How WeWork’s Miguel McKelvey Met His Israeli Co-Founder

WeWork cofounder Miguel McKelvey discussing how he first met Adam Neumann on NPR’s How I Built This podcast hosted by Guy Raz: “While I was working for the [architecture] firm, I had a co-worker – this Israeli guy named Gil – and I became friendly with him… And I remember he invited me over to his apartment one weekend and I went over there, and as we are walking into the building, in walks this other dude and we get introduced – and it’s Adam [Neumann] — it’s a hot summer day and he’s got his shirt off… I remember as we were like going up in the elevator, he is starting conversations with people who are on the elevator and then he’s like holding the door as the person got off and then continuing the conversation. I don’t know Israelis at all. First of all, I am coming from Oregon. I’ve never met an Israeli before, so I don’t even know this sort of abrasiveness – which I have come to love – but there’s that and there’s Adam who just has like a really exuberant sort of personality. He was Gil’s roommate. I didn’t know that at the time though. But sort of on that elevator ride it was all explained to me along the way.”

Raz: So you and Adam just like hit it off right there?

McKelvey: “Yeah, and that sounds weird because it doesn’t really make sense. I mean, besides from the fact that we are both tall we don’t have that much in common. We are totally different people. For whatever reason, we just connected.

McKelvey on WeWork’s first investment: “Before we even built the first location, we actually had an encounter with a potential investor, who was in a room for one of these potential real estate deals. So we were pitching the building, we really wanted to get this cool building down Canal street, and the owner of it was like, you know, I am not sure if I will give you the building, but I’ve got this friend who might be interested and he’s going to come over. So this guy shows up at the meeting, sits down, doesn’t really speak to us, doesn’t shake hands — these are Orthodox Jewish guys wearing the black suit and stuff… But he ends up calling later that day or the next day after the meeting and saying, hey I don’t think we are getting that building, but I want to partner with you guys. And we are like, well, we don’t really need a partner… He says, yeah, but what will it take? Whatever it takes, I want to be a partner with you… We were like, why not? Let’s throw out a number and we will make it outrageous – it is no chance he’ll say yes, but if he does, then hey we are fine – we did pretty well. We had no building, we had no signed lease even, and we proposed a $45 million valuation – that’s pretty high for a business that is unproven – and he said, yes!”

Raz: So he gave you all this cash? A huge risk on his part…

McKelvey: “He didn’t give us the cash, but he committed to it. He gave us some of the cash, a little bit, to start and a little bit over time. That’s actually a really great story in the sense that he empowered us to think really big because we started out with this valuation that sort of validated our picture of the future, which was really big…. That was the first step and the first money that we took as an investment.”

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