Neumann spun an origin delusion about rising up on a kibbutz in Israel, the place he appreciated the neighborhood however bristled at how everybody was rewarded the identical no matter how a lot work they put in. He envisioned WeWork, he stated, as a “capitalist kibbutz”—a “neighborhood,” however the variety the place “you eat what you kill.”
Wiedeman (with whom I overlapped whereas working at The New Yorker) presents a extra nuanced portrait of the founder as a younger man. Neumann was born in 1979 in Beersheba, Israel, to doctor dad and mom who shuttled Neumann and his sister round desert cities earlier than transferring to the suburbs of Tel Aviv. When he was within the second grade, his grandmother realized that he couldn’t learn the menu at a restaurant; he was dyslexic. “He had develop into expert at fooling his lecturers and coaxing others to do what he wanted,” Wiedeman writes. After his dad and mom divorced when he was 9, his mom moved, with him and his sister, to Indianapolis, the place he struggled emotionally at first. Solely later did the household dwell on a kibbutz, after they’d returned to Israel. Neumann went on to serve within the Israeli navy, after which moved to New York, the place he enrolled at Baruch School, earlier than launching a collection of companies—making collapsible excessive heels, then child garments with kneepads—and dropping out. In 2010, he and a good friend, Miguel McKelvey, unveiled WeWork.
On the time, co-working areas have been already frequent. The enterprise mannequin was easy: Entrepreneurs “leased area, reduce it up, and rented out every slice with an upcharge for hip design, flexibility, and common blissful hours,” Wiedeman writes. However these in cost usually ran no quite a lot of places apiece, partially as a result of working a number of areas required spending some huge cash, up entrance, on leases. What distinguished Neumann, alongside along with his ambition, was “his connection to capital,” Wiedeman writes. Neumann had married Rebekah Paltrow, a rich cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow and a kabbalah devotee. She invested a part of a $1 million nest egg in WeWork and launched her husband to Manhattan’s Kabbalah Centre, the place he met different well-off backers. By January 2012, he had raised nearly $7 million.
Neumann’s method to fundraising appears rooted in a easy tenet: Discover out what buyers need—then say no matter is required to persuade them that their wishes are yours. Closely reliant on help from the kabbalists, Neumann instructed a real-estate publication that WeWork had in actual fact been impressed by kabbalah: “I observed that within the Kabbalah neighborhood, individuals have been actually serving to one another. I needed to translate that to enterprise.” His chameleonic tendencies as a toddler and younger man, it turned out, had been good coaching.
Later, as he started courting Silicon Valley’s venture-capital companies—which are likely to spend money on fast-growing tech firms—Neumann described WeWork as a “bodily social community,” and promptly raised $16.5 million from Benchmark. Traders absolutely additionally favored his message about his firm’s place within the Silicon Valley ecosystem: Work had come to really feel alienating; WeWork would make it social again, whereas on the similar time empowering independent-minded entrepreneurs to meet their particular person goals. As venture-capital funding poured in—seven extra rounds adopted—Neumann employed engineers to work on techie-sounding tasks, equivalent to constructing an unique social-networking platform for WeWork members. Extra important, with buyers encouraging quick progress, he leased tons of of latest areas around the globe, splurging on perks equivalent to free beer and a bacchanalian retreat called Summer Camp, in order to fill them. On the similar time, within the title of effectivity—which Silicon Valley buyers admire nearly as a lot as progress—he stored sure prices down. Neumann used nonunion laborers for building, and lots of of WeWork’s staff put in lengthy, poorly compensated hours. “I can rent a bunch of younger individuals and pay them nothing,” he as soon as stated. Attendance at a “Thank God It’s Monday” pep rally, held after hours, was required.