WeWork: From a $47bn Unicorn to Bankruptcy, How the World’s Most Overvalued Startup Crashed

WeWork, the once-hyped shared workspace company, filed for bankruptcy on November 7, 2023, marking a stunning reversal of fortune for a company that was once valued at $47 billion.

The bankruptcy filing comes after years of financial struggles for WeWork, which has been unable to turn a profit despite its rapid growth. The company’s problems were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a decline in demand for office space.

WeWork’s bankruptcy is a major blow to the company’s investors, including Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, which has sunk billions of dollars into the startup. It is also a setback for the shared workspace industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.

Background on WeWork

WeWork was founded in 2010 by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey. The company provides shared workspace to businesses and individuals, offering a variety of amenities such as high-speed internet, conference rooms, and communal areas.

WeWork grew rapidly in the early 2010s, expanding into dozens of cities around the world. The company’s valuation soared, and it became one of the most highly valued private companies in the world.

However, WeWork’s rapid growth was accompanied by a number of problems. The company was criticized for its aggressive accounting practices, its high costs, and its corporate culture.

In 2019, WeWork attempted to go public, but the IPO was ultimately scrapped due to concerns about the company’s finances and management. Neumann was ousted as CEO, and WeWork was forced to make a number of cuts to its business

The Unraveling of WeWork: A Timeline of Its Bankruptcy

2010

Founding and Early Growth

~ Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey found WeWork in New York City.
~ WeWork opens its first location in SoHo, Manhattan.
~ WeWork raises $17 million in Series A funding.

2011

Expansion into the United States

~ WeWork expands to Washington, D.C., its second US location.
~ WeWork raises $35 million in Series B funding.

2012

Continued Growth and Funding

~ WeWork raises $40 million in Series C funding.
~ WeWork has more than 10,000 members and 20 locations worldwide

2013

Unicorn Status and Global Expansion

~ WeWork raises $157 million in Series D funding.
~ WeWork is valued at $1.6 billion, making it a “unicorn” company.
~ WeWork expands to London, its first international location.

2014

Acquisitions and Further Expansion

~ WeWork acquires Meetup, a social networking platform for organizing events.
~ WeWork expands to China, its first Asian location.

2015

Continued Expansion and SoftBank Investment

~ WeWork expands to India, its first South Asian location.
~ SoftBank Group invests $4.4 billion in WeWork, valuing the company at $20 billion.

2016

Further Expansion and Acquisitions

~ WeWork expands to Mexico and Canada.
~ WeWork acquires Managed by Q, a platform that helps companies hire service providers.

2017

IPO Filing and Valuation Boost

~ WeWork files a confidential draft registration statement for an initial public offering (IPO).
~ WeWork’s valuation is raised to $47 billion by SoftBank.

2018

IPO Delay and Valuation Cut

~ WeWork’s IPO is delayed after investors raise concerns about the company’s governance and finances.
~ WeWork’s valuation is cut to $35 billion.

2019

Neumann Steps Down, IPO Cancellation, and SoftBank Bailout

~ WeWork’s CEO, Adam Neumann, steps down after facing pressure from investors.
~ WeWork’s IPO is officially cancelled.
~ SoftBank Group invests $5 billion in WeWork, taking a controlling stake in the company.

2020

COVID-19 Pandemic and Closures

~ The COVID-19 pandemic begins, leading to a decline in demand for office space.
~ WeWork closes hundreds of locations and furloughs thousands of employees.

2021

Acquisition of Common Desk

WeWork acquires Common Desk, a New York City-based coworking company.

2022

Acquisition of Meetup and WeWork Workplace

~ WeWork acquires Meetup back from SoftBank.
~WeWork closes its offices in Russia due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
~ WeWork announces that it is developing a software product with Yardi Systems called WeWork Workplace.

2023

Bankruptcy Filing

November 7: WeWork files for bankruptcy protection.

Why WeWork Filed for Bankruptcy

WeWork filed for bankruptcy for a number of reasons, including:

  • High costs: WeWork has a very high cost structure, due to its long-term leases on office space and its high marketing and administrative expenses.
  • Slow revenue growth: WeWork’s revenue growth has slowed in recent years, as the company has faced increased competition from other shared workspace providers and from traditional landlords.
  • COVID-19 pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on WeWork’s business. As more and more companies have allowed their employees to work from home, demand for office space has declined sharply.

What Happens Next

WeWork’s bankruptcy filing will allow the company to restructure its debt and reduce its costs. The company has said that it plans to continue operating as it goes through bankruptcy.

However, it is unclear whether WeWork will be able to survive in the long term. The company faces a number of challenges, including the high cost of its leases, the increasing competition from other shared workspace providers, and the changing nature of work.

Impact of WeWork’s Bankruptcy

WeWork’s bankruptcy is a major blow to the company’s investors, including SoftBank, which has sunk billions of dollars into the startup.

The bankruptcy is also a setback for the shared workspace industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. WeWork is one of the largest players in the industry, and its bankruptcy could lead to consolidation of the market.

Conclusion

WeWork’s bankruptcy is a cautionary tale for startups. The company grew rapidly and achieved a high valuation, but it was unable to build a sustainable business model. WeWork’s bankruptcy is also a reminder of the challenges facing the shared workspace industry, as more and more companies allow their employees to work from home.sharemore_vert

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