Adam Neumann is a noted Israeli-American businessman, best known as the co-founder of WeWork. Born in Israel, he spent a lot of his formative years in Kibbutz Nir Am, eventually joining the Israeli Navy at the age of seventeen. At twenty-two, he moved to New York City, USA, where in the following year he joined Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College. Concurrently, he started his business, first in women’s footwear and then in baby clothes, failing in each of them. Eventually, he dropped out of college to concentrate on his business, opening his first shared-workspace business, Green Desk, with his friend Miguel McKelvey at the age of twenty-nine. Two years later, he co-founded WeWork with his wife Rebekah and friend Miguel, serving as its CEO from 2010 to 2019, turning it into a $47 billion company within a decade. Although he had to step down from his post in September 2019, he continues to serve on its board as the non-executive chairman.
Childhood & Early Years
Adam Neumann was born on April 25, 1979, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Both his parents, Avivit and Doron Neumann, were graduates from Ben-Gurion University Medical School. They divorced when he was seven years old. Born the elder of his parents’ two children, he has a younger sister named Adi.
Possibly in 1986, soon after their parents’ divorce, the siblings accompanied their oncologist mother to USA, where she underwent her medical residency in Indianapolis. His early education was hampered to a great extent due to his being highly dyslexic, and it was in USA that he actually learned to read and write.
In 1990, the family returned to Israel and settled down in Kibbutz Nir Am near Sderot, a city located very close to Gaza. Eventually, his mother began working in the oncology department at Soroka University Medical Centre in Be’er Sheva, and he was enrolled at Sha’ar Hanegev School in Sderot.
As a child, he lived in a number of places, including Havatzelet Hasharon and Kfar Saba, going to high school in the latter city. After graduating from there, he joined Israeli Naval Academy, where he received officers’ training.
In 1996, he graduated from the Naval Academy and began his career as an officer in the Israeli Navy, serving there for five years. Thereafter in 2001, he moved to New York City, USA, where his sister was already a model and began living with her.
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In January 2002, Adam Neumann entered Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College in New York City. While studying there, he entered an entrepreneurship competition, where he submitted his concept on community living. However, it was rejected in the first round only.
Concurrently with attending college, he started his first venture, dealing in women’s footwear. When it failed, he switched to baby clothes, starting new brands like ‘Egg Baby’ and ‘Krawlers’. But it was also a failure, earning $2 million in sales while incurring $3 million in expenses.
Deciding to concentrate on his business, he dropped out of college with just four credits left and started working from a small office in a warehouse in Dumbo, Brooklyn, struggling to pay salaries. Very soon, he noticed that many cubicles in the office were empty and had a new idea.
He persuaded the landlord of the warehouse to allow him to sublet the cubicles and earn extra cash. Eventually in 2008, he opened an eco-friendly shared-workspace business called ‘Green Desk’ with his friend Miguel McKelvey, who, like Neumann, also had a community upbringing.
Very soon, GreenDesk was leasing out more than 100 office spaces, charging anything between $350 and $2,400 per month. However, in 2009, they sold their share to their landlord and set up WeWork with the proceeds. Adam’s wife, Rebekah Paltrow Neumann, was also a cofounder.
CEO of WeWork
In 2010, while looking for the right location, Neumann and McKelvey met Joel Schreiber, a Brooklyn real estate developer, who agreed to invest $15 million for a 33% interest in WeWork. Neumann was elected its CEO.
In 2010, they established their first office at 154 Grand St in New York’s SoHo district. Their idea was not only to provide shared workspaces, but also to offer all kinds of services. More importantly, they wanted to replicate the community feeling that they felt was lacking in the west.
By July 2011, they came up with two more locations: one opposite Empire State Building and the other in the Meatpacking District. Thereafter, they began to spread quickly, building their fourth location in San Francisco in August and in Tel Aviv in the following fall.
What made them special was that they not only provided office space, but also took pains to put likeminded clients in a specific floor. In addition, they also had various other facilities including beer pubs and started a community web interface called WeConnect, allowing members to barter services.
In 2012, he partnered with Joel Schreiber and Ken Horn (of Alchemy Properties) to purchase the top floors of the Woolworth Building for $68 million, later turning it into a condominium. He also purchased other buildings, subsequently leasing the space to WeWork.
By 2014, WeWork, under Neumann’s leadership, became a fast-growing lessee of office space that aimed to reach every continent except Antarctica. By early 2015, they had 51 locations spread across USA, Europe, and Israel, and by February 2016, their valuation jumped to $15 billion.
By mid-2018, the company had spread far and wide, having 253 locations in 22 countries, managing more than 1.3 million square meters of office space. Very soon, the company was valued at $47 billion.
In January 2019, the company changed its legal name to We Company. Later in the same year, it was revealed that the company had undergone heavy losses and that there were great discrepancies in distribution of power with Neumann holding much of the voting rights.
In September 2019, it was revealed that SoftBank, the company’s largest investor, had lost confidence in Neumann’s leadership and wanted him removed from the post of CEO. Pressured by the board of directors, Neumann stepped down as CEO of the company he built on September 24, 2019.
Family & Personal Life
While studying at Baruch College, Adam Neumann met Rebekah Paltrow, whom he married on October 9, 2008. A former actress, she later became a co-founder of WeWork. In 2012, she cofounded WeWork Studios and in 2017, a private education company called We Grow. The couple has five children.
In 2017, fifteen years after he had enrolled at Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, Neumann earned his degree in entrepreneurship.