Arion Long recalls meeting Adam Neumann in 2017 as she pitched to the WeWork co-founder for a $500,000 investment in her organic menstrual product startup Femly.
The six foot five Mr Neumann was directly relatable and bigger than life, she says.
After the pitch meeting, WeWork placed on one among its legendary booze-fuelled parties, with liquor and cheeseburgers “on tap”.
Ms Long told The Independent she had been inspired by Mr Neumann’s initial success.
But after toiling for years to draw the seed money that will grow her business, last week’s news that Mr Neumann had received $350m for his recent real estate enterprise Flow was a kick in the heart.
“To observe the rise of WeWork and the entire public scandal surrounding his exit, I used to be extremely surprised to see the $350m investment in Flow,” the Baltimore-based businesswoman told The Independent.
“I just wish that I saw that level of support being placed on minority founders like myself.”
Arion Long founded Femly to offer organic menstrual products after suffering a still birth pregnancy
Ms Long founded Femly after nearly dying during a still birth pregnancy. She later learned she had a tumour which she believes was attributable to chemicals contained in women’s reproductive care products, and got here up with Femly as an organic, eco-friendly alternative.
She’s learned through dozens of meetings with enterprise capitalists and while vying for seed capital in Shark Tank-like pitch competitions that the playing field is removed from even.
“As a black woman, the way in which that I even have to navigate this space may be very different. I even have to think right down to details like am I going to wear my wedding ring? Am I going to straighten my hair or placed on red lipstick? Placed on a dress, placed on a suit or wear my Gucci handbag?
“Every step that I take may be very intentional,” she told The Independent.
WeCrashed: Apple Television launches official trailer
The Latest York Times revealed last week that Silicon Valley enterprise capital firm Andreessen Horowitz had invested $350m in Mr Neumann’s latest real estate enterprise Flow, putting its valuation at greater than $1bn.
Mr Neumann is reportedly in search of to remodel the residential rental market in an analogous mould to how WeWork tried to revolutionise office spaces.
He has purchased greater than 3,000 apartment units in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta and Nashville with plans to “overhaul the housing rental market”.
Details in regards to the recent enterprise are scarce: the website simply states: “Live life in Flow”, and that it’s launching in 2023. The business is yet to generate any revenue.
WeWork founder Adam Neumann oversaw a toxic work culture, critics say
The investment got here soon after Mr Neumann raised $70m for a separate startup Flowcarbon, a blockchain-enabled carbon credit trading platform.
The near half-billion combined investment within the scandal-plagued founder sparked a furious backlash amongst some within the investing community.
“That is disgusting,” Kate Brodock, a general partner on the W Fund which goals to assist female-led startups, tweeted.
“Firms like this perpetuate over and once more a conventional system that favours a small, homogenous set of founders,” she said.
THIS IS DISGUSTING.@a16z’s largest check going to a (straight white male) founding father of one of the toxic corporations we’ve seen. Firms like this perpetuate over and once more a conventional system that favors a small, homogenous set of founders. https://t.co/PLMKGIULqC
— Kate Brodock (@Just_Kate) August 15, 2022
For Ms Long, it simply confirmed an inherent bias in how enterprise capital is doled out.
“Black women are those that thrive in culture. Most of popular culture, entertainment culture, business culture, beauty and wellness is made off the backs of black women. And yet we’re not funded,” she told The Independent.
“I’m not offended at Adam. I just want the identical sort of grace to flow my way.”
In WeCrashed, the Apple TV drama that delved into the stratospheric rise and equally precipitous fall of Mr Neumann, the WeWork co-founder was portrayed by Jared Leto as a messianic figure who appeared uniquely ill-suited to running a big corporation.
Jared Leto portrayed Adam Neumann as a messianic figure in WeCrashed
Within the ‘based on a real story’ retelling, Mr Neumann oversaw the unravelling of WeWork’s attempts to go public because it was beset by a booze-fuelled frat boy culture, drug taking and demeaning treatment towards staff.
WeWork’s 2019 IPO failed, 2,400 staff were laid off, and tens of billions in investor money was lost, while Mr Neumann exited the firm with a half-billion dollar payout.
Removed from ruining Mr Neumann’s fame, it appears to have only enhanced the mythology surrounding the unconventional 43-year-old businessman, who grew up on a kibbutz in Israel.
Leslie Feinzaig, founder and managing director of the enterprise fund Graham & Walker, told The Independent she wasn’t surprised that Mr Neumann had bounced back, but was shocked by the scale of the investment.
“My first thought was what the hell is he constructing? How the hell did he close for $350m for a corporation that hasn’t even launched? What’s underneath it? I don’t think we all know,” she said.
At a time of great economic uncertainty, when many corporations were firing staff or shutting down entirely, Mr Neumann gave the impression to be operating in a “different reality”.
“This guy showed extremely questionable judgment in his last endeavour, at a scale that almost all of us can only imagine.”
WeWork Co-Founder and CEO Adam Neumann and Rebekah Paltrow Neumann attend the 2018 Time 100 Gala dinner
Andresseen Horowitz’s investment in Flow dwarfed the entire amount of funding that went to black-founded startups within the within the second quarter of this 12 months, in line with evaluation by Crunchbase.
Just $324m went to recent ventures began by people of color, down from $1.2bn the previous quarter.
And feminine-founded startups raised $1.47bn in enterprise funding in the primary three months of 2022, in line with Pitchbook, and accounted for just two per cent of total investments in 2021.
Ms Feinzaig said that America was built on giving second probabilities to entrepreneurs, but they didn’t appear to be distributed equally.
This glorification of founders as super heroes who could solve any earthly problem arguably began with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and has gathered in steam with the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerburg.
Ms Feinzaig said she had seen female founders flame out without getting the sort of second likelihood that Mr Neuman received.
“I wish a few of these women had the possibility to fail up,” she told The Independent.
Henri-Pierre Jacques, managing partner of Harlem Capital, said WeCrashed had glorified bad behaviour
(Courtesy of Henri Pierre-Jacques)
Henri Pierre-Jacques, managing partner of investment firm Harlem Capital, told The Independent that enterprise capital funding was often based on “pattern recognition” – where a founder went to school, what they appear like, who they know.
“We use resumes to quickly assess someone and that assessment is basically school and jobs. This isn’t any different in (enterprise capitalism).”
He said WeCrashed appeared to have glorified toxic work culture, while Mr Neumann had reemerged “like nothing ever happened”.
“We will’t expect the bad a part of startup culture of narcissism, workaholism, sexism, racism, fraud, to stop if we keep backing the identical people,” he wrote on a viral Linkedin post.
Andreessen Horowitz and Flow didn’t reply to requests for comment. Mr Neumann couldn’t be reached.
In a glowing blog post announcing the $350m investment in Flow, Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Marc Andreessen called Mr Neumann a “visionary leader”.
Mr Andreessen acknowledged the WeWork founder’s rocky past, but suggested that will help him succeed this time around.
“For Adam, the successes and lessons are plenty and we’re excited to go on this journey with him and his colleagues constructing the long run of living,” Mr Andreessen added.
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly said Mr Neumann had received a $1.7bn exit payout from WeWork.