|Industry||Commercial real estate|
|Founders||Adam Neumann |
|Headquarters||New York City, |
Number of locations
(Co-founder and Non-Executive Chairman)
(Co-founder and CCO)
|Brands||WeWork, WeWork Labs, WeLive, WeGrow, Rise by We|
|Services||Shared workspaces and related services|
Number of employees
Managed by Q
WeWork is an American commercial real estate company that provides shared workspaces for technology startups and services for other enterprises. Founded in 2010, it is headquartered in New York City. As of 2018, WeWork managed over 4 million square metres. WeWork's parent company is The We Company.
WeWork designs and builds physical and virtual shared spaces and office services for entrepreneurs and companies. At one time, WeWork had more than 5,000 employees in over 280 locations, spread across 86 cities in 32 countries. In January 2019, the firm announced it would be rebranding to The We Company, and its valuation was stated as $47 billion. The Wall Street Journal noted that upon the release of its public prospectus in August 2019, the company was "besieged with criticism over its governance, business model, and ability to turn a profit." WeWork lost over $2 billion in 2018.
Following mounting pressure from investors based on disclosures made in its S-1 filing, company co-founder Adam Neumann resigned from his position as CEO and gave up majority voting control in WeWork as of September 26, 2019. WeWork also delayed its planned stock market listing until the end of 2019 amid growing investor concerns over its corporate governance, valuation, and outlook for the business.
On September 30, 2019, WeWork formally withdrew its S-1 filing and will postpone the IPO. The reported public valuation of the company is currently around $10 billion, less than the $12.8 billion it had raised since 2010. In October 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported that Neumann would receive close to $1.7 billion from stakeholder SoftBank for stepping down from WeWork's board and severing most of his ties to the company. According to WeWorkers Coalition, he is retained as a consultant with an annual salary of $46 million. The New York Times called the company's failed effort to go public and related turmoil, "an implosion unlike any other in the history of start-ups", which it attributed to Neumann's questionable tenure and the easy money previously provided to him by SoftBank, led by Masayoshi Son.
History and funding
In May 2008, Israeli-born Adam Neumann and American-born Miguel McKelvey established GreenDesk, an "eco-friendly coworking space" in Brooklyn. In 2010, Neumann and McKelvey sold the business and started WeWork with its first location in New York's SoHo district with partial funding from Manhattan real estate developer Joel Schreiber who purchased a 33-percent interest in the company for $15 million. By 2014, WeWork was considered "the fastest-growing lessee of new office space in New York" and was on track to become "the fastest-growing lessee of new space in America." "During the economic crises, there were these empty buildings and these people freelancing or starting companies," Neumann told the New York Daily News. "I knew there was a way to match the two. What separates us, though, is community."
WeWork members have included startups such as Consumr, Coupon Follow, Fitocracy, HackHands, New York Tech Meetup, Reddit, Turf, and Whole Whale. In 2011, PepsiCo placed a few employees in the SoHo, Manhattan WeWork, who acted as advisors to smaller WeWork member companies. The first WeWork Labs opened in New York's SoHo in April 2011. WeWork Labs functions as a startup incubator, providing an open workspace with the goal of encouraging collaboration among members who "don't have their business ideas fully cooked."
WeWork investors as of 2014 included J.P. Morgan Chase & Co, T. Rowe Price Associates, Wellington Management, Goldman Sachs Group, the Harvard Corporation, Benchmark, and Mortimer Zuckerman, former CEO of Boston Properties. As of January 2015, the firm had 51 coworking locations across the U.S., Europe, and Israel – twice as many as it had at the end of 2014 with plans to expand to reach every continent (except Antarctica) by 2017. On June 1, 2015 the firm announced that Artie Minson, former Chief Financial Officer of Time Warner Cable, would join the company as President and Chief Operating Officer. WeWork was named among the "most innovative companies" of 2015 by Fast Company magazine.
It was announced on March 9, 2016, that WeWork raised $430 million in a new round of financing from Legend Holdings and Hony Capital, valuing the company at $16 billion. As of October 2016, the company had raised $1.7 billion in private capital. In October 2016, the company announced their plans to open a fourth location in Cambridge/Boston area. It opened offices in Boston's Leather District and Fort Point in 2014 and have plans in place for a larger office in Back Bay. The first Cambridge office will be in Central Square and have space for 550 desks.
On January 30, 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported: "SoftBank Group Corp. is weighing an investment of well over $1 billion in shared-office space company WeWork Cos., in what could be among the first deals from its new $100 billion technology fund." In April 2017, the firm launched an online store for services and software for its members. The company has also started offering fitness classes at a number of its locations and is opening a gym at a New York location.
In July 2017, after an investment round the valuation of the company reached $20 billion. Later that month, it was announced that WeWork would expand heavily into China, with US$500 million invested by SoftBank, Hony Capital and other lenders to form a standalone entity called WeWork China. In September 2017, WeWork expanded into Southeast Asia via the acquisition of Singapore-based SpaceMob, and it set aside a budget of $500 million to grow in Southeast Asia. The firm's top competitor in China is Ucommune, which is currently valued at $1.8 billion, making it the only Chinese unicorn in the co-working space.
In late October 2017, WeWork bought the Lord & Taylor Building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan from the Hudson's Bay Company, for $850 million. The deal also includes the use of floors of certain HBC owned department stores in Germany, New York, Toronto, and Vancouver as WeWork's shared office workspaces. The sale was officially finalized in February 2019, at which point Lord & Taylor's flagship store inside the building had closed completely.
In March 2018, SEC filings indicated that WeWork had raised over $400 million alongside private equity fund The Rhone Group to start a fund to purchase properties directly. In April, documents filed by the company in association with a plan to raise $500 million through the issue of high-yield bonds showed that the company's revenues rose in 2017.
In July 2018, the company restricted employees from expensing meals that contain pork, poultry, or red meat. The firm also announced that it would not provide meat for events at its locations nor allow meat at self-serve food kiosks in its locations. The policy was rolled out to cover employees globally.
In July 2018, WeWork closed a $500 million funding round aimed at expanding its business in China and valuing the company's subsidiary at $5 billion. In November 2018, the firm secured an additional $3bn of funding from SoftBank in exchange for a warrant enabling it to buy new WeWork shares by the end of September 2019.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Neumann enjoys flying on private jets, and in 2018 the company purchased one for more than $60 million.
In January 2019, the company decided to change the legal name of WeWork to We Company and, according to the August 2019 Form S-1 filing, the firm paid $5.9 million to license the name from an entity called We Holdings owned by Adam Neumann and additional WeWork founders. In early September 2019, Neumann returned the $5.9 million to the We Company for the use of the trademark and the company will hold all of the trademark rights for the "We" family trademarks.
In January 2019, WeWork secured an additional $2 billion from SoftBank Group Corp. It had considered investing as much as $16 billion but downsized plans as it dealt with turbulence in financial markets and opposition from investment partners.
On April 29, 2019 WeWork filed confidentially for an IPO. On July 18, 2019, Wall Street Journal reported that Adam Neumann has liquidated $700 million of his WeWork stock before its IPO. The company was looking to raise over $3.5 billion as a result of its IPO.
In August 2019, The We Company filed S-1 paperwork to go public. Media coverage highlighted the company's heavy losses revealed by the S-1 filing disclosures, while analysts expressed misgivings over WeWork's ability to become profitable in the future. Analysts publishing on investment research network Smartkarma wrote: "We cannot even fathom the contortions that would be necessary to articulate a path to profitability here," and noted they did not expect the company's valuation to reach far beyond $20 billion.
On September 17, 2019, The We Company, the parent company of WeWork, decided to postpone their IPO until the end of 2019. In a prepared statement, the company said "The We Company is looking forward to our upcoming IPO, which we expect to be completed by the end of the year" The company's prospectus brought heavy criticism for its leadership by Adam Neumann, its business model, and its heavy losses.
On September 24, 2019, WeWork put its Gulfstream G650 up for sale. Critics said the plane had become a "red flag in the lead up to the company's IPO" and had created perceptual problems with employees who didn't receive promised bonuses or raises.
According to a September 27, 2019 report in Fortune, WeWork is looking to divest and sell off three businesses acquired in recent years. The three companies are Conductor, a SaaS SEO marketing platform company; Managed by Q, an office management platform; and Meetup. The company is also looking to layoff between 2,000 and 3,000 people to reduce costs. The report also stated that approximately 20 long-time friends and family members would be let go from the company.
In October 2019, WeWork announced the opening of new co-working locations in Singapore and Manila. Also in October 2019, WeWork abandoned plans to open an office in the U.S. Steel Tower in downtown Pittsburgh. The company had planned to build out as much as 105,000 square feet in the building.
On October 14, 2019, CNBC reported that WeWork recently warned clients that approximately 1,600 office phone booths at some of its offices in Canada and the United States are tainted with formaldehyde. The company said another 700 phone booths would possibly be taken out of service as a precautionary measure. This situation came to the attention of the company after some members reported eye irritation and a strong odor.
On November 6, 2019, SoftBank Group reported a $9.2 billion in write-downs on its investments in WeWork. This amount is approximately 90 percent of the $10.3 billion SoftBank invested in WeWork over the past few years.
An analysis of the company in late 2019 by The Guardian listed several factors that led to its misfortunes: an expensive business model that should not have envisioned a profit since 2015, the "weird" behaviour exhibited by Neumann, and the "alleged self-dealing and self-enrichment by Neumann". His frequent sell-offs of stock and to lease buildings he owned to WeWork was discovered and publicized earlier in 2019 by The Wall Street Journal. The final outcome is ownership by SoftBank and a valuation of $8 billion which is significantly less than the $13 billion that has been invested in the company.
Changes to corporate governance
On September 13, 2019, We Company announced changes to the company's governance to include the ability for the board of directors to pick any new CEO and not having CEO Adam Neumann's family members on the board. Neumann also agreed to transfer to the We Company any profits from his real estate deals with the company. On September 20 it was announced that Wendy Silverstein, the co-head of WeWork's real estate investment fund ARK, had departed the company the week before. Silverstein had joined the company in fall 2018 as a veteran of the New York real estate industry. Silverstein claimed her exit was unrelated to the company's delayed initial public offering. On September 23, The Washington Post reported that the company's largest investor, SoftBank, wanted Neumann removed as chief executive because they had lost confidence in his leadership.
On September 24, 2019, it was announced that Adam Neumann would step down as CEO of the company due to backlash during the IPO process. In a statement, Neumann responded, "While our business has never been stronger, in recent weeks, the scrutiny directed toward me has become a significant distraction, and I have decided that it is in the best interest of the company to step down as chief executive."
Neuman's exit package was valued at US$1.7 billion, with $970 million for his remaining shares, a $185 million consulting fee and a $500 million in credit to assist him to repay his loans to J.P. Morgan Chase.
Acquisitions and investments
CASE, a real estate and construction technology company, was WeWork's first acquisition in 2015.
In April 2018 it was announced that WeWork had merged its China operations with local competitor Naked Hub. Later, in August and September 2018, WeWork acquired Designation, a for-profit design school, and Teem, an office management software company.
In May 2018, WeWork acquired MissionU, a self-styled college alternative, in an all-stock deal worth $4 million. MissionU was wound-down shortly afterwards and students were not charged tuition. As part of the deal, cash was returned from MissionU to its investors. It was reported that the acquisition was an 'acqi-hire' as MissionU's CEO, went on to become COO of WeWork's kindergarten program, WeGrow.
In April 2019, WeWork acquired Managed by Q, a platform that office tenants can use to hire service providers (e.g. cleaning crews, receptionists, IT support staff, etc.).
In August 2019, WeWork purchased Spacious, a company that leases unused space from restaurants during daytime hours and then rents this space to mobile workers. The price of the acquisition was not disclosed, but Spacious had raised about $9 million in private equity funding.
Rise by We
Rise (previously known as WeWork Wellness) is a luxury gym concept, currently only available at WeWork's Manhattan location. The space consists of a boot-camp space with cardio equipment, and a boxing area, general workout area, spa, and yoga studio. It also hosts fitness classes and offers personal training sessions.
Announced in November 2017 for a planned opening in fall 2018, WeGrow is a private school for children aged 3 through students in grade 4. The first permanent location was in WeWork's New York headquarters.
In September 2019, it was announced that Rebekah Neumann would step down as CEO of WeGrow and will relinquish her role in WeCompany.
WeWork launched a separate but related "co-living" venture called WeLive in 2016. WeLive applies the same basic principle as WeWork to housing, offering rental apartments that are grouped together with a number of shared spaces and services, such as cleaning, cooking, and laundry, as well as group activities and events. The first tests of the concept launched in New York City and in Crystal City, Virginia, near the Ronald Reagan National Airport in the Washington metropolitan area. Leaked internal documents from 2014 stated that WeLive was projected to make up 21% of WeWork's revenue by 2018. By the end of 2016, WeLive had mostly phased out subsidies for its spaces in New York City under a "friends and family" arrangement that discounted rents by 15% to 20%. Competitors to WeLive include Common, headquartered in New York, and HubHaus, headquartered in San Francisco.
In January 2019, the company's valuation was stated as $47 billion, though by September when an IPO was planned and postponed, the valuation was reduced to $10–12 billion, less than the $12.8 billion it had raised since 2010. Throughout the fourth quarter of 2019, WeWork's estimated market capitalization fell in part due to numerous investigations of Neumann's behavior and business practices, such as engaging in nepotism. The company's unprofitable status and lack of clear strategy to achieve profitability in the future also contribute to continuing losses.
WeWork's August 24, 2019 SEC filing states that the company faces substantial risk in the event of an economic downturn: "...we have yet to experience a global economic downturn since founding our business", and "an economic downturn or subsequent declines in market rents may result in increased member terminations and could adversely affect our results of operations", because the company has $47 billion of future lease obligations and only $4 billion of future lease commitments.
As of June 2019, three former executives were at various stages of suing WeWork, one alleging age discrimination, one alleging sexual harassment claims that resulted in retaliation, and one alleging retaliation for filing a complaint that women were paid less.
In October 2019, Medina Bardhi, the former chief of staff for Adam Neumann, sued The We Company over various allegations including a gender pay gap, marijuana use by company executives, and pregnancy discrimination.
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The company touted its $4 billion in future lease commitments from its customers. But it also disclosed that it had $47 billion in future lease obligations to its landlords.
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