Adam Neumann, Rebekah and Miguel McKelvey’s ‘WeCrashed’ Characters, Explained
The life of entrepreneurs has always been very intriguing. The “WeCrashsed” series introduced us to these eccentric personalities. There was Adam Neumann, the CEO of WeWork, his wife, Rebekah Paltrow Neumann, and his friend and co-founder, Miguel Mckelvey, who were about to reshape people’s perceptions of the real estate industry. WeWork was just a coworking space, but Adam Neumann’s ideologies made it a way of life. An empire has been created, bolstered by Adam’s showmanship, Rebekah’s philosophies, and Miguel’s hard work. So let’s take a look at the particular personalities of these intriguing individuals and try to figure out what worked for them.
Adam Neumann – The Persistent Showman
Adam Neumann was a force of nature. You might call him crazy, but he was a persistent person who wouldn’t give up until he achieved his goal. He couldn’t accept ‘no’ for an answer, which sometimes worked in his favor and sometimes against him. Adam Neumann had an eccentric quality of promising to deliver even without having the necessary resources. He was confident that he would be able to create these resources just in time. Adam was also persistent with Rebekah Paltrow. He joined her yoga class and did his best to woo her. But when that didn’t work out, he asked her out on a date. Imagine this: after asking a girl out for several months, she finally accepts, and you manage to meet her without even a penny in your pocket, still thinking that your proposal would be accepted. That said a lot about the man. Any sane man would have been embarrassed beyond his wits and lost all hope. But not our Adam. He burst into his office the very next day and forced his boss to raise his salary. Rebekah knew this was the man she wanted to spend her life with. She knew he liked her. Yes, at that time he was not financially stable, but Rebekah knew that a man with such eccentric qualities could not stay away from success for long. Adam never hesitated to take the favor because he knew he had the ability to multiply it tenfold and return it to the person.
Rebekah’s dad gave her a million dollar wedding gift to buy a house. Adam persuaded her to use it for his business. It was possible that the business had not yielded the desired returns, but Adam was not afraid to take the risk. He was an optimist who believed that if you could imagine it, then you could do it. When he sold his first company, Greendesk, and started finding investors, it seemed like no one wanted to invest in his co-working space idea. But again, he was persistent and resilient. Bruce Dunlevie of Benchmark Capital was one of the first people to recognize human potential. Bruce, at that time, was unaware of the intricacies of the business and what exactly Adam planned to do with WeWork. But he saw a man who could sell his product. He was a great showman. He could talk and swing at you in seconds. He was the kind of man who wouldn’t come back until he finalized the deal.
Adam Neumann never had room for a second opinion. He did what he felt was right. When Cameron Lautner of Benchmark Capital began to question his strategies, he sought out another great investor who believed in him and gave him the autonomy to run his business. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son was a good ally to have, but there was always a possibility that if things didn’t work out with him, he had the resources to become your greatest enemy and pave the way for your destruction. Masa believed more in Adam as a person than in his business strategies. Masa was a man who bet on the individual rather than on statistical analysis and the business model. He loved a person who was ready to dive into the deep sea without knowing what was inside.
Adam made a few choices that weakened the foundations of his stronghold. The culture at WeWork was such that people didn’t have the freedom to express their opinions. It was a one man show. Even the co-founder, Miguel Mckelvey, did not interfere with the decision made by Adam. Adam was told he was burning through huge amounts of resources for tequila parties and whatever didn’t matter, but he continued. Many employees were kept on minimum wage, but no action was taken to improve this. Business decisions should never be made based on biased criteria. Just because Rebekah said she wanted to be the company’s chief brand officer, Elishia Kennedy, who was a deserving candidate, was removed from her post. What he did was keep someone who was unaware of his duties at the epicenter. She was running the show without knowing where it was going or what the consequences of her decisions would be. These small but important tactical decisions have accumulated into a gigantic mound of bad choices and misplaced priorities.
Adam underestimated everyone, regardless of their heritage or expertise, and it was one of the main reasons he was ambushed from all sides. He had everything that could have taken WeWork to greater heights, but his overconfidence, not taking criticism very well, not giving room for expert opinions, and perhaps his assertiveness, the led to the downfall.
Rebekah Neumann and Miguel Mckelvey – The second violins
There was a fundamental difference between the characteristics of Rebekah and Miguel that separated their personalities: one was the most genuine and authentic person you could meet, and the other was so pretentious that it resulted in the loss of its credibility. Rebekah Neumann was like El Professor of the Spanish Serious Money Heist. She knew everything. Whether it was strategy, branding, lifestyle, pranic healing, energy protection, etc., she felt she was someone in control. But that was not the case. She had no idea about branding and marketing, which she was appointed to head at WeWork. The problem was that the employees saw through his disabilities. Rebekah had a problem being recognized as Adam’s wife at WeWork. No one respected her like Elishia Kennedy. She had no independent position in the organization.
She wanted to give herself a lot of importance. She had a separate office and all the other prerequisites in place, but she had no expertise to back it up, nor was she willing to put her heart and soul into it. In the latest episode of WeCrashed, in the midst of a situation of crisis and chaos, she tells the employee who was handling PR to stop sending her press briefings because it was giving her negative thoughts. She was someone who simply turned her back, instead of tackling the situation, and walked into her safe zone without giving any direction to the people watching her. These things damaged the insider’s perception of the organization. But that wasn’t his only fault. She was placed in the wrong place by Adam, and he should have known better. He knew that Elishia knew her job and was good at it. But maybe he wanted to please his wife and couldn’t say no to her.
It’s an undeniable fact that Rebekah was the best partner Adam could have asked for. She was a caring mother and watched over the family at all times. Rebekah would have been a great spiritual guru, teaching the meaning and ultimate purpose of life, but instead she wished to be an entrepreneur as she wanted all the fame and applause for herself, but she was clearly lacking in knowledge , expertise and skills.
Miguel and Rebekah were comfortable playing second fiddle. But the desire to gain notoriety and prominence was present in Rebekah and, to some extent, in Miguel as well. Miguel was an excellent human being. He knew his job and was good with numbers, but lacked speaking skills, and I felt he was too introverted to face the public most of the time. It’s not that he didn’t get the chance to steal the show, but he was just too uncomfortable and always passed the baton to Adam Neumann. Adam disrespected her during one of the board meetings, and at that moment it pinched him. He had been a lone warrior fighting tirelessly alongside Adam and did not deserve such treatment. Miguel was a great friend to have, someone who could be trusted and had the responsibility to do what was necessary. He was someone who couldn’t function under a lot of pressure. When the stakes were high and the situation forced him to think calmly amidst the chaos, he began to hyperventilate. But Miguel knew how to work hard. It was his presentation that won them the deal when they launched Greendesk. He wasn’t afraid to put in nights and give every ounce of his energy to the welfare of WeWork.
Asking Miguel to be his partner was probably one of the best decisions Adam Neumann made. Adam may not have been able to lift WeWork to the pedestal he would have liked, but surely he has a friend, whose bond and friendship he will cherish all his life.
Read more: ‘WeCrashed’ Ending Explained: Who Becomes WeWork’s CEO? What happens to Adam and Rebekah?