unicorn

Venture capital ensures that even the ungodly have something to believe in. The Next Big Thing, or a “unicorn,” as mentioned here, is a business that you think will change the way people do things – like the way Facebook changed socialization, Netflix changed the very definition. of “chillin ‘.” WeWork, from the co-founderAdam neumann, wanted to change the way people worked behind a computer. Armed with buzzwords like “community” and “goal,” Neumann was onto something, and for a good deal in the 2010s, WeWork amassed thousands upon thousands of followers for his cause.

Directed by Jed rothstein, “WeWork: The Rise and Fall” is the story of a cult, told as a financial investigation in Forbesmagazine (the documentary was co-produced by Forbes Entertainment). That is, while he is insightful on the company’s murky history, he lacks more emphasis on the human experience specific to how demagogue Adam Neumann inspired thousands of people to believe in him. WeWork wasn’t just your workplace, it was your community. Neumann used smoke and mirrors as a corporate foundation, expressed through his spiritual nonsense about changing the world. As one NYU professor said in the paper, “For god’s sake, they were renting out f ** king office space.” 

The essence of WeWork was, and still is, to give the Millennial workforce a space more representative of their small businesses and unconventional ideas. Eliminate conventional office layouts and business practices and rent buildings around the world so people can participate in something bigger than themselves. Even before Covid-19, as this documentary notes with a tear in his eye at the end, Neumann may have been on to something. But his success with the business consists of constantly hiding the numbers, often spending more than earning. And of Neumann more and more rich.

Neumann was not interviewed for the documentary (neither his wife Rebekah, nor WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey, the latter curiously under-described), but Neumann does appear in various collected footage. The documentary traces some of the growth of a Messianic figure and his followers, in which there are many examples of how self-conscious he is in his self-image, wanting to be a revered public speaker and a fluid spokesperson in front of the camera. . Rothstein tries to see through his hokum, believing that a business model cannot be as fleeting as spirituality or promises to change the world. 

Here’s the rare documentary that manages to be informative, but makes a narrative version more palatable. Fortunately, there are at least two in production, with Neumann set to be played by Jared leto in one from AppleTV +, and Nicolas braun in the other (Anne Hathaway will play Rebekah in the Leto series). Perhaps these stories can draw more from the emotional experience, and in a chronological form, than this documentary which uses billion dollar valuation heights over the years as the chapter titles, but which has rarely a specific sense of time. The documentary creates a unicorn and builds itself until it falls, just as promised in the title, but it often feels hazy. You’re still waiting for a big shoe to fall, in a tedious way. Instead, it features various related topics – the WeWork summer camp retreats that have gone bigoted, or the influence of Rebekah Neumann, or the professional life of the WeLive process. Some reporters and others talk about trying to get a tangible sense of how powerful WeWork really is. No one really understands the business, or Neumann’s endgame, until it all falls apart.

What Rothstein has done here is give enough momentum to a story in which there is hardly any juicy, explosive moment – in the Fyre Festival speech, there is no grand moment for go to the campsite and meet a polystyrene catering service. It is more of an instruction manual on how to develop a business and build it on the basis of promises and ideas, to pass it off as a movement, when it is not in fact. reality than a selfish take no different from the previous efforts of Elizabeth Holmes and Fyre. Billy McFarland. There is a largely automatic nature to this informative documentary; much of what’s going on here is depressingly prototypical. 

Now available on Hulu.

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