Adam Neumann, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home (eight of them, actually) and a happy (if slightly hyperactive) disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived forty years in the world with very little to distress or vex him.
In the summer of 2019, he was presiding over the most valuable startup in America: WeWork. To the cynical, it was a glorified desk rental company. To Adam, it was the company that would “elevate the world’s consciousness,” broker Middle East peace, build offices on Mars (presumably with the staple WeWork perks: ping pong, cold brew, free beer), and turn Adam into history’s first trillionaire. But then the searing sun of reality melted the wax that held his wings together, and he plummeted to earth, the value of his company going up in smoke behind him, like a contrail.
The story of Adam’s spectacular rise and calamitous fall is the subject of a new book called “The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion.” It was written by two Wall Street Journal reporters, Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell. Their real-time coverage of Adam’s erratic behavior and flagrant self-dealing helped to hasten his demise. In this episode, they speak with Mike Isaac, author of “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber,” about hubris, greed, tech culture, and bad judgment.