Shortly after 9/11, Adam Neumann moved to New York City’s Financial District from his native Israel with his sister to live and experience the American dream. With little money in their pocket, they settled in to a place near the World Trade Center site when apartments were cheap.
It was in the elevator of his old building where the charismatic and outgoing co-founder and CEO of WeWork discovered the inspiration for WeLive, WeWork’s first “coliving” space which officially opened its doors to New York residents at 110 Wall Street this week.
“I noticed that whenever I’d walk into the lobby of our building or take the elevator, no one talked to each other; there was no interaction between the building’s residents,” Adam shared with a large audience at Fast Company’s inaugural “Inside the Issue” event last week where he is featured in a well-written, in-depth piece by Sarah Kessler.
This was quite the opposite of what he was used to in Israel where neighbors are friends and socializing with those around you is the norm.
So he started a friendly competition with his sister to see how many residents they each could meet and have a cup of coffee with. Whoever made the most connections after a month would win. While Adam lost the competition to his sister, a fashion model, between the two of them, they had made friends with at least one person on each floor. What happened soon after was that everyone started talking to each other in the building. “When a resident would move out, we had parties. When new people arrived, we held parties. Everyone became friends, and the energy of the building changed,” Adam explained.
He took this idea of “concept living,” wrote a business plan and entered into an entrepreneurship competition at Baruch College, but it was rejected by the dean and was one of the few submissions that didn’t advance to the 2nd round. So Adam moved on to other ventures before he and business partner Miguel McKelvey founded their thriving business WeWork, which was recently given a valuation of $16 billion, up from $10 billion last summer.
“Dreams drive this world and dreams take us to the next level,” Adam told us.
Applying the WeWork model to residential housing, WeLive rents apartments of various sizes that are fully furnished and stocked with goods and amenities that one would find in their WeWork office, such as alcohol (including a free whiskey bar on the 10th floor), collaborative spaces, even shared hot tubs on the terrace overlooking the East River.
As I toured WeLive’s apartments yesterday, I was immediately enthralled by its community-obsessed, “WeGeneration” appeal – just as I was when I first visited WeWork Bryant Park where Solomon McCown’s NYC office has been located since 2014.
It’s no secret that WeWork’s model is working. The “Physical Social ” now operates in 91 locations in 28 cities in seven countries with plans to open more locations in China, India, Australia and South Korea in the near future.
“We all want to be part of something greater than ourselves,” Adam said in closing. There’s little doubt the WeGeneration is here to stay.