Venture

WeWork Details Its Turnaround Strategy Including Divestments And New (Old) Focus

WeWork is going back to its roots.

In a repudiation of the excess of its erstwhile CEO Adam Neumann, WeWork announced Friday via an October 11-dated deck that it’s dropping The We Company’s push into activities that went past its “core” co-working business. Instead, it’s pivoting back to what it describes as its “pre-2017” model. 

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The deck covers WeWork’s new 90-day “game plan” during which time it hopes to right itself.

The strategy isn’t entirely a rerun of the past; WeWork anticipates improvements. The company specifically calls for more focus on its “member experience,” and notes that its leadership model will be lean on “proven executives” to clean up what its previously “founder-led” strategy resulted in.

To understand the new, old WeWork, let’s explore the company’s plans. Recall how much this turnaround impacts SoftBank, the first Vision Fund’s results, and perhaps the entire existence of the second Vision Fund.

The Plan

WeWork’s plan has four key planks: cutting extraneous operations, layoffs, boosting its real estate footprint, and sorting out its internal and external relationships. We’ll explore each in brief below.

Focus

The company lists Conductor, The Wing, Managed by Q, Meetup, SpaceIQ, and Wave Garden as “non-core businesses” it will divest. Wave Garden ranks among the most controversial of the company’s investments, as the firm’s technology is designed to help create artificial waves for surfing enthusiasts.

As we’ve reported, WeWork was on quite an acquisition spree before stumbling just short of its attempted public market debut. The company has made 18 acquisitions so far, according to Crunchbase. Its most recent, Spacious, was announced in August.

WeWork also stated in the presentation that it wants to “focus on the core WeWork desk business.” That’s a theme that the company repeats.

Reduce

WeWork plans on making cuts across Ventures, G&A, and “growth-related functions,” according to the presentation. The company did specify, however, that community teams would not be affected by layoffs.

We’ve known layoffs would hit WeWork for some time. New executive chairman Marcelo Claure told employees at an all-hands meeting last month that there would be layoffs, though he wasn’t sure how many people would be let go. The Financial Times reported that it could be as many as 4,000 people out of the company’s approximately 15,000 person workforce.

Build

While there have been reports that WeWork is dramatically cutting back on new leases, the firm claims in its new deck that it expects “record high” new “desk openings” in the fourth quarter. That should help the company keep up its torrid growth; how those openings will impact its cash position and operating burn is not clear.

Later WeWork notes that it also had a very busy Q3 when it came to desk additions, adding 108,000 new desks in the three-month period. According to its own calculations, that figure was up 109 percent compared to the year-ago result.

Manage

Less clear but also important are WeWork’s plans regarding fixing its PR issues, both inside and out. The company’s employees will be “reengergize[d],” and “partners” like landlords will be focused on.

Given the drubbing (mostly fair) that WeWork endured in recent months, including a pulled IPO and nearly running out of cash, working on fixing relationships is a fine idea.

Growth

While WeWork is happy to share its strategic goals, the firm is also proud of its continued growth. Recall that while WeWork’s financials were famously messy and opaque, they also consistently featured regular, rapid growth.

That’s continued, it seems, with the company claiming run-rate revenue (including India-based top line) of $4.1 billion, up 106 percent year-over-year. It also cites a $4.2 billion run-rate revenue metric on the next slide, and claims that WeWork’s run rate is a more modest $3.3 billion.

We’ll unspool all of that if we get another S-1, but the gist is that the company is still growing at over 100 percent per year at scale. That means that, despite its losses, there’s still something valuable to pry out from the rubble of The We Company’s failed IPO.

Finally, before a blizzard of slides disclosing the company’s financial model regarding buildings, leases, and maturity-improved metrics, the company showed the following:

When in doubt, make your revenue look like SaaS. 

All told the deck shows a WeWork that is the most focused, and the most hard-nosed, when it comes to financials that we can recall seeing. Perhaps this will work. What the final product, the reformed company, will be worth in time isn’t clear. But these are good steps all the same.

Summing

Astute readers will recall that WeWork mega investor SoftBank listed “pause contracting new offices,” “cost reduction,”  and “sort out unprofitable business” as proposed ideas to improve WeWork’s profitability in the bank’s earnings presentation (you can read more about that here). Those three measures line up with what WeWork laid out in its presentation to its investors, and we now have answers as to exactly what will get cut.

All of these changes seem reasonable: the company is trying to scale back and stabilize. The question now, though, is if these cuts will be enough to achieve that goal.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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