News

How WeWork collapsed under false valuation

October 16, 2019

October 16, 2019

Share this post:

How WeWork collapsed under false valuation

When WeWork launched, it was the antidote to the supposed poison of the open plan working era. WeWork is a coworking space made fancy. You know the kind: various concoctions running on tap, Instagrammable interior design, and the feeling that your favourite celebrity could walk through the door at any minute.

When WeWork launched, it was the antidote to the supposed poison of the open plan working era. WeWork is a coworking space made fancy. You know the kind: various concoctions running on tap, Instagrammable interior design, and the feeling that your favourite celebrity could walk through the door at any minute.

At the start, WeWork launched into the stratosphere, and it opened hundreds of coworking spaces across the world and to this day has a good track record with its workers. Glassdoor reviews indicate happy and loyal employees who praised it for its coolness and many perks. Maybe this was why investors were prepared to overlook some of the traditional red flags – such as its $1.8 billion deficit in 2018.

Earlier in 2019, WeWork was said to be worth $47 billion at its pre-IPO valuation. That is, until September 30 when it collapsed under its own weight.

After some dodgy inside dealings and not-so-objective valuations came to light, WeWork was forced to withdraw from the IPO process.

According to Reuters, WeWork is now worth about $10 billion, a quarter of its proposed IPO value.

While WeWork is still running, it’s in talks with financial institutions hoping that they’ll bail it out. If that doesn’t go to plan, WeWork is expected to run out of money as early as November.

So where did it all go wrong? WeWork labels itself as a tech company. Except it doesn’t actually have any technology to offer.  If anything, it could be seen as a landlord in a traditional business setting, in that it rents a building, divides it, dials up the cool factor, then sublets it as coworking space. WeWork’s value propositions align with something it doesn’t actually do. And with an unclear business model is perhaps not a surprise that it looks likely to fail.

Then there’s the CEO, Adam Neumann who once stated, in earnest, that he wished to be president of the world.

He was found to have cashed out more than $700 million prior to the IPO proceedings by racking up debt and selling stocks, amongst other oddball behaviour. This included charging his own company $9 million dollars for using the word “We” in WeWork sans his permission which he had trademarked.

Meanwhile, rank and file employees weren’t awarded any opportunity to sell their shares to lock in the profits. WeWork brought in valuers with questionable objectivity. By valuing the company at a higher value than it was actually worth, the CEO and other key figures figured they could cash out at maximum value at the IPO listing, leaving the risk to Wall Street.

But it seems that now investors are wising up to WeWork and other so-called unicorn IPOs.  An overriding theme of the past year, other large companies have also lost huge chunks of their value post-IPO. The most noteworthy were popular ride-sharing apps, as Lyft who lost 40% of its value following its IPO, and Uber who wasn’t far behind with 30% loss.

It will be interesting to see if there is an adjustment to the investment appetite around these types of IPO’s and opportunities. WeWork, and similar startups are most certainly the rock stars of the investment landscape, but similar to people’s appetite for music, tastes most certainly change. While the veracious nature in which people were looking to discover the next big tech disruptor, companies like WeWork may provide the playbook for investment as we approach a new decade as peoples focus looks further into the future, more towards the balance sheet and closer to the carbon footprint.


General Advice Warning

Any advice provided by Reach Markets including on its website and by its representatives is general advice only and does not consider your objectives, financial situation or needs, and you should consider whether it's appropriate for you. This might mean that you need to seek personal advice from a representative authorised to provide personal advice. If you are thinking about acquiring a financial product, you should consider our Financial Services Guide (FSG) including the Privacy Statement and any relevant Product Disclosure Statement or Prospectus (if one is available) to understand the features, risks and returns associated with the investment.

Please click here to read our full warning.

Leave a comment

AI & Robotics

Register to receive the PDS and get the full details.


  • Global exposure to exciting AI/Robotics companies.
  • Managed by specialised AI/Robotics Funds.
  • An investment with a capped downside.