|8 Sivan 5778)
A Young Billionaire’s Priorities
His wealth was recently estimated at $2.6 billion; he tops Fortune Magazine’s list of the world’s most influential business people under the age of 40; he now observes Shabbat and loves every moment of it.
Adam Neumann is one of the most successful Israeli entrepreneurs in the world. He founded an American company worth $20 billion, and his capital was recently estimated at $2.6 billion. He tops Fortune Magazine’s list of the world’s most influential business people under the age of 40. But despite all that, he is a Sabbath observer who does not work nor take phone calls on the seventh day of the week.
“In the past two years, I have begun to observe Shabbat,” Neumann, who now lives in New York with his wife Rebekah and their five children, told the Yediot Aharonot Israeli Hebrew daily in an interview.
“During Shabbat I am completely cut off, there is no one to talk to, and I do not compromise about it,” he said. “At first it felt like a tough commitment, but it gives me time with my children, my wife, my friends. Last week I had a crazy week in which I was flying and working a lot. But on Friday morning we got up and said to each other, ‘We are ready for Shabbat.’
“Shabbat arrives, we light candles, relax, friends come over, we eat a meal that we cooked beforehand. We are cut off from the rest of the world, but in reality connecting with each other. I spend more time than I ever did with my family and even phone and see my mother more during the week. And the real magic is that the more I do it, the more successful the company is. Go figure.”
Neumann is the head of WeWork, an American company which provides shared workspace, community, and services for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and small businesses. He founded the company in 2010, along with Miguel Mckelvey. WeWork has more than 2,000 employees and has locations in 23 United States cities and 16 countries including Australia, Canada, India, China, Hong Kong, France, United Kingdom, Israel, South Korea, Mexico, Netherlands and Germany. WeWorks chief brand director is Neumann’s wife, Rebekah Paltrow Neumann, who was part of the company from its inception.
Neumann, now 38, grew up in Kibbutz Nir Am, which is located in southern Israel, near Sederot. He served in the Israeli navy before moving to New York in 2001 to be with his sister Adi, an Israeli model. He founded WeWork after several failed ventures.
“When I met my wife 10 years ago, I thought money was the goal,” he told Yediot Aharonot. “I had a difficult childhood, my parents divorced, my mother was a doctor and worked late hours, Adi and I were alone, and we moved apartments 13 different times.
“When I came to the U.S. I tried to take shortcuts to make money – but everything crashed. I was angry at people, I felt I deserved everything. Then, when I met my wife, she told me to stop complaining about the past. She made me stop smoking and told me that I was chasing the wrong things. She made me realize that the goal was to be happy, to do something that is meaningful to you.”
The clean-living regime Rebekah instigated, combined with the study of spirituality, philosophy and the soul, eventually led to the young Jewish couple taking on Shabbat observance.
Adam Neumann exudes good health: tall, bright-eyed and with a glossy black mane of hair. He runs or skateboards to work, before breakfasting on a nutritious shake or water-based oatmeal. But it wasn’t always the case. When 13 years ago he first met his wife-to-be, Mr Neumann was rakishly thin, 20 pounds lighter than today, getting through the day on two packs of cigarettes and a single meal.
“My hands were shaking, I couldn’t hold my focus for more than five minutes,” he recalls. “But Rebekah sorted me out quickly. She said: ‘You have potential, but you are really going to have to work on yourself.’
“If you had asked me 10 years ago what my life would look like,” continued Neumann, “I would not have believed that I would have such a relationship with my wife, and that I would be able to improve in the way I treat people. I would not have guessed how much I love being a father. As for my money? I may have dreamed I’d establish a company worth a hundred million dollars, but I did not even know the number billion; I would not have guessed [it was possible].”
Asked whether having so much money changed him, he replied, “I have more access to things today, but the most fun part is that I can help those who helped me in the past: the family, mom, dad and my grandmother, friends, and also return money to investors who invested in me in the past and lost their money.”