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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.