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WeWork’s Adam Neumann Steps Down as CEO (wsj.com)
728 points by mudil on Sept 24, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 533 comments

I'm so glad I read hacker news. I almost took a job at WeWork just 2 months ago with a recruiter working very hard to convince me I'd be rich when they IPO. Now I'm at a much smaller startup called Weave which is a really phenomenal place to work. I didn't discover until recently that it's also a YCombinator company.

edit: to clarify, hacker news has been extremely skeptical of WeWork for some time, due to this, I was extremely wary of their offer and leaned towards (and eventually chose) other options.

Same here, and only by reading the headlines. A WeWork recruiter reached out to me. I laughed out loud and added it to the list of companies I would never work for. Not only do they do nothing interesting, but they are apparently unethical as well.

No doubt another failed tech bro pump 'n dump scheme headed to the dustbin of history.

Definitely just another failed tech bro pump 'n dump scheme headed to the dustbin of history.

I seriously doubt that. I think they're overvalued too, but I predict WeWork is still going to be around in another decade. There's clearly a ton of demand for what they provide.

> but I predict WeWork is still going to be around in another decade. There's clearly a ton of demand for what they provide

There's also a TON of rent-a-desk places.

The big questions are:

- What's the benefit to a large corporation doing this instead of lots of small companies? (The economies of scale need to outweigh the large corporate overhead.)

- What's WeWork's secret sauce or first mover advantage?

>What's the benefit to a large corporation doing this instead of lots of small companies? (The economies of scale need to outweigh the large corporate overhead.)

I like this way of thinking. WeWork isn't doing anything "new" - coworking spaces have existed for years. What's the upside of having a giant corporation owning all coworking spaces, versus having many small and independent small businesses running and operating independent coworking spaces? The answer to this question isn't obvious to me.

WeWork is also very similar to Uber in the sense that you also need a very effective "on the ground" team managing operations of each individual location, doing tours for prospective renters, managing upkeep + maintenance for the space, etc.

> What's the upside of having a giant corporation owning all coworking spaces, versus having many small and independent small businesses running and operating independent coworking spaces?

Advantage to customers? Likely minimal.

Advantage to the company itself: economies of scale and, likely more importantly, lack of competition allowing them to increase prices.

The very clear trend across all sectors is that companies trend towards giant monopolistic behemoths unless some very strong regulatory force prevents it. People act like healthy, competitive, transparent markets just appear out of thin air, but they are an artificial creation of government.

The advantage to me with Spaces (which I believe is owned by Regus) is that I can do guest co-working in any city they happen to be present - and since I travel extensively, the bigger the network the better, as far as I'm concerned.

Sadly WeWork do not appear to offer this option (or didn't last time I looked).

WeWork offers this if you sign up for an American Express Platinum Business card and take advantage of the free year of WeWork benefit. I can (and do!) book any WeWork in the world any day - all for $0.

Yes, that's right, the free AMEX WeWork plan is significantly better than any WeWork plan you can buy. That's start-up logic for you. I stopped paying WeWork after 1-2 years as a paying customer because their free plan was better.

I live in London and I can choose from any of 36 WeWork London locations for tomorrow along with anywhere else in the world. It's nice living off of VC money.

What will you do after your free year is up?

Same thing that he would have to do otherwise: shop the market for the best offer.

... Assuming any true competition is still in business in a year.

Wow... this is actually quite tempting for $595!

Are there any limits to how much you can make use of this offer or the kinds of spaces available?

_Surely_ they won't let you just camp an entire private office in SF all year round when it's supposed to cost upwards of $1000 per month?

You can use it everyday as your main office, but you are limited to the hot desk areas and you can't use private offices.

Interesting - does this mean you have a _UK issued_ Amex Platinum Business? If so, I've not spotted this, despite having had one for years - and I need to rectify this!

Many of the benefits only apply to US-issued cards.

I have a US-issued card.

I may be misunderstanding, but one of our offices is at a WeWork. I’m listed on the team and we have a ton of monthly credits that I’ll use while traveling in random cities, it’s convenient to have a place to work from.

Every business-traveller orientated hotel like Marriott or Hilton has a “business centre” in which you can rent anything from a small meeting room by the hour to a space for a 500-person conference for a few days, all fully serviced and catered by the hotel too.

I usually stay at Marriotts, and the 'business centres' are often woeful - if not 'closed for renovation'. Not only that, but renting a meeting room for a couple of hours costs the same as a Spaces membership for a month.

i think you are looking for wework global access https://www.wework.com/workspace/on-demand/global-access

I wanted to sign up for this as an individual, but you need to be at least a 10 person company, so I couldn’t. No idea why they’d have that restriction

That's the hurdle I hit with it last time I looked.

I was looking for that option too as I plan to travel for some time while working remotely and all I found is https://copass.org/plans but didn't tried it yet.

Is someone can write more about it it would be nice.

> People act like healthy, competitive, transparent markets just appear out of thin air, but they are an artificial creation of government.

Thanks for this insightful comment. I never fully considered it, but yes - all healthy, competitive markets exist as a result of a government that fosters them.

That is not actually true.

Its the reverse. All healthy, competitive markets exist as the result of a lack of government intervention.

Lack of a competitive market is the result of government intervention.

> lack of competition allowing them to increase prices.

There is so much commercial real estate that it's hard to imagine them in any kind of a monopoly situation.

To the other response I can’t reply to - WeWork is also benefitting tremendously from all of the new build outs. Like hotels, condos, and apartments even the cheaper ones are nice when they are shiny and new. 10 years out, they aren’t going to look very good. The front loaded growth could be very damaging to their brand in the long term because of this.

I’m not sure exactly how all of those contracts look with landlords, but someone is going to need money to spend to maintain them. If not, the person with brand new build outs is going to look more attractive.

Now, maybe I’m wrong and run down office spaces don’t matter. Uber drivers all used to wear suits and their cars were pristine. Even UberBlack cars have holes in the seats and transmissions in poor condition. Uber is vastly largely today than it used to be. So that could be the trick, WeWork at scale but more as a necessity than anything else. If that is the case, then it is more a question of how much extra space other sorts of businesses, like coffee shops, want to keep free for customers.

Rabois has suggested multiple times that one bull case for them is that the company becomes almost too big to fail. They'd be so large that even in an economic downturn they'd have the power to renegotiate lower rents with the commercial property owners.

And buy out failing, smaller competitors, plus lobby various local governments for a break/handout.

Consistency of branding can't be overstated too. People turn to trust when times are hard.

Why is it that you believe these companies can suddenly raise prices and make money? We've been hearing about "economies of scale" in companies like Uber and Tesla for years, yet no sign of it yet. Price cuts and investor subsidization abound.

And no competition in the real estate market? Please.

If they raise prices, someone else could locally open up a new coworking space with lower prices. The lack of advantage to costumers, which is your first point, means that customers go to the cheaper place.

So the economics of scale (supposed that is a relevant factor) could provide WeWork with a higher profit margin, but to become dominant, they have to take a cut to this margin.

Clearly false as there is no regulation to prevent the formation of very large companies (anti-trust laws don't apply). In fact companies tend toward giant behemoths in part BECAUSE of government regulation. Small companies can't afford the enormous fixed cost of compliance the way large ones can. Regulations are a huge incentive for market consolidation and large corporations love writing new barriers to entry regulations.

This is a good point. My wife's company has a team consisting of a lawyer and 3 paralegals whose sole job is to review their marketing offers just to ensure they are in compliance.Every state has different rules.

Smaller company would need a smaller team but even a single salary on the books just to comply is a large expense for a small business. Multiply this by other areas now such as licensing, insurance, etc. Just ensuring your every day work is not breaking the law becomes financially prohibitive.

I don't understand why you are getting downvoted. What you are saying is basic economics and I guess people in here are too ideologically invested to accept it. The claim that governments foster healthy competition when their effect is the exact opposite is ridiculous.

Well there's a clear advantage for b2b.

Say you're a pretty large company and suddenly decide you want to open a dozen 'offices' in a dozen different countries. You just have to deal with one provider, one set of infrastructure etc. Plus if you decide you then want to consolidate to half-a dozen offices, it's easier to scale some up and some down.

However companies like Regus have existed for ages - so not quite sure what WeWork brings, aside from being able spaff away profits to get you in the door.

Weird hypothesis, but is what WeWork brings to the table that Regus doesn't is Silicon Valley brand recognition? Not that I'm in the market for office space, but I haven't heard about Regus until this comment.

AIUI, Regus won't talk to you if you're not willing to commit to a 12 or 24 month lease. If I had a stock position, it would be very short WeWork, but assuming you can make the month-to-month economics work, that's a pretty big benefit regardless of customer size.

Doesn't Regus own Spaces, in the co-working space?

Spaces and Regus are both part of IWG, so "sort of; maybe mostly yes"

I can assure you my regional office manager doesn't give a toss about "silicon valley brand recognition".

I think it's down to the customer. There's a post below about somebody being reassured "it's a We Work" office they'll be in.

When I've looked for a job, it's never entered by head to ask who manages the office (my assumption is that it's my employer and if I'm not happy, I'll take it up with my employer).

I can see if you've often worked in offices not run by your employer, you might have learnt to ask - but would think that's a small pool of people working frequently in shared spaces, having worked their frequently enough to have a preference.

Back to the OP - it's not a "hypothesis", this stuff's been going on for decades. e.g. ~2000 I was working in Paris and visited our local guy in his local office on the prestigious "Champs Elysee" no less. I went down the "Champs Elysee", then through a small door behind two shops, then walked back a couple of hundred meters, then through a warren of rooms, then in a room off a room, there was a desk... and that was our office. Hundreds of people all working at this prestigious address - we must have been silver-class as we had our own physical desk.

If you went right back to the entrance door, there was a receptionist you could specifically pay to 'represent you for the hour' and a set of very swish/generic meeting rooms you could pretend were yours to visitors.

Honestly as a programmer they have a name and reputation for providing nice offices that I can rely on. I recently agreed to take a job halfway around the world (interviewing via video chat), and when they asked if I had any questions about the office I was able to say "no, it's a WeWork and that's good enough for me". Surely that's got to be valuable to that tenant company.

> "no, it's a WeWork and that's good enough for me". Surely that's got to be valuable to that tenant company.

Probably, but that knife does cut both ways. I know a number of people (including myself) who wouldn't be willing to use a WeWork facility again.

Oh, interesting. Anything in particular I should be watching out for? (Though I've taken the job so I'm committed for now)

Well, it's not a matter of whether WeWork is good or bad, it's a matter of what you're comfortable with.

Among the people I know who dislike WeWork, there are two main things that they complain about: the surveillance, and the actual environment.

Is that Karat? We've got a few interviewers working out of WeWork offices.

> I like this way of thinking. WeWork isn't doing anything "new" - coworking spaces have existed for years. What's the upside of having a giant corporation owning all coworking spaces, versus having many small and independent small businesses running and operating independent coworking spaces? The answer to this question isn't obvious to me.

An advantage I see as a customer is that I can go to any WeWork across the country and get a desk/coffee/etc for the day. I can get that from a few other coworking places, but I don't think any have the number of locations that WeWork does.

I don't really see that use case. If you're in a different city, presumably, you're there to visit something physically located in that city. If not, why travel there? So during the day there's no need for an office. You'll be visiting the factory, client site, etc. that brought you there. For the rest of the time your hotel room comes with a desk and you can work there.

Sure, there's probably some need for temporary surge office space like a insurance company setting up after a disaster. But that seems a pretty small niche to build a billion dollar business on.

Yea - is "brand consistency" actually a good thing for coworking spaces? Different tenants require different aesthetics, and can targeted marketing from coworking spaces that match that aesthetic out-market the name recognition of WeWork?

And on-the-ground ops just require intuitive software to enforce standard operating procedures. The last two coworking spaces I've worked at both used different SaaS solutions for coworking-space management, with customer portals and all. I'm almost certain WeWork's edge has been commoditized.

WeWork already serves a big number of multi-location tenants (we are one) which I think will continue to grow and be the vast majority of of its businesses. Huge advantage.

The advantage is similar to that of a large gym chain - you can pay more to get a membership that's valid at all the WeWorks in the entire world. This is great for people who regularly travel between many large cities.

I suspect the majority of WeWork's revenue comes from people working in the same location day in, day out. Same with gym chains. People sign up for Planet Fitness because the nearest location is the most convenient, not because they plan to visit multiple locations over the course of a year (not to say there aren't people taking advantage of the multi-city aspect, just that they aren't the typical customer).

Ya, I can't imagine that is really a draw at all. If you travel a lot, you will have an office in your hotel room or can use the business center in the hotel.

It would be more impressive to meet a client at a WeWork office.

Not sure what industry you’re in but I don’t think most people’s clients think like that.

If you're travelling you're probably meeting the client at their office.

WeWork may soon be headed the way of Gym's business model which is to oversubscribe like crazy assuming not everyone will show up at the same time and many will not show up at all. When that happens, I wonder what happens to NPS. How many people will be a WeWork member (like their gym membership) but don't really need/want to use it?

The answer to that question is already answered by looking at existing coworking spaces. WeWork isn't doing anything different.

Existing coworking spaces already make lots of money off of people who don't fully utilize their membership (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). WeWork is no different.

I get your point and agree but I think gyms make money from people not being there at all. If every gym member showed up multiple times a week it would be like going to the gym the week after New Year's.

Another value of their large network, WeWork has relationships with large companies (like Amazon) to manage satellite offices across the country. Some of those are just a corner of a WeWork carved out, and some of those are entire floors of office buildings that WeWork handles administrative, custodial, and break room for.

I don’t know how much that impacts their profitability or value as a company, but it feels like a very cloud computing model of work space where you get what you need where you need it, so that you can have local employees in cities across the country to serve customers there.

Doesn't look like that large of a network, 280 locations.

In comparison Regus Virtual Offices has more than 2500 locations.

Amazon also uses Spaces, whatever relationship they might have with wework isn’t exclusive.

> - What's WeWork's secret sauce or first mover advantage?

Softbank $$$

> Softbank $$$

And that not so much anymore. All they had was a cannabilized version of Meetup.com for doing reservations.

> What's the benefit to a large corporation doing this instead of lots of small companies? (The economies of scale need to outweigh the large corporate overhead.)

Same answer in case of gyms. Your advertising overhead does not scale linearly as you grow. Once you build a brand. Customer acquisition costs go down. For moving workforces - entrepreneurs, sales, executives - it becomes more affordable to use one brand rather than plenty of smaller brands.

In addition to the advantages others listed, I think a big advantage of a large corporation is risk management. If you're a "small" company managing a handful of buildings, and something catastrophic happens to one of those buildings, that could threaten the company's existence. More so if those handful of buildings are in the same city, and all suffer from the same event (flood, hurricane, earthquake, etc.). A large company managing hundreds of buildings spread across the entire country would more likely be able to handle a one-building catastrophe.

I agree with your general point, but in the specific case of WeWork the benefit has to be tempered to a large degree by the fact that they are losing obscene amounts of money. They are definitely not running as a sustainable business right now and, while they might make it work long term, but I doubt many people will be shocked if WeWork doesn't exist in 5 years.

But that doesn’t prevent small companies to just take the risk. And by doing so, they are as efficient as WeWork and compete on the same level. What counts is the product and that is the same from the small and big company.

In fact small firms may be more efficient. If they make a bad bet on some real estate they fold while WeWork has to spread that cost to all of its users and keep on moving.

More efficient but less likely to exist next year is not a sustainable niche.

They only have to get a few bets right and ride that train for decades. Not everyone has venture capitalist investors.

> What's the benefit to a large corporation doing this instead of lots of small companies?

From what I understand, WeWork is structured as many small companies, so they can negotiate favorable terms with long-term leases on office space and the smaller company can fail without leaving WeWork on the hook for the rest of the lease.

Same reason I often eat at mcdonalds. Consistency. I know what I'm going to get.

I’m not sure exactly what the secret sauce is but it’s undeniable that WeWork has a large supply of it.

> There's clearly a ton of demand for what they provide.

There has always been, and will always be, demand for the ability to buy one dollar for 80 cents. This is not some newfangled business model. Amazingly, it keeps cropping up again and again.

Agreed. The Saudi's via Softbank will install an experienced CEO and they will start operating effectively. I was skeptical about the whole thing, as somebody who worked out of a Regus office about 10 years ago the idea was not novel at all. That said, I see the notion of on-demand capacity in the physical world very similar to what makes cloud computing work: pay for what you need when you need it. With an increasingly remote work world, on-demand space can be purchased or reserved by big companies and well-funded startups, allowing for project-based teams to collaborate in-person. I'm not super optimistic about their prospects, but their backers have the resources to ensure a return on their investment, and they are most likely to do so.

Corporate governance problems aside, they have major cash flow problems relative to debt obligations and are also losing money. One could argue the demand is there because the price is artificially low.

I mean, Groupon's still around too, but at ~10% of their IPO valuation. Is it possible WeWork will struggle along? Sure, although I have questions about what will happen with the $6bn of debt they declare in their S1.

But supposing they do, I see little reason to think they'll be a major player. I don't see anything stopping other rental companies from matching any innovations they've made. The same goes for major property owners. Some will stick with big chunks of space. But if there's a 30% premium for being flexible, providing desks, etc, the some of them will happily cut out the middleman.

If you don't include the economics of the business model in the evaluation, you could say exactly the same of Juiceroo. There's clearly significant demand for juice presses.

Not a valid comparison -- Juicero didn't really manage to sell its product, while many people and companies rent WeWork's space

Sure, but that's because the economics of the specific way that the business model doesn't make sense is different for the two - with Juicero, they attempted to screw over the end user, while with WeWork they were trying to screw over (public) investors.

Edit: or to borrow a popular saying - with WeWork, it's not the furnished rental office stuff that is the product, it's the IPO.

Right now, based on their own data, We is selling a dollar for 60 cents to their customers. With very flexible contracts. Of course many people and companies rent from them. Just see how long that lasts when We starts needing to get actual profit from them.

There is ton of demand for what they provide, but what they provide can easily be copied, and the copycats will not have a mountain of debt/investment caused by irrational drive for growth at any price that they need to pay back.

Right now, no-one is competing against We because they are selling a dollar at 60 cents to their customers. The second they stop doing that, there will be a dozen clones. We is worthless.

This is my thought. It's about real estate. If starbucks decided to go full throttle into this concept they would kill it. They've essentially been the unwritten king of co-workspace since they showed up.

Right now, no-one is competing against We

WHAT? there's quite healthy competition[1], which actually make money as opposed to We.

Granted, you don't get free beer and smarmy slogans. But competition is definitly on the market.

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

I agree, but will any management still be there if they're worth $2-5B rather than $40 billion?

Also, the strategy of segregating assets onto Adam's personal balance sheet looks like a bad idea now that he's no longer ceo.

Does putting assets onto Adam's balance sheet look like a bad idea for Adam, or for We? As with Enron, the way to understand the company's decision making is that in many particulars it was not trying to optimize its outcomes, it was trying to optimize the CEO's (and in Enron's case, the CFO's and maybe a couple others).

WeWork seems to have bought every single ad placement at some dc metro stops. Smacks of desperation.

That is interesting. Were you around in the dotcom days?

what are the other companies you'll never work for?

Hijacking this spot to highlight newrelic as a company I used to evangelize and now will go out of my way to recommend against (I consult startups as a virtual CTO). They used to have a brilliant offering (Application level monitoring with all associated hosts included) then they deprecated the host monitoring and jacked the price up on every one of my clients while simultaneously threatening them to collect based on the new plans. Every month was a new account rep reaching out to introduce themselves. My love affair ended when a message to the CMO resulted in them forcing the account into free tier without so much as a reply - basically what I'd expect from someone who designed such an org. Moved all the remaining clients off of it (5 digit MRR) to datadog and didn't look back. Later worked with a former engineer and he attested it was a shit show after they set their sights on an IPO. They had really really strong tech and product culture up until then.

Was kind of a death rattle for me and sure enough after they IPOd they really did nothing.

Still makes me angry when I think of it cause it was such a kick-ass product.

We need an HN thread that highlights companies to never work for and why, like this example. Thank you sir.

Sounds like good fodder for an Ask HN.

> newrelic

Seems they're trading at 2x their IPO, and they were at 3x a few months ago... Did something happen in 2018 that made them huge for a bit? or was it just the rest of the world discovering cloud?

Ah, brings back memories. We used NewRelic at Jux circa 2012ish onward. We were happy with it at the time. What year did this all happen?


Please contact me at the email in my profile. I may have a work opportunity for you in the New Year.

There doesn't appear to be one on your profile.

dan.eloff @ popular google email service

Facebook is one, and a week doesn't go by without me being contacted by one of their recruiters touting their advancements in poker playing AI. Whoopee.

The funniest part is when they reach out almost immediately after eliminating a candidate, for the same job. Like their recruiters aren't even coordinated. I'm sure they farm some of that out.

You’re gloating but the pnd already succeeded to the tune of $700+ million.

> a recruiter working very hard to convince me I'd be rich when they IPO

When a recruiter makes that argument to me, I consider it a huge red flag all by itself, and am much less interested in working there.

Particularly when a company is only months away from an IPO. How much equity could you actually expect?

Hackernews is skeptical of many things though, sometimes hard to filter through the noise.

I find in tech, being skeptical by default is usually a good thing - perhaps not if you're an entrepreneur, but certainly if you're a developer or engineer.

> perhaps not if you're an entrepreneur

It's an essential thing if you want to be a successful entrepreneur -- as long as you don't confuse skepticism with cynicism. Skepticism and optimism make a powerful combination.

Or an investor. It is interesting how often investors goals accidentally line up with early employees.

How so?

Because both end up eventual minority shareholders in the same company. The difference of course being one of magnitude and that the investors are likely more diversified.

The key is to look at evidence. Ignore drive by commenters who make a negative post with nothing to back it up.

Theranos and WeWork are two great examples of companies hated by HN because there's evidence supporting negative opinions.

It's interesting, a while back I searched early HN comments about Theranos' announcement and they were mostly glowing and positive.

Edit: here's the thread - not 100% positive but close: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6349349

What are some examples where HN is too skeptical? I find that it's a good filter to view "news"

The famous Dropbox comment?

HN is overly skeptical of startups that take something possible and simplify the UX. Although I can't think of a recent example.

What was the famous Dropbox comment? I'm out of the loop. Thx.


basically someone belittling Dropbox before it went on to be worth billions.

Going by the general sentiment in that thread, I'm sure there are better examples. There are a few people saying how or why they thought Dropbox wouldn't work, but overall the reception is very positive. By contrast, any mention of WeWork here causes an instant pile-on of quite impressive vehemence.

There are always going to be isolated nay-sayers for whatever reasons. When you get a near-consensus on HN that something's a PoS that's something that's worth bearing in mind.

Articles warning against buying bitcoins were highly upvoted for years, and bitcoin costs several thousand dollars now.

I was mining bitcoin in 2011. It was stupid then and stupid now. Sometimes a lotto ticket hits.

Did you ever end up managing to hold to any?


If anything, HN is not skeptical enough about THAT.

Agreed! It has been coming around in recent years, surely helped by the fact that "blockchain for X" has never panned out. But it has taken a painfully long time.

It's be dumb not to be with the amount of crap, optimism, and snake oil shoveled at us

Hacker News helped me decide to never work for WeWork by prominently featuring this[1] article on the front page

[1] https://time.com/5338287/wework-meat-vegetarian-company-envi...

That's actually a good thing. Meat is bad for the environment, your health, and it goes without saying - the animals.

You're being ridiculous. We're literally evolved to eat meat.

_Excess_ is bad for your health (such as drinking 1 liter of vegan olive oil).

There are plenty of cultures around the world who have been surviving on a plant-based diet for centuries. Saying we’re “evolved to eat” anything is what is ridiculous.

Just because you _can_ survive without eating meat doesn't prove what I was disputing: (“Meat is bad for [...] health”). I can survive without carrots, but it doesn't mean they're bad for my health.

I also dodged this bullet two months ago. They were hiring like crazy in Seattle. Thanks HN!

Insane. This story is number one on hn for me and right below it in number two is https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21062231

> WeWork, Bankers Have Discussed Laying Off One-Third of Workforce (theinformation.com)

If you, the reader, have an offer from WeWork, I suggest you ask for a bigger paycheck (like real money, not funny money) for all this uncertainty.

At this point there is a non-zero and growing chance the company collapses completely. They have no plans or research or any other projects that are expected to make money, ever, and nobody seems interested in another round of fundraising.

They will likely try to force the IPO through anyway at some sub $5B valuation, but even then it seems like they may not generate much interest after that cuckooville S1.

Some of their financing demands they IPO this year I think. Could have misread something though.

Good people at Weave, awesome it's working out!

> I'm so glad I read hacker news. I almost took a job at WeWork just 2 months ago with a recruiter working very hard to convince me I'd be rich when they IPO.

Did a 2-month old HN comment foretell WeWork imploding which informed your decision to decline their offer, or reading HN in general helped you determine that their offer would be close to worthless, compared to your options at that time?

I edited to clarify. I was skeptical of WeWork because hacker news has been skeptical of them for quite a long time.

Nice, we work in the same building. Can you smuggle me some cereal? ;)

Edit: I'm on the 5th floor, feel free to come party

My company has about half a floor in a WeWork, and we're planning on moving out in the next year. I've been wondering if we'll be forced to move a bit sooner if WeWork fails

> I almost took a job at WeWork just 2 months ago with a recruiter working very hard to convince me I'd be rich when they IPO.

Independently of what you read here, you saw right through this as total bullshit, right?


Not sure why you're being downvoted. It's a good question. Yeah I saw through it. I've seen too many people screwed out of their options to put any stock in it (heh).

Funny enough, my current company seems to have pretty good odds at making me a good chunk of change from my options, but I didn't even know I got options until after I accepted the offer.

Many companies flaunt it and give a weak offer accordingly. That's a pretty big red flag for me.

As a recruiter, there's an interesting relationship, whereby people use funding raised as a positive metric (oh yes, they raised $200m, this must be a good company!)

Even though the less they have raised, the more valuable your equity is likely to be. It's fascinating to watch.

I always read the "We raised $x million dollars" as "we're not going bankrupt this year, so we can pay your salary." You're right about raising less means you get in earlier, which means you should have more return.

For a startup, raising less money, and a new employee getting more equity, also generally means the position has more risk. So the reaction you see is not necessarily irrational.

Hey, do you have any mail to contact you? I'm thinking about applying to that company. Thanks :)

Is it weave the kubernetes cni? That does seem like a fun place to work.

We 'ave. That's what WeWork wanted to be after the IPO.

> a recruiter working very hard to convince me I'd be rich when they IPO

Is that even legal?

Why not? Doesn't everybody know not to believe recruiters or car sales people?

what doe WeAve do?

I must say, I am jealous. It seems a bit unfair to me how computer engineers are getting hired and paid so well, while my economics degree is useless and I have to fight like crazy to get a job that pays WAY less than engineers get. Honestly, I studied economics because I wanted a job that pays well - that was one of the key criteria - and now I am standing with little money and a job I hate. It sucks.

I was an dropout studying Economics who made the transition into data science / data analysis fairly smoothly. I'd recommend doing so. Many programmers are jealous of quantitative analysts' salaries inside tech companies.

EDIT: I guess I should add I really did not care for the work and stopped after 2-3 years to start my own company. I do a lot of the same work today, but as the Founder, I obviously control the company and my workload.

I think it's worth noting that there's a lot more to it than just the money. Sure, data scientists make more than I do as an engineer, but I would feel absolutely fucking miserable doing the job of a data scientist every day.

In fact, I was :) Check my bio.

But if the OP is really distraught about making money in tech, they will find their economics background of use.

Reminds me of a controversy at my University. They were advertising a new English professor position, starting salary $37k. They also had an opening for an economics professor position starting salary $85k.

My economics professor addressed the reason for the difference in class very simply. He noted there were over 350 applicants for the English prof position. Only 3 people applied for the economics position.

So if anything, $37k was too high for English and $85k was not nearly enough for econ.

I'm a software engineer and I wrestled with this for a long time too. It seemed bizarre that we should be getting paid what we do and I had an intense experience of being an imposter. Eventually it clicked with me that the work I'm doing directly affects millions of people on a daily basis, or it affects a smaller number of people in a big way that's unique and hard to reproduce. Viewed from that angle, it makes a lot more sense I think.

That's a nice justification. But it doesn't really have much affect on your salary. It's simply that there is a lot of demand for software engineers of a certain skill level and not a ton of supply.

The moment your same exact job can be replaced by a worker willing to do it for less is the moment salaries start to fall.

What originally led you to believe that an economics degree would result in well-paying jobs?

Seems ironic to me that the study of wealth production, consumption, and transfer wouldn't lead to making money.

Doesn't seem ironic to me. It's easier to be the play by play guy/sports analyst than to get into the field/cage/arena/whatever and make something happen.

If economists actually understood the economy, they wouldn’t be economists, they’d be billionaires.

I have a degree in Econ and its worked out wonderfully. It's really YMMV

Your not the only one. MBA majors have it just as hard if not harder.

For the majority of professional jobs out there, there's a vast oversupply of labor, and thus the unemployment rate for professionals is much higher than the overall unemployment rate would suggest.

Software engineering is one of the few areas where there some semblance of balance between supply and demand. But, this too will eventually go away. There's nothing that's stopping the supply of Software engineers from growing. Indeed, the Stack overflow surveys suggest there's a huge wave of junior SEs joining the industry. I predict in 15 years, SEs will be in such high oversupply that they will no longer have an advantage in the market place.

I understand and support your frustration, but what exactly makes it unfair? The two have little in common. Computer engineers aren't taking your jobs.

A feel-good piece at best, misleading at worst.

I pretty much agree but there is this line "By age 40, the average salary of all male college graduates was $111,870, and social science and history majors earned $131,154 — an average that is lifted, in part, by high-paying jobs in management, business and law." So the GP's prospects are probably better than they look to them right now.

If you really set your mind to it (and you've got the right capabilities), you should still be able to roll into a software engineering job. There's plenty of online resources available to teach yourself software development. There are plenty of companies willing to take on junior developers. Build up a small portfolio of software on Github for potential employers to see and you should be able to get a start as software developer.

Of course you likely won't have great pay from the start, but keep doing work for a few years and keep improving your skills and you should be fine.

I've been very fortunate to grow up in Seattle, one of the fastest growing cities in the US.

My friends have geology and psychology degrees working in technology companies making $130 - $180k/year as non-developers.

Geology? What does that person do in a tech company?

Business development, it turns out a degree isn't very important in succeeding in a technology company.

Why be jealous when you could just learn software engineering? I also majored in econ, and now work as a sort of hybrid SDE/Data scientist. I mean it's not easy to learn, but it's better than being bitter.

my degree is in economics and 8 years ago I taught myself iOS Engineering and since then I've been a professional software engineer.

Don't let your degree stop you from doing what you want, the resources are all there.

My degree is in Econ and I work as a software engineer.

> I studied economics because I wanted a job that pays well

How did you ever make that connection? Have economists ever been paid well?

Why do you think it seems a bit unfair?

I too studied economics. My company has benefited from that knowledge gained

Check out Lambda School

Unfair? There is no unfair in the real world. You made a bad investment and are now reaping the results of your poor judgement. It’s perfectly fair. You want to make money? Stop blaming the world for not giving you what you want and learn how to give the world what it wants. Computer engineers are paid well because they develop systems that can turn $1 into $2. You could learn a lot from that.

I had concerns earlier this year when I interviewed at WeWork—which was the worst interview experience I’ve ever had. I applied for a data science role. The first two hours of the on-site were painful—they seemed to be asking questions tailored to be outside my experience. The third interviewer came into the room and said, “I, uh, just looked at your resume and I have to ask, why do you want to be a backend engineer?” :facepalm: I showed him my application for a DS role, so he left and came back with a DS guy who made up an interview on the spot. I (fortunately?) didn’t get a call back.

Haha, I had an interview many years ago in Australia, was a full 2 hour technical interview in MS technologies. Nailed all the C#/.NET/SQL Server questions. Nailed everything they threw at me. I felt really proud of myself because I thought I was doing very well.

After they were done with me I started asking questions. I asked what they would have me doing?

"Oh the back-end system & api is done by a different team, you would just be doing the HTML/CSS for the front-end team"

I was furious when I left...

WeWork is basically a real estate company. Why would they need a data science engineer?

Real estate is a data play: figuring out which locations are going to be valuable. McDonalds famously does tons of research on locations, so much so that "be mcdonalds-adjacent" is an acceptable strategy.

I'm not entirely sure what a data science engineer does, but somewhere between "making it easier for the DS team to find what they need to find" and "figuring out where we should buy/lease next".

Burger King's strategy for the longest time used to be 'just build across the street from McDonald's'

Sounds smart, let maccers do the research.

From what I heard they were doing some notable data engineering - leveraging 4square data to decide where to put locations based on optimisation algorithms, profiling potential lessees based on known good ones, optimizing workspace layout based on camera and keyfob data, lease price elasticity tests... Lots of interesting domains. Sadly I'm sure this was/is one of the first departments to get downsided post backdown.

Data science is one of the few areas where WeWork may achieve an economy of scale - your local coworking operator won't be able to have that in house, and their ops system SaaS provider probably doesn't have the margins to invest heavily in it. If they're this messy at it though, that's not a good sign...

Except the local operator will have a more intimate understanding of area dynamics than data science can provide.

Precisely - Real estate boils down to financial operations on assets that have a number of factors and signals that go into predicting market prices. This also includes demand for commercial space.

There's been a meme for decades that McDonalds is really a real estate company that sells burgers on the side.

Ray Kroc actually said this. It's not just a meme; it's canon.

Engineer? Harder to say. Data scientist--that's easy. Stackbucks is very good at looking at demographic data and recognizing where future demand will be new new locations. They basically mark gentrification.

I used to work with a guy whose wife worked for Starbucks. He explained that they'll do seemingly crazy shit, like put stores across the street from each other, that makes sense when you look at the data. The store on one side of the street picks up traffic from point A to point B, while the other one gets point C to point D, optimizing for not making their customers walk across the street.

I think of it as similar to how UPS rigs their routes to avoid left turns.

Starbucks has a long list of failed stores. They aren't that good at picking locations. They just saturate and keep what doesn't lose money.

Do you work in commercial real estate? My father does, and would pick them and Walgreens as the most effective scaled siting operations in the US.

Optimizing for absence of failed stores would be an interesting utility function for them to have, but since they own substantially all of the stores (and therefore don't have franchisee relationships to consider, where volatility for a partner might impact you disproportionately to economic loss), that would be a suboptimal utility function. They should calibrate their risk appetite to maximize profits; occasional failed stores are just a search cost.

I've seen a Walgreens that was closed in less than a year because of poor location despite being across the street from a Rite-Aid. They aren't perfect either.

Walgreens will happily close a location and move it across the street to take advantage of a more advantageously shaped curb cut if they can't get the Illinois Department of Transit planner to approve the optimal curb cut from their current location. This is because they have extreme confidence in their ability to assess the business impact of curb cuts.

A market commenter who believes that Google is not one of the most sophisticated engineering organizations in the world is wrong. If you believe Walgreens is not one of the most sophisticated commercial real estate operations that exist, I would encourage you to talk to people who understand real estate as well as you understand Google and recalibrate based on what they tell you.

I know of Walgreens locations that have been profitable for 50 years or more.

MacDonalds is similar. If they have a franchise that is doing badly, they will pay to move the franchise to a new location. A suburban McD closing is rare, usually only the oldest ones on lots that are too small for contemporary usage patterns.

Chipotle's former CEO (and I believe founder) often mentions that Chipotle's time under McD's ownership hammered home that the single most important element of the company's success was excellence in real estate. It's also why getting a McDonald's franchise is generally very expensive - they'll give you as de-risked a location as possible and a proven operational playbook. It's not easy to run a franchise at all (you have to be available on days your manager calls in sick, deal with vendors, inventory, etc), but you don't need to figure out the business model at all.

McD requires franchise holders to be involved in day to day operation, and the investment is quite large, well north of 1 million.

The point is that failed stores is not a good metric to optimize for.

You can have 0 failed stores if you open 0 stores. A successful operation will inevitably have failed stores. Having a long list of failed stores doesn't mean anything in of itself. You have to look at the rate of failed stores vs successful stores among other metrics.

It's not that useful to say they aren't perfect. The better measure would be how they compare to other stores, and/or how their own churn rate has changed over time.

This also misses the point. The point was that optimizing for number of stores closed is the wrong metric to begin with. Who cares how they rank on a metric that doesn't matter?

The original point wasn't that # of stores closed is an optimization problem, but that it was a valid way to judge the abilities of the people making the decisions.

And the counterpoint is the number of closed stores is not a good metric to judge the people making these decisions. In fact, judging the number of closed stores may well be the entirely wrong metric to judge them by.

Historically Starbucks has been used as a market indicator for other companies' expansion. If a starbucks opened in a location then it was assumed that there were growth factors at play in the market since that was the north star for Starbucks.

Starbucks in 2019 is the McDonald's of coffee shops, so it's not the same, but if you track their Starbucks Reserve locations you'll find the same predictions being used.

The NYC Starbucks Reserve location is certainly in a hot spot, right next to the Google offices and Chelsea Market.

How else would they be able to determine that people like to drink coffee in the morning?


I mean, that's not what the writing said at all. The data said that the line for coffee was too long, so they hired a barista to help out with the line.

I think the tweet is really pointing out that offices all over the world have managed and figured those things out without building out a complex sensor network and platform for 50 years.

I’m exaggerating for comedic effect.

I had a remarkably intense series of frontend... ish interviews for a really difficult to define project. As in, I was working very hard in the little 5 minute slices of time I got for "do you have any questions" figuring out just wtf the job was and what the team was doing, and nobody could really explain it.

It was some sort of "connectivity and identification team" working to identify people/customers/tenants/whatever. Something like, you'd walk in, and WeWork would know it was you, and like, turn your office lights on or some shit. It was going to start off with keycards and I remember someone talking about bluetooth or wifi recognizing your phone, eventually doing face recognition.

I couldn't figure out the point. A HUGE team. The questions I was being asked were wild system design questions and android app stuff (what? I'm frontend lol). All so that people's desks would be at a certain height or whatever when they came in the room.

"WeWork used [a sensor network that tracked everyone throughout the building combined with machine learning] to learn that people drink coffee in the morning so they should hire a barista."

Source: https://twitter.com/modestproposal1/status/10855834347880202...

Sounds like a reasonable use of tens of millions of dollars of VC money.

Not a fan of WeWork, but there actually is something to this. We have two coffee makers in the break room at work, and there's always a line. If they brought in a barista who could work the machines, it's theoretically possible that you'd get better efficiency as there wouldn't be the dance of "who is next in line" or "sorry, gotta block the machine while I get sugar" or "I just want some hot water". I'd love to be able to point building management at some data that says that a barista costs $100/hour for 2 hours, but having them would unlock $1000/hour in lost productivity.

Tell your WeWork employed office manager (there is one in every office right?) to look at the line every morning when they're getting their coffee for two weeks. If the line is too long buy another 2 or 3 espresso machines, or supplement them with a few keurigs.

I just saved you $20M per year in sensors, IoT platform subscription, and data scientist salaries for an investment of $5k. Pretty insane how much money is wasted on dumb BS just because there's so much money to waste and it's a trendy way to waste money

Or more likely they wanted an innocuous reason to track all their office users at all times for other reasons

But I’ve never actually seen a barista in any of the WeWork’s I’ve used (including the one which doubles as their HQ).

They were trying to find more secret sauce that's less expensive / more cheaply scalable than the Kombucha.

Data allows people to make more informed decisions. You don’t need to be a tech company to benefit from a data science department.

You do need data, though. And if you don't have a lot of customers, or a lot of skus, or a lot of transactions -- you probably don't have a lot of data.

I assume we work spends tens of millions on marketing that could benefit from optimizations through data science.

From what I understand they wanted to instrument their offices (with cameras, microphones, thermometers, etc.) to collect data on the occupants ostensibly because they’re trying to be a tech company. Felt Orwellian, but it sounded interesting enough to at least hear them out.

Not that it's novel — there are corporations specialized in tools to monitor employee activity — but there's no bamboozling in that claim: monitoring nearly every activity, no matter how intrusive, is what almost software and hardware does now.

On the one hand it seems like a new level of creepy. On another level, it's kind of funny to have tech companies be the ones getting spied on.

At my old company (energy company), they've now installed sensors at every desk - to track whether or not someone is sitting at the desk, and their activity level.

I never felt it was so black and white as people make it which is part of WeWork's problem.

WeWork's long game and eventual income is Real Estate, but their short game, their bread and butter, their brand, and their marketing is and always has been services and transactions. They compete much closer to a Starbucks than a Real Estate company but it's like neither side quite got it. (esp considering the CEO was a scam artist abusing the Real Estate side of the business while misdirecting everyone towards services)

WeWork is (to most) a company whose focus was on people and atmosphere, and on service. I would argue that they are MUCH closer to a hospitality chain like Marriott than a Real Estate firm or a tech co.

Yes hospitality and they're pretty good at it as far as I cam tell.

> WeWork is basically a real estate company. Why would they need a data science engineer?

data science is a tech agnostic role. Wework might want to play with various data models for predictive modeling.

My guess is to model the supply of available real estate and demand for scalable office space and then optimize their leases accordingly.

it's more about facilities management. Collecting data about who (and how many) go in and out the doors, who's where when to optimize things like heating or air conditioning, meeting room occupancy etc... I have a friend working on their data platform and the concept is pretty cool, I can see if I was managing an office I would want that data but the rest of the business is just awful.

All dumb money needs some smart titles to keep attracting more dumb money

to be fair "data scientist" means different things to different companies, and for some may be just synonymous with "business analyst" but sounds cooler

It also helps with the evaluation. Looks good on a pitch to investors.

The same reason a real estate company needs data science. To find correlations that no human can find given their vast stores of data for co-workers.

Real estate companies also need data science since they heavily rely on data for making decisions.

Are you kidding? Is there any industry that can not be helped by data science?

Why do taxi companies like Lyft and Uber need so many engineers? And why have they been utterly helpless to improve rider experience?

Because they are cosplaying as a tech company.

I guess that's how you get those SoftBank billions.

Only thing missing is a plan to get as much of these billions out of the company into your own pocket then, I guess. Not that stupid from a purely self-serving perspective. Ignores every aspect of corporate governance and business ethics, so. Not that SoftBank seems to care if they can get an IPO.

The email I received after applying for a job many months ago:

“Thanks so much for taking the time and interest in applying to WeWork Global Technology. Your application has been received and we will review it as soon as possible.

Once we've had a chance to review we'll be in touch on possible next steps, thanks again for the time!

Regards, WeWork Global Technology”

I had a similar experience a month or so back with a large consulting firm I was interviewing for in the DC area. It was also a data science role and they kept asking me webdev questions. In this case they knew it was for a data science role but I could also tell the guy hadn't a clue about most machine learning and data science topics. He was probably just as uncomfortable as I was. I didn't take the job.

A friend interviewed there and they dismissed him as overqualified for DS.

Well, corporate governance was one of the main factors why the market refused to accept anything close to their last private valuation, so this makes sense. Note that they desperately need the public money before the end of December in order to avoid running out of cash [0].

My bet is that they will now try to remarket We as a shareholder-controlled company, will maybe even eliminate the multi-class stock structure in order to get included into the passive funds. I am still not sure they will ever become profitable through. The only way to disrupt the incumbents in an established market like this one would be to spot a new opportunity in the market and capitalize on it faster than the slow 30-year-old companies like Regus. Except the only market opportunity We has successfully exploited by now are the desperate investors ready to shove billions in your hands if you pretend to be a cool techy thing they don't fully understand.

[0] https://www.reuters.com/article/wework-loan/clock-ticking-do...

There was an article yesterday where Softbank was saying that they think they can renegotiate those LOCs to go forward even if there is no IPO this year. They might end up being a lot smaller and have worse terms for We though. I wouldn't be surprised if pushing Adam out was the first demand the banks made in that renegotiation.

Softbank wants to delay the IPO now because it would mean a massive writedown of their investment value.

I think it is clear they have to write it down anyway in any reasonable accounting.

Adam seems to be the scapegoat, somewhat justified of course, but the bigger problem of this company being an obvious scam with no way to make money has not been addressed.

I just don't see them wrestling control away from the deranged, cult leader. He truly believes he is destined to be president of the world and revolutionize.. well every thing. There best bet would be to drop the multi-class structure to get into passive funds.

It needs $8.1b market cap to get into S&P500.

>He truly believes he is destined to be president of the world and revolutionize.

I am not sure. He has been pretty methodical in siphoning the money out of the company (privately leasing the real estate to We, charging them for the trademark, etc), so he probably knows very well what he is doing.

Somehow, if you act this way, investors will perceive you as a charismatic and energetic leader and buy in even if your business model doesn't make much sense. IIRC, similar happened to Juicero, albeit on a much smaller scale: countless talks about expanding consciousness, changing the world, raw water bollocks, a completely unsustainable business model and questionable transactions to some external consultants.

It also needs to be ebita profitable for 8 quarters in a row before its added to the index IIRC

I think it's most recent quarter + 4 previous. I'm also fairly certain it's selected by committee. I'm no finance expert, hence the securities fraud conviction. I don't really know which index it could get into with a high amount of passive investment.

Is this part of the business model of these large, unprofitable VC-backed companies? Build a valuation to meet the 8.1bn threshold, then sell the shares to passive investors in S&P 500 index funds?

No. The S&P 500 is selected by committe. And it's 6.1bn, not 8.1bn. Mabye that's the plan for the Russell 3000, though.

But it doesn't really matter except when the stock gets added to the index. The index funds and ETFs are going to rebalance their positions based on market cap and will not affect the price. These funds could affect the volatility though, since it's conceivable that with a lot of the shares locked up, these stocks are going to be more thinly traded than they would have otherwise been. This could create price instability, though I'm not sure there's any proof that it's true.

Not true. [0]

>...Unadjusted company market capitalizations of US$8.2 billion or more for the S&P 500..... are required.

[0] https://us.spindices.com/documents/methodologies/methodology...

Hmm. I guess it just changed this year. My bad!

I saw $6.1b first as a Google given answer. It said different on Wikipedia so I investigated the source. I knew my high school teachers were wrong about Wikipedia!

> But it doesn't really matter except when the stock gets added to the index

It does matter when there are inflows, if there is new money coming into index funds all the stocks in the index benefit (they funds also sell all the stocks in the index when there are outflows). Non-indexed stock are less coupled to flows in and out of trackers.

And for VC's to build a story and evaluation interesting enough for SoftBank to buy in? Because it sometimes seems like it...

Corporate governance was definitely a factor, but getting cut down from $47B to $10-15B is... a lot. Public market investors clearly have a much worse opinion of We's fundamentals than SoftBank did.

You are presuming that SOftBank believed in the fundamentals, and not in the proposition that if you carefully stage a series of cash injections at increasing valuations, the charismatic founder's PR halo will impart a shine onto the company's shares.

In which case, the major failing of We was that it did not go public fast enough. I wonder if we'll see this translate into time pressure for future startups to go public a little earlier before the bloom is off the rose.

I don't think speed would help. If Softbank were the only people putting in the last few rounds, that suggests that nobody else wanted to invest in this business with this governance.

People already knew what kind of business WeWork was. Sure, they were getting press, but when actual institutional investors looked at it, they must not have liked what they saw.

That has been going on for the last few rounds, so I suspect that they couldn't have gone public then, either. Nobody was buying what they were selling, except Softbank. And once the S-1 dropped, the press and social media saw all the red flags together in one document.

Those red flags would have been just the same if they'd gone public earlier.

Uber's lackluster IPO factored in to the decision. An IPO by We before Uber means there's less data on how much investors value a brand.

> if you carefully stage a series of cash injections at increasing valuations, the charismatic founder's PR halo will impart a shine onto the company's shares.

Can you give some examples where this has worked in the past?

I'm not claiming it ever worked, what I actually wrote was that perhaps Softbank believed in the proposition that it could work.

The alternatives are either that Softbank believed in WeWork's fundamentals, which honestly feels unlikely, or to believe that they went in early, then discovered that nobody else would invest, so they kept putting more of their own money in to avoid closing the business and taking a write-down.

Yeah - these institutional investors have a lot riding on "the market was responding to weworks governance structure" and I don't think that is really representative of the facts.

I mean, it likely doesn't hurt anything. I'm sure the underwriters (JPM etc.) have spoken to their institutional clients and no one has said "getting rid of Adam will make my valuation go down."

So you get rid of Adam (and his supermajority voting rights) have some quiet conversations about how people value the company now. Then you decide if you're willing to take whatever haircut the market is offering from the last private round.

If We is to be believed the other option is to halt all expansion. They claim that mature locations are cash flow positive. If that's true then you don't necessarily need to take a haircut, you just stop expanding, prove to the market that you actually do have a business, and then either start siphoning off the cash or try to IPO again.

> corporate governance was one of the main factors why the market refused to accept anything close to their last private valuation

That’s not at all clear.

> slow 30-year-old companies like Regus

Unless I am completely misunderstanding the value of WeWork, this ship seems to have already sailed. At least locally, Regus has offerings that are substantially the same in price and features to what WeWork has.

Also, smaller, regional real estate companies are doing this (generic co-working spaces) with empty office space, often on the ground floor. I visited a startup at one such location and was impressed with it. It's a strategy to capitalize on unused assets.

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