- When it first started recruiting tenants, WeWork pitched people at Starbucks, a new book reports.
- The company’s CEO Adam Neumann also authorized heavy discounts that targeted competitors’ customers.
- Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell broke down WeWork’s early sales strategies in their new book.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
In its early days, WeWork employees would often recruit new customers by pitching the idea behind the company to random people at Starbucks, a new book reveals.
Lisa Skye, WeWork’s first community manager in charge of recruiting new customers told authors Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell in their new book that WeWork’s early efforts relied heavily on bringing in new members through Craigslist, as well as in-person pitches. Skye said she would often wander through Starbucks in Lower Manhattan and strike up conversations with people working on laptops.
“Hi, do you come in often?” Skye told the authors she would say before launching into a carefully crafted pitch. “Offices are just $650 a month.”
While WeWork began in 2010 by spending virtually nothing on marketing and quickly gained popularity, by 2017 it was a major part of WeWork’s $1.8 billion in expenses, Brown and Farrell said. WeWork was dishing out cash to lure tenants away from competitors like Regus by calling customers based in its rival company Regus’ offices and offering massive discounts.
Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann was far from subtle when it came to competing against companies like Regus and Industrious in the community office sector.
In the summer of 2017, the CEO took Industrious CEO Jamie Hodari for a ride on a private jet. Over Bloody Marys, Neumann threatened to poach customers from Industrious, by offering the tenant free rent for a year, Brown and Farrell wrote.
“When I push the button, they’re going to start reaching out to all your customers, letting them know they can come to WeWork for free,” Neumann said, according to Brown and Farrell’s report.
If that didn’t work, they said Neumann told Hodari he would double down and offer two years free
At the time, Hodari appeared to put little stock in Neumann’s threat, but later his staff members heard from tenants that had received discounted offers from WeWork. Brown and Farrell said Neumann employed the same tactic on other competitors as well.
“Neumann was eager to rush these companies, and steal their tenants, before any presented a threat,” they wrote.
In the book, “The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion,” Brown and Farrell pointed to Neumann’s marketing strategies and his eagerness to cut out competitors as one of the underlying reasons behind the company’s financial struggles in 2019 went it attempted to go public and the true state of the company’s financials was revealed – WeWork was overvalued and Neumann was spending far more than WeWork could bring in.
Shortly after the company’s financial status was revealed, Neumann stepped down as CEO and Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham took his place. WeWork did not respond to a request for comment from Insider on its current marketing and sales strategies.