Unlike the CEOs of many highly valued startups, Adam Neumann, CEO of coworking office startup WeWork, is not scared to take his company public. He’s well aware of his duty to pay back his investors, he said on stage at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. on Monday evening.
Neumann said raising money from investors (which WeWork has done plenty of) is a commitment to make those investors a return. “If you’re asking me, ‘Are we as a team committed to monetize for investors and employees?’ The answer is 100%.”
Neumann and his wife, WeWork co-founder Rebekah Paltrow Neumann, had several failed startups before WeWork. On stage at the conference, Paltrow Neumann said the first thing the couple did when they made some money for themselves was pay back the original investors of their previous failed endeavors.
“One thing we’re not afraid of is going public,” Neumann said. He would not give a time frame for an offering.
WeWork’s investors currently value the company at $16 billion. Neumann noted that private companies valuations are “what one person is willing to sell for and one person is willing to buy.” He added: “Value in the public markets—that becomes a different story.”
So when the initial public offering happens, does WeWork want investors to view it as a tech company, a real estate company, or a services company? The answer is “none of the above,” according to Paltrow Neumann. WeWork is a community company, she said, noting that there are no other companies in the world in that category.
WeWork places a huge emphasis on its mission and culture. “We’re very minded to the bottom line, while knowing that only paying attention to the bottom line is not going to deliver the most value,” Neumann said. He credited Paltrow Neumann for teaching him to find a more fulfilling dream in life than simply making money.
If forced to choose a category, WeWork might do well to pick real estate. The $140 trillion global market is also the largest investment asset class. “There’s not even one brand name,” Neumann said. “No one has ever decided to bring it all together and have a brand. It’s a disconnected industry. We just need a small piece.”