Eliot Spitzer, kibbutz life and tequila: Podcast series delves WeWork story

“Foundering” includes recordings of co-working firm’s private company meetings with former CEO Adam Neumann

Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann (Getty)
Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann (Getty)

In the early days of WeWork, Adam Neumann gave Eliot Spitzer a tour of one of the co-working company’s Manhattan locations as he pitched the former New York governor on a potential investment.

“I was sitting on some kind of ball,” one of the WeWork members at the company’s 222 Broadway location recalled. “I looked to my left and Eliot Spitzer was right there kind of looking across the entire floor with a smile on his face.”

That was one of the insider details revealed in the new podcast series, “Foundering,” from Bloomberg Technology, which focuses on some of the biggest stories in Silicon Valley.

The first season, narrated by Bloomberg reporter Ellen Huet, follows the rise and fall of WeWork. It traces the company’s path from so-called “tech” startup to its high-flying days and through to its implosion last fall.

The first episode visits the kibbutz in Israel where Neumann — WeWork’s co-founder — grew up. Although Neumann repeatedly cited the communal aspect of kibbutz life as an inspiration for what would become the co-working juggernaut, Huett’s reporting revealed he was considered an outsider at the compound.

His family were renters at the community, meaning they were considered to be less committed than those who pooled their earnings with the rest of the members.

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“This feels poignant to me,” Huet said. “Whenever Adam talks about his childhood time on the kibbutz, he describes it as a happy time. But the people who live on the kibbutz remember how he stood out and how he got beat up.”

The second episode goes into WeWork’s early locations and startup culture, and includes clips from WeWork company meetings in which Huet says Neumann speaks in a more candid way than he normally would when talking to the media.

“You guys are about to find out we’re really nice to people in the first 30 days,” Neumann told a group of employees in one of the recordings. “[The] Second 30 days we’re ok. By day 61, you’ll know our truth.”

The podcast interviews Jamie Hodari, founder of Industrious — a WeWork competitor — who said Neumann gave people the impression he was always having fun.

“When you hear these landlords say we did a whirlwind tour of this city and we drank tequila and whatever… maybe the unspoken magnetism of it is in part that business isn’t often that fun,” he said. “And so spending the day with someone who seems like they’re on this rocketship and loving every minute of it, that’s the most magnetic thing of all.”

Contact Rich Bockmann at rb@therealdeal.com or 908-415-5229