In the middle of the slick new TV series WeCrashed, WeWork founder Adam Neumann (played by Jared Leto) is asked by Masayoshi Son (Kim Eui-sung), CEO of Softbank, WeWork’s biggest backer: “Who wins in a fight? – the smart guy or the crazy guy?”
Neumann doesn’t take long to reply: “The crazy guy.”
Son says: “You are not crazy enough. Do you understand?”
Spurred by Son’s words, Neumann and his team go on a rampage: They burn through millions of dollars every day, buying up leases at above-market rates to eliminate WeWork’s competitors and dominate the co-working sector. All these helped hasten the meteoric decline of the company once touted to be worth US$47 billion.
WeCrashed stars Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway as WeWork founder Adam Neumann and his wife Rebekah.
The conversation between Neumann and Son took place in March 2017 and was retold by Neumann to Forbes months later. It is now fully dramatised in Apple TV+ series WeCrashed, which chronicles the rise and fall of the co-working startup WeWork, using an all-star cast and splashy locations.
(For the record, Son eventually plotted to remove Neumann from his CEO position because Neumann had become “too crazy”.)
WeCrashed isn’t the only high-profile TV drama about startup disruptors to debut recently: Disney+ has The Dropout which stars Amanda Seyfried as Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, once hyped as the youngest self-made female billionaire. And Showtime has Super Pumped, centred on former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. (Showtime is not available in Singapore.)
Elon Musk on Saturday Night Live last May, dressed in a Givenchy suit designed by Matthew Williams.
Startup founders don’t just make for great cover stories in newspapers and magazines. They’re also perfect characters for the screen, big and small. The best of them have mastered the art of public persuasion and media manipulation, and they exude a larger-than-life personality rivalled only by, well, movie stars.
As tech gurus like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos appear on red carpets with glamourous arm candy, the leap from Silicon Valley to Hollywood has become a short one. And when their story arcs involve both rapid success and failure, they’re catnip for the screen.
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