WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn
Jed Rothstein’s compelling chronicle of the overhyped start-up is a fascinating portrait of hubris in the world of venture capitalism.
Billed as the future of working, WeWork was co-founded by Adam Neumann, but he soon became its sole face. He displayed an unerring skill for self-promotion, exuded irrepressible self-confidence, no small amount of charm and managed to convince a wide range of wealthy investors that he had hit upon the greatest money-making scheme since a goose reportedly laid a golden egg. But his business proved no less fanciful and illusory than Jack Spriggins’ tale.
Starting out in the aftermath of the 2008 economic meltdown, Rothstein’s film details how a conventional real estate venture was dressed up as millennials’ dream-come-true way of working and living. Neumann and partner Miguel McKelvey’s transforming office space into relaxed workstations for freelancers and what they portrayed as the independent-minded attracted huge investment from high-profile financiers. And it was one of those financiers who finally sent WeWork’s share price reeling when the its projected profits were revealed to be little more than a complex array of smoke and mirrors.
Like the two documentaries produced about the fiasco surrounding the aborted Fyre Island festival, WeWork plays out as a cautionary tale, a portrait of outsized egos running amok and a hugely entertaining example of cinematic schadenfreude.