MONTHLY BAROMETER – WELLNESS EDITION
In the wake of Uber and several other disappointing tech IPOs, the WeWork debacle marks the end of the golden age of unfettered tech growth. Its failure to go public and a valuation that bombed from $47 billion to $8 billion in a week brings this thought to mind: Tech narratives have the power to lure investors desperate for yield, but the distinction is tenuous between a transformative company and an old traditional business. WeWork subletting office space without much recourse to AI and tech is the latter. Storytelling can work wonders until the emperor is left with no clothes.
Not only is it doubtful that WeWork is a tech company, but it is equally doubtful that it is a wellness company. It claims that wellness has long been a part of its offering: It entered the fitness business with WeWork Wellness; launched an app called WeWork Wellness (which allows co-working members to sign up for classes in yoga, Pilates, kickboxing and Krav Maga); founded “Rise by We” (which claims to offer a “complete wellness experience”); and claimed boldly in its IPO that “it is elevating the world’s consciousness.”
The bottom line: Adam Newmann and Rebekah Paltrow Newmann—his founding copartner who happens to be the first cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow (GOOP’s founder)—worked hard to make WeWork look like both a tech and wellness company, but in reality, it’s neither.
There is a lesson in this for the wellness industry: The obsession with wellness, and its potency as a marketing tool, means it now features everywhere, but the ongoing reputation of the sector largely depends on its ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.
This crystallizes the issue of wellness—in its different guises—when it only becomes a sales gimmick. We pursue it at all costs rather than letting it come to us, which almost inevitably leads down to a disappointing path.