If employees at Deutsche Bahn want to feel like they're working in a start-up and not in a problem company, then they are running their laptops to an office building on Potsdamer Platz in the center of Berlin, just a few meters from the head office.
Inside, no cliché of the beautiful new world of work is left out: The coffee kitchen looks like a Starbucks branch. The glass conference rooms are called "Focus Cabins". In the open work area, young people sit between neon-colored post-its. This should encourage the creativity of digital experts who have moved in here since the beginning of the year. Other employees of the railway come for projects or after the lunch break for a coffee over.
The building was not designed by Deutsche Bahn but by the American start-up company WeWork. The train has leased for at least two years. For WeWork, cooperation with the state-owned company is part of a much-needed metamorphosis. The New York-based company leases office buildings, rebuilds them, and rents desks to individuals and businesses. The working landscapes look good. But they are not throwing money. On the contrary, WeWork wrote $ 690 million in the first half of 2019 alone. Only if we succeed in winning more permanent and reliable tenants like Deutsche Bahn can WeWork earn money and not simply burn it.
For its investors, WeWork is a billion-dollar bet. The Japanese technology giant Softbank has spent over $ 10 billion on the company's success and pushed its valuation up to $ 47 billion. In the club of the unicorns - that's the name of start-ups whose value is valued by investors at more than a billion dollars - WeWork is one of the most dazzling specimens.
47 billion dollars So the Japanese investor Softbank estimates the value of WeWork. Only if the start-up on the stock exchange achieves a similar market capitalization, the debut should be regarded as a success.
If WeWork goes public as planned in the coming weeks, it will be a reality check: is the just nine-year-old startup truly a mythical creature, just as Softbank wants investors to believe? Or does WeWork face a similar crash as Uber and Snapchat, whose long-awaited market debts ended in considerable disappointment?
Critics have doubts not only about the numbers, but also about the content of the story WeWork is spreading: the story of the start-up that is revolutionizing the world of work and making humanity more beautiful.
A masterpiece of nebulization, Rett Wallace, head of New York investment advisor Triton Research, called the document WeWork submitted to the US financial regulator. This stock-market prospectus, usually a dust-dry affair, sounds like a confession of faith to WeWork. "We dedicate this to the power of the We who are in each of us," it says without a hint of irony, and, "Our mission is to change the consciousness of the world." Quite ambitious goals for a company that, soberly considered, merely leases desks in a thoroughly designed environment.
So it's not surprising that Gregor Gimmy was expecting a lot when he moved into a glass compartment at WeWork in Munich in September 2018. The former BMW manager needed 27pilots for his start-up quickly presentable spaces. He found them in the former Siemens headquarters, which WeWork converted into a community office. The 4,800 euros rent per month have been a lot of money for his young company, says Gimmy. But the "cool atmosphere" and the flexible modalities seemed worth the price.