I think there are two genres of this kind of retrospective expose on a company’s rise and downfall.

You can have a unique and esoteric look at a company from first principles, chasing a specific thesis from its progeny to its endpoint; or you can have what feels and reads more like an assemblage of previously reported stories into a slightly more coherent framework of a narrative arc.

My proposed dichotomy certainly makes it sound like the former is superior to the latter, but I’m not entirely sure that’s the case: Bad Blood and Barbarians at the Gate are probably my two favorite entries into this genre of ‘corporate thriller’, and certainly fall into the latter bucket.

As does The Cult of We, which I blazed through in less than a week. This type of book is comfort food to me, and easily digestible: I know the broad strokes of what happened, and just wanted to be surprised and delighted with all the fun flourishes that I didn’t get from the various Hacker News threads and Money Stuff discourses over the years.

And I got that. Lots of gory details about Neumann’s houses; The Kabbalah Centre; WeWork employed fifteen hundred engineers at one point; useful details about Softbank’s Vision Fund.

That’s sort of it, though. Brown and Farrell have strong reportage but did little to actually advance any bigger thesis about why WeWork happened (there’s some feinting towards the greater fool theory and the usefulness of public markets towards the end of the book, but it’s not given any serious weight or energy); if you read the articles during the lead-up and fallout of the 2019 IPO, you probably know everything that happened in this book.

It’s still a fun book. I enjoyed reading it — this is my version of a beach read. But it’s hard to recommend on its own merits.


Lightning bolt
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