WeWork… never worked

This started as an aside on LinkedIn, but in the comments more stories started turning up, so capturing here for posterity.


WeWork has filed for bankrupt (FT). Quite some going for a company Ince valued at $47 billion. An unbelievable valuation.

I have been grimly fascinated by the business for years, ever since I first stepped in one, and I was guided round by a disbelieving friend, showing everything they had access to, for an unbelievable price.

I started taking pictures every time I would find myself in one. The worst/most picture worthy was the one down near Waterloo in London.

The weirdest thing I ever saw there was an unusable skateboard halfpipe. It was set up in the reception foyer of a location near Waterloo in London.

It wasn’t unusable because it was broken, or in disrepair. Quite the opposite. It was *pristine*. A beautiful piece of craftsmanship. 

It was unusable because nobody was allowed to use it, save for hired professionals (who I never saw when visiting my client there). Perhaps the day after installation, someone decided to check the liability.

The halfpipe sat there, ignored, unused, a literal monument to the worst idle excesses of WeWork’s leadership. The kind of idea a thirteen year-old might think it would be cool to put in an office foyer.

The last time I was there, people had moved desks and chairs onto the middle of the halfpipe, so there were more places to sit and chat to others. You know, have meetings.

The second weirdest thing there were the endless installations of beautiful books. It was like working in a library in some corners.

The care and curation required to create such a space would have spoken hushed volumes of the hosts to the casual passer-by. Except. I happened to have one of the books. A large volume with a luminous green spine. Very noticeable.

And I saw it on *another* of the book shelves. “Strange to have two” I thought. Then I saw it *again*. And starting paying attention to all the other books. They all repeated multiple times.

In short, I reckon they’d stocked the bookshelves with a bulk-buy remainder sale. Called up publishers like Phaidon, and asked for all the leftovers they couldn’t sell.

A pretence of intelligence and curation instead of the real thing.

Everything about WeWork was a lie.

The skateboard ramp that could never be used.

The carefully curated library which was publisher’s trash.

The unbelievable price for membership.

The unbelievable valuation for the business.

WeWork… never worked.