When WeWork came into existence nine years ago, it came as a new idea – a company that would retrofit empty office and attic space for startup contractors, all of whom work in isolation. For several hundred dollars a month, tenants – "members" of the WeWork argot – would not get just a place to work; they would buy the camaraderie in conventional office life.
However, the model was problematic from the beginning. First, most start-ups fail. And freelance writers, graphic artists, videographers and so on who were logical WeWork clients saw their livelihoods decimated by technology.
In smaller towns, a real estate developer who had been trying to buy a building occupied by WeWork told bankers were skeptical of drawing the purchases precisely because of this apparent volatility.
I.B.M., Which has an entire WeWork building in New York, has had its own corporate culture for 108 years.
What created so much excitement at WeWork in the beginning was that it offered the appearance of security at a time when the median length of an employer's job in this country had fallen to about four years, down from 10 years in 1980 -the number.
It was certainly less stressful if you worked to accomplish your vision in the same place every day, instead of dragging your laptop to Starbucks on Tuesday, holding meetings in Grandma's half-empty apartment on Thursday. You want to see people just like you; You will feel part of something bigger. The cosiness, the fruit water, the comfortable furniture would dampen the feeling of uncertainty and risk.
From the beginning of his career as an entrepreneur, Mr. Neumann looked at the culture and saw anxiety in the foreground. Before WeWork, he had a company called Krawlers that made baby pants with knee pads, because the world was full of painful obstacles, right? That company did not end up dominating the toddler equipment room as he hoped. If WeWork terminates the layoffs of thousands of employees and goes into bankruptcy, as some analysts speculate, it could be because the delusion is finally dry.