WeWork’s Miguel McKelvey Stopped Chasing Cool and Found Success
The Co-Founder and Chief Culture Officer of WeWork details the company’s upbringing.
Editor’s Note: This episode of the Business of HYPE was recorded earlier this season, prior to the developing news on the company. The information shared within the episode has been unedited since its recording and is being released as is.
Business of HYPE is a weekly series brought to you by HYPEBEAST Radio and hosted by jeffstaple. It’s a show about creatives, brand-builders, entrepreneurs and the realities behind the dreams they’ve built. Earlier this year, Jeff sat down with WeWork‘s Co-founder and Chief Culture Officer, Miguel McKelvey.
What now has a pricy valuation despite current shortcomings, WeWork grew from what Miguel says is the “fundamental human need for connection.” Over 466,000 members, 485 locations and 20 countries later, WeWork was listed as 2019’s most valuable startup. As a result, the company morphed into a larger conglomerate called WeCompany, which now encompasses WeWork, WeGrow, WeLive, Made by We and Rise by We, all aimed towards his mission of building community and a positive impact.
Miguel, a Eugene, Oregon native, studied architecture at the University of Oregon. Shortly after graduation, a trip to Japan spawned his first business venture, Versation — a social networking site where people could learn conversational english. After the company sold, he moved to New York and crossed paths with Adam Neumann, who, at his architecture firm, was developing American Apparel stores. The two clicked and soon developed their first company, an eco-friendly co-working space located in Brooklyn called Green Desk.
When the financial crisis hit, the two utilized the open real estate market to create their first WeWork in 2010 on Lafayette and Grand. With zero connections, Adam’s persuasiveness and Miguel’s architectural background, they built a company that is now the largest tenant holder in Manhattan. Despite the success, Miguel details the sacrifices he made, such as quitting drinking and eating out for years in order to save money for his business.
“I dropped out of being cool and that’s a big part of how I think I was successful. I literally used to eat bread and some topping and occasional pizza. I didn’t go to restaurants ever. That’ll come later. I can totally put that off, because I’m trying to build something. I don’t need to show up in a cool place or eat the latest food. I dropped out of caring bout any of that stuff.”
Regardless of WeWork’s current state, Miguel reminds us in this early interview that his “I did it” moment still has not happened. Nine years into the business, he says the hustle remains the same whether in a high point or a low point. For Miguel, it’s not about hitting certain destination points, but more about the journey and learning through that process.
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This episode features references to the following:
3:30 – WeCompany
5:38 – WeCompany’s mission
10:40 – Office locations
15:05 – Adam Neumann
20:56 – Early life
24:37 – First business venture
25:25 – English baby!
25:49 – Moved to NY
26:06 – Dov Charney – American Apparel
26:32 – Jordan Parnass
28:06 – Green Desk
30:10 – First WeWork location
39:39 – WeLive
39:43 – WeGrow
39:59 – Made by We
45:18 – Definition of success
51:31 – Working with Adam
57:41 – Advice