It’s hard to comprehend what would compel Andreessen Horowitz, the esteemed Silicon Valley venture firm, to entrust Adam Neumann with a fresh $350 million to try to play his part in solving the nation’s housing crisis. It was only three years ago, of course, that Neumann presided over the implosion of WeWork, his kibbutz-inspired coworking concept, that incinerated tens of billions of dollars in the process. In the words of a16z co-founder Marc Andreessen, this spectacular failure simply represented an invaluable “lessons learned” opportunity along Neumann’s journey of disruption. To others, Marc, it might sound like investing malpractice.
After the extremely well-documented fleecing of investors perpetrated by Neumann and WeWork, it blows my mind that the braintrust behind a16z—the best in the business, right?—could possibly back Neumann again in this new venture. And not just with a toehold investment, but a nine-figure check, the largest the firm has ever written in its history. If I were a limited partner in a16z, I’d be plenty pissed and consider sending the firm a redemption notice.
But, of course, Andreessen and company know better, or think they do. According to Andreessen, the housing problem in the United States today is massive: either people buy a home they can barely afford and then are stuck with it and will find it difficult to move, or they rent a space they barely like and throw money down the drain month after month. Flow, Neumann’s new company, is supposedly going to fix all that. Even though it’s apparently little more than a website at the moment—“live life in flow…coming 2023,” it proclaims—a16z’s investment pegs Flow’s valuation at around $1 billion. Really? “We are excited to partner with Adam Neumann and his colleagues on Flow, which is a direct strike on precisely this problem,” Andreessen wrote on the a16z blog. “Adam is a visionary leader who revolutionized the second largest asset class in the world—commercial real estate—by bringing community and brand to an industry in which neither existed before.”