Entrepreneurship is a hot topic these days. The story of the startup founder turning a great idea into a thriving business is the raw material of modern urban legend.
Then there’s the dark side. There’s the stories of greed, of jealousy, and of insecurity. These are all human traits that make up part of the human condition.
Movies like the Big Short have documented the headwaters and the aftermath of these human characteristics.
In the latest news, Business Insider is making a WeWork documentary with a hit Netflix producer about the unraveling of the world’s most valuable startup.
Since its inception in 2010, WeWork has amassed more than $12 billion in investment from some of the world’s smartest business leaders and venture capitalists, including JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son. At its peak, the coworking company commanded a $47 billion valuation and set its sights on a public offering of up to $100 billion.
Today, Business Insider and Campfire announced they are making a documentary about the rise and fall of WeWork. The tagline for the documentary is that It’s the story of what happens when Silicon Valley greed goes haywire and the idea of building a big business becomes more important than the fundamentals.
I actually take exception to the Silicon Valley reference. WeWork tried to associate itself with Silicon Valley as if to imply that it could play by a different set of rules. The company was a real estate company and it clearly didn’t play by the rules of any sane real estate investment.
It’s really the story of a charismatic leader who both hoodwinked investors and was enabled by them as they tried to drive returns on their investments. Thousands of employees are now paying the price.
The latest news from WeWork is that they intend to lay off thousands of employees in order to reduce their cash burn. But they had to delay the layoff notices because the company didn’t have enough cash on hand to pay the severance.
The company’s board of directors had set a deadline of October 22 to review two proposals for taking the company forward. The first proposal is from Softbank who would take over the company with the injection of another $5B in cash over the next several years and ultimately steer the company to profitability. The company would be valued at $8B after the transaction and would leave Softbank deep underwater on its investment, but at least offer the possibility of a profitable outcome at some point in the distant future.
The second offer from JP Morgan is a $5B debt deal that would further leverage the company. That deal would offer up to $5 billion in secured and unsecured bonds that, unlike SoftBank’s proposal, wouldn’t dilute or devalue the stakes of WeWork’s existing investors. It all would have the effect of pushing WeWork’s equity investors further down the capital stack, standing in line behind bondholders whose high-interest debt positions would take priority.
I don’t want to see a Netflix documentary on WeWork. We’ve already seen that movie before. It’s been playing out in the newspapers over the past month. In fact Business Insider has written over 255 pieces on WeWork in recent months. It’s been regular front page news in the Wall Street Journal for much of this year.
What I want to see is Adam Neumann appear as a contestant on Shark Tank. That’s right. I want to see him sell his idea to Barbara Corcoran, the maven of NY Real estate where Wework has 53 locations.
I want to see him sell Mark Cuban on a billion dollar investment in exchange for 3% of the company.
I want to hear Kevin O’Leary’s eloquent signature sound bites. I want to hear Mr. Wonderful say “The purpose of being in business is to make money.” I can’t stand to watch people murder money. I want to hear the closing statement “and for that reason, I’m out”.