Skip to content


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

“The company went from a $47 billion valuation to near bankruptcy in just 6 weeks.”

Adam Neumann had a vision. He wanted to revolutionize the corporate world by creating the largest networking community on the planet. Neumann, alongside Miguel McKelvey, founded WeWork, a real estate company, made to look like a tech company, that offered flexible workplaces for small business. Neumann not only wanted to rebel against current office culture where individuals were locked away in offices and cubes, he wanted to bring people together. He was inspired by the iPhone and took the I turned it into We in order to turn the focus away from the individual to a community. His vision of the future consisted of a corporate world that was driven by small businesses and not by large corporations. It seemed like a brilliant idea. WeWork saw exponential growth in its homebase of New York City. The company was intended to be the next unicorn: a privately held start-up with a valuation of $1 billion or more. WeWork was on that patch. However Neumann’s need for total control and the cult-like aspects of the culture he was developing threatened to drive the company into the ground.

Directed by Jed Rothstein, WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn is an engrossing documentary that takes its viewers on a veritable roller coaster ride. Neumann’s story must be seen to be believed. I’ve watched many documentaries about the business world, deeply flawed corporate individuals and business ideas gone wrong and this is one of the cringiest. I put it up there with both Netflix and Hulu’s competing documentaries on the disastrous Fyre Festival. If you watched and enjoyed either of those, I highly recommend checking this one out.

As an introvert, I couldn’t imagine working at a WeWork facility. Neumann’s focus was on community but he neglected the fact that his spaces were for young extroverts and not for those us who crave or who need some modicum of privacy in order to work. Furthermore, this workplace concept seems like a playground for bullies and sexual deviants looking for easy targets. Just learning about WeWork made me happy that work-from-home culture and social distancing is now part of our everyday lives.

My only small beef with the documentary is there is little information about WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey. He’s brought up a couple times but never discussed at length. While the focus of the documentary  is Adam Neumann, and to some extent his wife Rebekah Neumann, I would have liked to learn a bit more about McKelvey. 

WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn  had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival. It streams on Hulu starting April 2nd.

SXSW: The Donut King

Filmmaker Alice Gu’s new documentary The Donut King follows the dramatic rise and fall of Ted Ngoy, a Cambodian refugee who started a donut empire and the enduring legacy of one of America’s most beloved pastries.

Ngoy fled his native country in the mid-1970s during the Cambodian Civil War. He and his family made their way to California where they were taken in by a sponsor. It was there that Ngoy had his very first donut. It was love at first bite.

He immediately inquired about how to start his own donut shop and someone recommended that he get training at Winchell’s, a popular West Coast donut chain. He became a master donut maker and businessman, managing a Winchell’s and eventually opening his own shop. Ngoy was devoted to his business and made it a family affair. He kept overhead low and made shrewd business decisions. The smartest move he made was working with other Cambodian refugees by helping them finance their own donut shop. They would apprentice with him, learning the craft and in return “Uncle Ted” as he was affectionately called would co-own the shop. At one time Ngoy co-owned over 60 successful donut shops in the 1980s and became a millionaire. It was only a matter of time before the trappings of wealth lead to his downfall.

The Donut King is a wild ride. Ted Ngoy’s story is quite remarkable and the ups and downs will keep viewers glued to the screen. Gu’s documentary does a fantastic job building a portrait of this visionary, flaws and all, with extensive interviews with Ngoy himself, his wife, his two kids, other family members and colleagues. The Donut King is slick, alternating from talking head interviews, to short animations, archival footage and sexy shots of big fluffy donuts. If you watch this film and don’t immediately crave a donut, something is wrong with you. The biggest takeaway, however, is Ngoy’s journey as an immigrant forging a path for himself in America and helping others do the same.

The Donut King was to premiere at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival. It received a Special Jury Recognition for Achievement in Documentary Storytelling. Find out more information about the film at the official website.

%d bloggers like this: