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Andreessen Horowitz backs the WeWork co-founder’s real estate venture

Adam Neumann has attracted his biggest outside investment since January 2019, when Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank put a $47 billion valuation on WeWork, the office space company he co-founded that is now valued at $4 billion.

Andreessen Horowitz, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm, said Monday it had backed Flow, the residential real estate company Neumann has built since a failed attempt to take WeWork public prompted his resignation as CEO.

A person familiar with the matter said Andreessen Horowitz had invested $350 million at a value of about $1[ads1] billion. In May, it invested an undisclosed sum in Flowcarbon, another Neumann-backed company that is trying to make carbon credit markets more transparent using blockchain technology.

In a blog post, co-founder Marc Andreessen hailed Neumann as “a visionary leader who revolutionized the second largest asset class in the world – commercial real estate” and stood to shake up residential real estate, the only major asset class.

“Only one person has fundamentally redesigned the office experience and led a paradigm-shifting global company in the process: Adam Neumann,” he said.

In a nod to past controversies, Andreessen added, “We love to see repeat founders build on past successes by growing from their experiences. For Adam, the successes and lessons learned are many.”

Neumann, who left WeWork as a billionaire, has revealed few details about Flow’s plans: the website only includes the words “live life in flow” and “coming 2023”. A spokesman for Neumann declined to comment.

But in an interview with the Financial Times in March, he said he was taking advantage of housing supply and affordability crises that were forcing more young Americans to rent rather than buy.

He saw “tremendous opportunities” to provide a greater sense of community in multifamily housing, he said at the time, targeting cities like Austin, Miami and Nashville, which combine growing populations of young people with job growth, cultural attractions and good weather.

Andreessen, an early backer of Facebook and Airbnb, gave few details on how Flow would work, but said it would involve “rethinking the entire value chain, from the way buildings are bought and owned to the way residents interact with their buildings to the way value is distributed between stakeholders”.

After leaving WeWork, Neumann began buying affordable rental apartments for hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We started by buying this property, but then I started walking around the buildings, just feeling, and it felt like there’s so much more that can be done to make these tenants’ lives better,” he told the FT in March .

Neumann had ventured into residential real estate with the launch of WeLive, but managed to open only two of his shared apartment buildings before leaving WeWork.

Last October, his family office led a $42 million fundraiser for Alfred, which offers tenants services ranging from collecting dry cleaning to booking community yoga sessions.

However, Marcela Sapone, Alfred’s chief executive, said Flow would not use the company’s “resident experience” product. “This is the Alfred model, but he wants to focus on his buildings,” she said. “He thinks this is going to be good for both of us.”

Andreessen attracted a lot of attention early in the coronavirus pandemic with a call to Silicon Valley to spend more of its money on creating physical assets.

His essay attacked a “smug complacency” that he said had led to underinvestment in manufacturing and construction of all kinds, leading, among other things, to “insanely skyrocketing housing prices in places like San Francisco, making it nearly impossible for ordinary people to move in and take the jobs of the future.”

Earlier this year, however, Andreessen and his wife, philanthropist Laura Arrillaga Andreessen, attacked a proposal to change zoning rules in Atherton, California, the affluent Silicon Valley town where they live, to allow the construction of multifamily housing, according to The Atlantic. The regulatory proposal was dropped in July.

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