Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon’s Chief Executive

  • Post category:Leadership

SEATTLE – Jeff Bezos, the man who created Amazon inc. in 1994, has announced he will be stepping down from his current position as the Chief Executive of the company.

Mr. Bezos, who initially ran the online book retailer out of his basement, spearheaded it into one of the largest and most succesful companies today, employing 1.3 million individuals worldwide. Today, Amazon retails every conceivable product, including its own line of products and electronics, but also provides cloud services, online streaming, and advertising.

Jeff Bezos in the early days at Amazon

Amazon also made Mr. Bezos a very rich man; helping him generate a fortune of $196.2 Billion, and making him the world’s richest man by some estimates (such as Forbes).

He has, however, made it clear that he will not stop working – but will instead focus on his other ventures: the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and his other passions.

I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring.

Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com, Inc.

“I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have,” he said in a letter to Amazon staff.

Andy Sassy, the current head of Amazon Web Services, will take over as the company’s new Chief Executive.

Continue Reading Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon’s Chief Executive

The man behind Wework; Adam Neumann? Part 2

  • Post category:Leadership

Exponential Growth

Wework grew from one office in 2010 to 52 offices in 2015, and then exponentially to 500+ offices in 32 countries – with over 100 in New York alone in 2019. Between 2016 and 2017, WeWork’s revenue grew from $436M to $886M. In 2018, revenue swelled to $1.8B, marking a second straight year of 100%+ revenue growth.

This incredible success took to the founders’ minds when they announced a valuation of $47 Billion, making it the biggest valuation just behind Uber’s. Neumann and McKelvey called a bluff, seeing the trend for large evaluations, but the once generous markets were now beginning to question their frivolousness.

At around the same time, Neumann’s personal life featured more prominently in the spotlight. He loved partying, walking barefoot in the office, and living life to the fullest. He dreamt of becoming the prime minister of Israel, or even ‘president of the world’ – a hope dashed perhaps when flight crew found a “sizable chunk” of marijuana “stuffed in a cereal box” onboard a private jet he took to Israel.

Questions were being asked about the ‘cult’ of Wework and its unconventional work culture. From the infamous tequila party after a round of layoffs – to the meat consumption ban (and later retraction to simply not reimbursing employees for meals containing meat), as well as the company’s (and his personal) involvement with Jewish mysticism and the cult of kabbalah.

Neumann might seem ambitious, but he was disoriented. He pursued too many ideas with no coherence. For example, WeWork spent $200 million to purchase meetup.com, and launched a preschool, WeGrow, with a staggering $40k/year tuition rate. On a personal level, he invested in several companies including a life-extension startup Life Biosciences LLC – to fulfil his dream of living forever.

In a webcast to his staff in the hours after news broke of the delayed IPO, Neumann “told employees he had been ‘humbled’ by the aborted initial public offering of his lossmaking property group, admitting he needed to learn lessons about running a public company,”

To the end, Adam remained defiant. This is perhaps what got him off lightly and handed a very generous golden parachute. On a larger scale, however, the failure of Wework put an abrupt stop to eye-watering investments on personalities and influencers, forcing VCs instead to think back to the fundamentals of brand value.

Continue Reading The man behind Wework; Adam Neumann? Part 2

The man behind Wework; Adam Neumann? Part 1

  • Post category:Leadership

Much has been said about Wework and its cofounder, Adam Neumann. He is the larger-than-life cofounder of Wework, with around 500 plus locations worldwide – known for being involved with controversial figures and making employees take shots of tequila at work. In the latest turn of events, he was forced to resign as the CEO of Wework. He exited the company with a $1.7 billion golden parachute, while thousands were laid off across the company.

As a book and a major Hollywood movie are in the works; we explore the man, the controversial business leader and the symbolic head of Wework.

It’s a hot summer day and he’s got his shirt off… he is starting conversations with people who are on the elevator and then he’s like holding the door as the person got off and then continuing the conversation.”

Miguel McKelvey, Co-founder Wework

Growing up

Adam Neumann came from humble beginnings. He was born in Israel and grew up on a kibbutz, a fact he later attributed as the inspiration behind the Wework model, even calling it Kibbutz 2.0. His parents divorced when he was 7. Being severely dyslexic, Neumann could not read or write till 3rd grade. After finishing his required military service with the Israeli Navy, he made his way back to New York, where he had previously spent some time as a child. To him, New York was a world of opportunities, a place to “get a great job, have tons of fun and make a lot of money”. He enrolled at Baruch College at the City University of New York in 2002 but dropped out just shy of graduation to go into business.

Neumann was extremely ambitious, and in many ways, a visionary. He founded a children’s clothing company called Krawlers and went on to partner in several other ventures including Green Desk and Wework. He also invested in EquityBee, a start-up for tech investors, and Selina, a hospitality company.

Meeting McKelvey

He was introduced to Miguel McKelvey on an elevator one day, and the two hit it off immediately. McKelvey recalls “…in walks this other dude and we get introduced – and it’s Adam [Neumann] — it’s a hot summer day and he’s got his shirt off… I remember as we were like going up in the elevator, he is starting conversations with people who are on the elevator and then he’s like holding the door as the person got off and then continuing the conversation.” said McKelvey, “but there’s that and there’s Adam who just has like a really exuberant sort of personality.”

Green Desk and beyond

His glamorous personal life – his wife Rebekah is the cousin of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, while his sister Adi is a former model who was once a Miss Teen Israel – contributed to the hype around his personality and the company.

Neumann and McKelvey built Green Desk together – a precursor to Wework – along with Rebekah Neumann, Adam’s wife. As they began discussing the idea of Wework, they scouted several locations but settled on one. When the owner refused to lease them the space, Neumann persisted till eventually they were shown a different space, a complete floor in a handsome tenement-style building at the crossroads of Soho, Nolita, Little Italy, and Chinatown. This became the first Weowrk location.

They sold their share in Green Space and spoke to a few potential investors, including Brooklyn real estate developer Joel Schreiber, who immediately signed up to invest with a 33% interest in the company. Thus started WeWork: a shared workspace with a unique culture, for startups and freelancers looking for an inspiring environment to do their work.

In Part 2, we will explore how the charismatic Neumann convinced investors to back Wework, including one of the world’s largest venture capitalists, the Japanese investment giant Softbank. We will also see how this colourful individual took to eccentric behaviour and spirituality, mixing himself with some very controversial individuals and eventually succumbing to his own blown-up ego.

Continue Reading The man behind Wework; Adam Neumann? Part 1