It’s a terrible thing to be prescient. Ask Scott Galloway. Many months ago the always opinionated, usually accurate, professor made the bold prediction that tech darling WeWork would never make it to its much vaunted IPO and its ambitious valuation of $47bn (around £38bn, giving it roughly the same value as Tesco and Whitbread).
Famously, he christened the company the “most over-valued company in the world”. It’s not the bold tenor of that comment or its ass-crunching indifference that should grab you. It’s the fact that Galloway uttered it in 2017 when most experts were still falling in love with WeWork. The “most innovative company in the world” according to Fast Company.
Galloway’s call has proven correct. This week, WeWork postponed its IPO and announced its inspirational founder and CEO Adam Neumann would be stepping down. Dreams of a $47bn valuation have crumbled to maybe $1bn or $2bn. Possibly nothing.
The Galloway prediction and a recent eviscerating article in Medium under the pen name ‘Henry Hawkesberry’ are highlights in what is quickly becoming the biggest flotation debacle in recent investment history. Better finance and strategy experts can explain to you where WeWork has gone wrong and why it has been such an over-rated business. But allow me to examine a few of the larger themes of modern brand building that WeWork nicely and extravagantly illustrates.