WeWork Going Broke Is Not the Real Problem

The Trouble With Investing In Charismatic Leaders

Joe Procopio
5 min readNov 30, 2023

I mean, you know I had to write about the WeWork bankruptcy, right?

I’ve been targeting WeWork and Adam Neumann for years — as the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with the current state of the startup ecosystem. But I’m certainly not taking any pleasure in this final(?) coda to the WeWork horror story. I’m not trying to use Neumann as a punching bag or anything like that. There is no schadenfreude here.

Because I don’t think the failure of WeWork is necessarily the real problem.

Cult Of Personality As a Business Model

Adam Neumann is an easy target because he defines the cult of personality that is the modern-era investable CEO. He, along with Elizabeth Holmes at Theranos and maybe even Billy McFarland with Fyre Festival, were arguably the holy triumvirate of the concept of bad money chasing even worse money down a hole of what eventually was revealed to be nothingness.

This isn’t to call a crook a crook. That’s for courts and civil actions to decide. What I’m talking about is the revelation, after the last of their company embers have burned out, as to how these folks raised so much money and built out so much… stuff on an idea and…



Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com