Monday, May 17, 2021

Hulu's weWork Documentary is a Story in Search of a Hook

 When I was watching other stuff on Hulu they kept advertising this documentary on a company called "weWork."  I vaguely remembered hearing of that company but I didn't really know what the hell it was about.  And what it's about...is not that interesting.  The documentary is an hour 42 minutes but in the end it's a pretty bland story in search of a hook.

The gist is that in 2008 or so two young guys start this company that basically rents desks for small businesses.  The idea was if you're a startup you could rent a couple of desks to work at instead of having to rent an entire office.  It's kind of like subletting an apartment with work space.  In a big, crowded city like New York that model can work.

Of the two guys, an Israeli named Adam Neumann was the public face of the company.  He was the charismatic leader who soon became the one in charge.  And then it's kind of the old story:  Neumann got a swelled head, grew the company too fast, and wasted too much money on himself and throwing lavish parties for employees and investors.

The documentary tries to spice things up by coloring weWork as a cult and from what people say there was a cultish attitude, especially with their subsidiary weLive, which provided living spaces in buildings that were supposed to have everything someone needed.  But while a lot of people there might have been cliquish, it wasn't like Scientology or one of those other cults where once you were in you were in forever; there was actually a lot of turnover.

That's sort of the problem overall with this documentary.  It's all sizzle and no steak.  Neumann wasted a lot of money, but he never did anything criminal--at least he was never charged with anything.  He wasn't Bernie Madoff or that Fyre Festival guy or anything.  There were no big sex scandals or anything like that.  Really nothing in the end elevated this above a case of bad business.

A lot of the bad business was the same Wall Street dumbasses who destroyed the economy in 2008 when weWork was just getting started.  They consistently overvalued weWork, just like a lot of other "tech" companies until it was worth $47 billion at its peak.  A Japanese billionaire also helped to prop up the company in the 2010s, enabling Neumann to expand too fast and spend too much money.  So really a whole lot of people who should have known better didn't and after a failed attempt to go public, the company lost most of its money and Neumann was forced out, though he got a golden parachute of hundreds of millions of dollars.

This collapse happened in 2019 but even if it hadn't, they probably would have collapsed in 2020 when Covid made shared workspaces impossible.  The documentary didn't say that but it's pretty obvious.

Anyway, there are books like this that are dull not because they don't have explosions or car chases so much as they just don't really have anything interesting going on.  It helps to have something the reader hasn't seen a bunch of times before to hook the reader--and agents.

1 comment:

  1. It does seem odd that they made a documentary on something that happens everyday.

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