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Runaway Story or Meltdown in Motion? The Unraveling of the WeWork IPO (aswathdamodaran.blogspot.com)
62 points by kgwgk 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments





>It is worth noting that the WeWork business model has been tried in real estate before, with calamitous results. As Sam Zell, a billionaire with deep roots in real estate, noted on CNBC, on September 4, 2019, not only did he lose money investing in a business model like this one in 1956, but every company in the office space subletting space that existed then went out of business.

I love reading things like this that always drive the point home that very little to nothing is new under the sun. The only new things are new dumb money investors that haven’t seen it before.


You're promoting a logical fallacy that's especially dangerous to people with entrepreneurial drive. You're assuming that things done once will always be done that way — that some things are always destined to have the same outcome no matter the context or time they arise in — and that the world, at its base, is distinctly resistant to change.

This is strongly related to the the Hindsight bias [1], which "refers to the common tendency for people to perceive events that have already occurred as having been more predictable than they actually were before the events took place."

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindsight_bias


I think you're onto something; which is why I tend to keep my neckbeardy know-it-all skepticism to myself. I've got an angel on one shoulder (ALL ABOUT THE EXECUTION, BRO!) and a devil on the other (who more closely resembles 'Comic Book Guy' from The Simpsons) and would tend towards optimism and hope that the founders pull it off.

With that said... I see Amazon Fresh/Prime Now and think... "WebVan" I see UberEats/DoorDash and think... "2 Go Services" formerly "Dinner Delivery Plus" I see Carvana and think... CarMax

But then there are the exceptions which have turned out to be truly exceptional. Think Facebook/Myspace, Instagram/Flickr, Google/AltaVista, AirBNB/Couchsurfing, reddit/digg, AWS/Rackspace.

With that said... I'm really not so hot about WeWork. I hope it works out but there is so much weirdness around the company and founder that I will not be investing. Very entertaining to see article after article about it, I hope things work out for the honest rank-and-file, but I really do suspect that the WeWork IPO (or lack thereof) will have a much needed chilling effect on the overheated tech economy of the last decade.


A perfect example of this is Facebook. There were several social media platforms before Facebook, but they succeeded where others didn't because of a few distinctive features. They also benefited from improved internet infrastructure, and increased user adoption of the internet. So it was really just a matter of right place, right time.

And a willingness to sell out users at all costs...

how much money you are paying facebook for using their services?

i don’t use Facebook

Has WeWork shown us that they are different in any way than the attempts in 1956? If anything they are doing it in an even more shady manner. Some business ideas just can’t survive no matter how much “entrepreneurial drive” you have because doing so would break the laws of mathematics.

I will give you a counter-example : webvan. This company failed spectacularly but the problem they were solving was real. And now several startups and established corporations alike seem to be solving it and they seem to be ok.

There may be nothing new under the sun but how we look those same old things matter.


"Technology changes, economic laws do not." from Information Rules: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Rules

I know buildings - entire buildings that function similarly to the wework concept, individual suites, shared secretarial services, etc. But they're super specialized, so I'm skeptical that WeWork is as valuable as its sold as.

Executive suites and small office leases have been around forever, but even those are going to want leases of 6 months to a year. Where they can really make sense is in a place where the building owner or leasing agent has suites run by onsite staff that they might have needed anyway.

My impression of We has been that it's coworking spaces (aka limited commitments) but "we're so trendy and hip that you'll stay at short term high rates even when you have a stable business and could get a regular cheaper lease elsewhere."

That or it's a long con.


Here's another example...Uber/Lyft was originally invented in the 1910s: https://psmag.com/environment/uber-lyft-sidecar-jitney-cars-...

> By late 1914, some enterprising motorists had established the nation's first jitney companies, using oversized automobiles to ply the streets in search of customers

This is more like gypsy cabs. Uber/Lyft don't have to ply the streets b/c of their app and backend tech.


What do you think Uber vehicles do then, if not ply the streets?

The Uber app specifically tells drivers how to ply the streets - what direction they should be driving in order to maximize their chances of picking up a profitable fare in the future. They call it "surge pricing".


> What do you think Uber vehicles do then, if not ply the streets?

Do you mean that Uber drivers can be hailed?


Yes, you can, using the app.

Inside the app you can see them plying around you and you just hail them in your phone. The interface is much more practical than hailing a taxi using your hand.


If you squint so hard that this failure looks the same as that failure, but also looks the same as successes, you are squinting too hard. Subletting is absolutely a legitimate business model that works sometimes.

main problem is all of the 'investors' should have lost everything in 08 but were bailed out, now have zero percent money, think they are special and are all desperate to land a unicorn

Zero percent money is too hard to profit from, so the President wants negative percent money.

But, internet. Computers. Technology!

WeWork is a successful company worth a lot of money. Is it worth $47b? Likely not. But all except the last investors are likely to do well, and deservedly so.

The question really comes down to "is it a successful company or is it a successful illusion of a successful company?"

It provides a valuable service. It gives property owners a hands off way of renting out their space to short term tenants. That’s going to make money.

Whether it provides a valuable service is orthogonal to whether it's successful. There have been options to sublet to sort term tenants for a long time, but We seems to have a lot of other baggage.

Their financial statements refute that idea



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