The spectacular implosion of the WeWork initial public offering (IPO) in the United States has forced a hard-eyed look not only at that company but the entire technology capital ecosystem. Critics note again that the WeWork story is another case of hype and attitude overwhelming hard work and accomplishments, where enthusiasm swamped evidence. Subject to scrutiny, WeWork succumbed to reality, its founder and chief executive was forced from office and the most glaring abuses of the IPO rectified. But, it is worth remembering, ultimately, the system worked.
WeWork was founded in 2010 by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey as an “eco-friendly coworking space.” Neumann proved to be a dynamic and engrossing entrepreneur: From a single shared office in the SoHo district of New York City, he turned WeWork into a global behemoth that operates in 111 cities around the world, has over 525,000 members and more than 12,000 employees. It is the largest private office tenant in Manhattan, the second-largest in London (second only to the British government) and the fourth-largest in San Francisco. Within a year of entering the Japanese market, it had opened 11 locations across the country and anticipates tripling that number by the end of 2019. Real estate investors have noted the impact of WeWork, pushing up land and office building prices in parts of Tokyo.