The entire image and “vibe” of this guy / his team is supposed to be an egalitarian re-invention of the status quo. The kibbutz story. The “community adjusted EBITDA.” The rebranding to “We.” But this sort of real estate self-dealing isn’t a We move, it’s a Me move. And thus, we find ourselves facing a bigger issue that is far more troubling if you’re a shareholder or employee (and somewhat enjoyable if you’re a competitor): the emperor has no clothes and the CEO is full of shit. He is self-serving and isn’t optimizing for the benefit of those around him.
As others in the tech industry are only beginning to figure out, once your curated narrative dies and the reality of who you really are comes to the surface, an unstoppable cycle of “bad press” and “negative sentiment” emerges. That’s a hard cycle to work out of, especially if the value of your company is predicated on your image / the image of the company. Hiring Obama’s speech writer and lobbying Congress doesn’t fix the underlying issue, and eventually you’re living in a Reverse Metcalf’s Law situation that’s scaling in the wrong direction.
As WeWork is built on an image of selling “a new, better way of working” to companies of all sizes, it becomes extremely problematic if people start to associate the brand with “the rich keep getting richer, and they’re screwing us over and working us to the bone along the way.” An image of a “collaborative enterprise” becomes a laughable fantasy novel next to the reality of, “we are funded by third world despots and our CEO is lining his pockets with as much of our money as possible, while scheming up ways to do petty things such as avoid paying the cleaning staff any sort of decent wages or benefits.”
This isn’t the We Company. It’s the Me Company. That’s not very innovative. That doesn’t foster greater productivity. And eventually, a lot of tenants aren’t going to pay for it, because it seems a lot of them really think they’re paying to be part of a progressive, futuristic environment. If their smartest and most progressive employees start telling them they don’t want to visit the office, they’re going to get rid of that office. Companies’ desire to please their knowledge workers — what originally drove WeWork’s success — thus ends up killing it.
We're not at WeWork because of hype, or the image of the CEO, or anything like that. We're at a WeWork because it's a cheap/easy way to get an office, that we can scale when the company grows with minimal issues since it's month to month. We shopped around a few competitors, WeWork happened to be the best combination of price vs. space vs. availability, so we went with that.
I haven't exactly done a poll, but I doubt that most WeWork customers know or care about WeWork's culture too much - they just need an office, and WeWork is providing a cost-effective solution. Maybe it's artificial because of VC money - if so, I certainly don't care - it'll be good while it lasts!
For contrast: at my previous company, we also wanted to move to an office (instead of working out of my apartment). We spent a huge amount of time looking at offices, and ended up staying put, because it was hard to find a decent office with a decent price, and signing up for a 2-year lease is a huge commitment which is not fun to make when you don't know the future size of the company - do you get lots more space than you need and pay extra? Do you get less space and are in a tough spot if you grow too fast?
Where is WeWork month to month? Yes the open plan area is month to month, but the instant you try to get a private room they want you to sign a 6 month commitment.
I have not gone to ones in the US, though. This is outside the US. Are they truly, genuinely cancel-any-time month to month? Or "yeah it's month to month but if you cancel before 6 months is up you have to pay 50% of the remaining months"?
There is some variation between offices though, so entirely possible you had a different experience.
The fact that no one can actually do real work at a WeWork was just icing on the shit pie.
I guess it's good if you like to meet people. Not so much if you need a quiet space to work.
In this case, the free beer might be an intentional way to take "loud room I can't work in", to "laid back atmosphere I feel home in". The latter is false, but it's not as bad as being stuck with "loud room I can't work in".
Disclaimer: I work in a private office in a London WeWork and the free beer is a nice to have, even if it wasn't a consideration while picking an office.
This is all just marketing. It's like believing all the actors in a commercial really are elated and blissful just because they chose the right brand of soda.
Like a luxury alcohol makers, they are selling identity, not chair by hour.
But I think it's very important to remember that companies can have moral standards and follow them. Many companies don't sell-out in crucial ways, and throwing one's hands up and condemning them all is punishing the ones that stay true.
I think moral outrage is a very important and effective market force. It will do things our government never could, like take down facebook. I'm glad we have this tool.
I agree, which is why I criticize shallow analysis of a company's motivation based on its skin-deep marketing veneer.
In this case it's not even moral standards - the implication is that WeWork's CEO is neglecting his fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value by lining his pocket instead.
That's in fact a corruption of capitalism, it's illegal, and he can be sued for that by shareholders.
> I think moral outrage is a very important and effective market force.
I completely agree, which is why it's important to look beyond the marketing.
If a company can breach standards of morality and decency, but get away thanks to some 30 seconds commercial featuring smiling kids, then we will not be effective as a public in enforcing those very real consequences that companies should face for their actions.
There is marketing of product and then marketing of company and then marketing of person/people. Not only does each have varying levels of truth, but each also has varying types of intent. The later in SV seems designed to encourage beliefs about a person or company that are immune to facts that counter them.
Branding it as marketing starts, to me, to sound like a convenient cover for propaganda.
It is not ascertained by buying into the shallowest outer layer of its marketing veneer.
It’s pathological. WeWork, Google, Facebook and all the rest don’t need to shaft their cleaners, catering staff, security guards etc. The cost is a rounding error and it’s directly antithetical to their stated brand values. But they just can’t help themselves.
The comments on that article? Mostly something along the lines of "maximizing shareholder value" and "fiduciary duty to the corporation". Anything to avoid having to admit that this is wrong.
> Short term mentality and spreadsheet driven management has taken a toll on the American dream.
Yes, but stock market growth since the '80s is a big reason why the "wealth" of the average American has increased, even though wages have stagnated and debt has increased. One hand has been feeding the other for a long time.
Of course, all this is in the name of "security" and the least-privilege thing. It's horse shit really. You need to be able to trust your employees and then audit. But it's easier to manage people when you can just lock them into a position and leave them there to rot.
It’s only fitting that the owner would also be full of shit.
For every person shouting about crushing it and hammering back booze there are another handful quietly getting on with their work, happy to have an office space with stable, fast internet, clean, stocked kitchens, 24 hour access and clean, comfortable spaces - where they don't have to worry about sorting bills and contracts, cleaners, etc etc etc.
A couple of examples. Friends in Pasadena have an office that could fit 6 comfortably, 8 less so. $1300 a month. Guy at WeWork 1 block way, $1100 a month for an office just big enough to fit one desk.
A "hot desk" in Tokyo is $490 a month where as at my co-working space my dedicated desk is $400 a month. That includes "fast internet", meeting rooms, printers, copiers, cheap snacks, receptionist, networking events, cleaners, open 24/7 etc... The rent 3 person private office for $1k where as WeWork a single person private office is $1100.
They claim "coffee". Hardly seems like coffee is work $1k a month. Besides, there's probably 11 craft coffee places withing a 3 minute walk of my office.
And it's not an exception, there's been an explosion of co-working / shared office spaces in Tokyo over the last 2-4 years.
The great thing about instant coffee is that you don't even need hot water to make it. I've found that it mixes up great with cold water in one of those protein drink shakers with the little springy balls.
This is awesome because there's no heat or hot water in the storage unit I'm renting. That's a subject for another post, but I just need a parka and a pair of fingerless gloves to get the exact same experience as those co-working hipsters. Plus, I'm not subjected to the torture of an open plan office. My unit is in the basement, and it's dead quiet.
I'm sitting here, only five subway stops away from the fancy WeWork downtown, laughing my ass off at the startup bros high-fiving and "crushing it". I've got a way better experience, and all in I'm saving like $100-200 per month over those hipster bros.
Honestly, I think it's even decent with coffee that's ground ahead of time if it's stored well. Alternatively you can use it to make coffee concentrate that will keep for a few days in a fridge.
"This is awesome because there's no heat or hot water in the storage unit I'm renting. That's a subject for another post, but I just need a parka and a pair of fingerless gloves to get the exact same experience as those co-working hipsters."
a spectacular work of satire
Your startup business probably does not require couches, stocked kitchens, and wi-fi. It needs a mailing address, a phone number, a website, and a way for people to pay you. Those folding tables from Costco will still be useful after you can afford real desks.
Which should tell you something's up with their finances.