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Summary

The definitive inside story of WeWork, its audacious founder and the company's epic unravelling, from the journalists who first broke the story wide open. 

In 2001, Adam Neumann arrived in New York after five years as a conscript in the Israeli navy. Just over 15 years later, he had transformed himself into the charismatic CEO of a company worth $47 billion. With his long hair and feel-good mantras, the six-foot-five Neumann looked the part of a messianic Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The vision he offered was mesmerising: a radical reimagining of work space for a new generation. He called it WeWork.

As billions of funding dollars poured in, Neumann's ambitions grew limitless. WeWork wasn't just an office space provider; it would build schools, create cities, even colonise Mars. In pursuit of its founder’s vision, the company spent money faster than it could bring it in. From his private jet, sometimes clouded with marijuana smoke, the CEO scoured the globe for more capital, but in late 2019, just weeks before WeWork's highly publicised IPO, everything fell apart. Neumann was ousted from his company, but still was poised to walk away a billionaire. 

Calling to mind the recent demise of Theranos and the hubris of the dotcom era bust, WeWork's extraordinary rise and staggering implosion were fueled by disparate characters in a financial system blind to its risks. Why did some of the biggest names in banking and venture capital buy the hype? And what does the future hold for Silicon Valley ‘unicorns’? Wall Street Journal reporters Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell explore these questions in this definitive, rollicking account of WeWork's boom and bust.

©2021 Eliot Brown, Maureen Farrell (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"An amazing portrait of how grifters came to be called visionaries and high finance lost its mind." (Charles Duhigg, bestselling author of The Power of Habit)

“Only a handful of books capture the zeitgeist of a business era. Add this one, a wild saga that caps a decade when founder-worshiping investors threw billions at well-spun visions - even those of a megalomaniac whose new-age real estate enterprise’s losses piled up as fast as its valuation climbed. The duo who broke the story of WeWork’s rise and fall have now artfully fleshed it out in a book whose colourful narrative is undergirded by deep context about the times, and enablers, that made Adam Neumann possible." (John Helyar, number one New York Times best-selling co-author of Barbarians at the Gate)

"Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell owned the WeWork story as it was unfolding. And now, with The Cult of We, we finally get the chronicle we deserve of a madness that consumed venture capital, corporate America and the world. It's an amazing portrait of how grifters came to be called visionaries, billions of dollars were bestowed on bong-hit ideas and high finance lost its mind." (Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit)

What listeners say about The Cult of We

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The most boring telling of a very interesting story

This is the most boring version of this story I have come across. Wework is a fascinating story of corporate mismanagement and silicon valley bubbles run amok but this sounds like someone reading the wework wikipedia page. There is little to no acknowledgement or analysis of the wider trends that allowed wework to happen, and the story just offers a laborious blow by blow account of what happened in painstaking chronological order. There are free podcasts about wework which are much more entertaining and more enlightening. This is very very dull.

4 people found this helpful

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Should be gripping but isn’t

This felt like it should have been condensed down and told better.
It was interesting and I enjoyed it- but I listened whilst I was working. I wasn’t gripped enough to take to bed or on a walk. It is ok enough- not terrible but missing that human touch. It’s almost like a robot collated the story and printed it. Or maybe it’s part of a degree essay.

There are probably better versions of this weird story. If you don’t buy it you are not missing out but if you do you have a book that should be so much better than it is.

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Brilliant book. Could not stop listening to it

Highly recommended. A superb account of the WeWork story. Astonishing how much money Adam Neumann walked away with.

A cautionary tale for sure.

Also extremely well read. I thought the pace was spot on.

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Mind blowing

This story is beyond satire. If you goggled at the events depicted in The Big Short, you will gag on this account of financial disaster. Great work!

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"You can't make this s*** up" - what a story

As Scott Galloway put it in summary of the S-1 "You can't make this s*** up", this is an insanely stupid and entertaining story that is hard to believe. The storytelling is very well paced, it's split up well and, if I'm honest, I actually thought the chapter titles were amazing in this book, so apt.

I can't think of many books I've read where I constantly compare so much to another, but I couldn't help it with this one. If you've read Bad Blood, it's really hard not to constantly compare the stories and personalities.

The book does often make comparisons themselves, because at the core they are about idolatry of the founder, Silicon Valley culture and companies pretending to be tech companies.

Although there are huge differences, my enjoyment of the book is not one of them, this was an amazing read. It certainly makes me a little angry in places where you get that "how was this allowed to happen, why are these "intellectuals" so stupid" etc. But it also reminds me the world really isn't that complex, storytellers in business and the idolatry of the entrepreneur/innovator no matter how fraudulent it rife and people love it.

What I love about this story is that Adam Neumann and his wife have a key difference to Elizabeth Holmes. I believe Holmes was quite smart and knew she was lying & committing fraud on some level to investors. The Neumann's though, they never really committed fraud in the same way at all and very little was "shady" because it was all so transparent. It was just so much incredible hot air, and all so so so stupid and consistently stupid it is painful to accept people were so willing to just go along with it.

Overall, loved reading this, one of my favs, but really hope we never hear of the new messiah Adam Neumann again and he fades into obscurity & just remains as the butt of jokes for bullshit founder visions.

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Good listen

A well written account with all the detail to make it entertaining and enough analysis to make it educational. Silicon Valley is crazy - how do I get in?

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The full story

I was aware of the wework story, then watched the film but had more interest and questions. This book filled in all of the blanks I had with all of the fascinating details. Really interesting telling and well written and gripping listen.

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Really good!

Compelling, well researched and utterly outrageous. What a mad story. Really enjoyed it. Great narrator too.

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:) mast listen for eny, who ewer plan's to inwest!

Wery good book, acurat with data, easy to listen. I jump thru it :). There is lots to learn from it. And of course the EGO.... It will newer be enough;)

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Really interesting story presenting the obvious

The history of "We" told in depth against the background of the quasi-tech bubble. The reader had some strange pronunciations which, even as a frequent visitor to the US, made me cringe.
I now understand why I don't get tech stocks.