Mar 31, 2023
Adam Neumann Considers Taking New Startup Flow to Saudi Arabia
(Bloomberg) -- Flow, Adam Neumann’s new residential real estate company, is considering launching in Saudi Arabia.
In an interview at a conference in Miami Beach, Florida, on Friday, Neumann spoke with Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz about their investment in his new startup and their shared enthusiasm for the oil-rich kingdom. Horowitz praised Saudi Arabia as a “startup country.”
“Saudi has a founder,” Horowitz said. “You don’t call him a founder, you call him his royal highness.” Horowitz said he was “excited” to bring Flow there.
Onstage at the conference, organized by a nonprofit backed by one of Saudi Arabia’s largest sovereign funds, Horowitz lamented that after Andreessen, the co-founder of their eponymous venture capital firm, had written a blog post in 2020 arguing it was “time to build,” it made waves, but not much changed in the US. “Probably 50 people in the US government reached out to Marc to talk to him about it, and absolutely nothing happened,” Horowitz said.
But when Horowitz visited Saudi Arabia in October and ate lunch with Saudi Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, and more recently, met with the governor of its sovereign wealth fund, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, they were enthusiastic.
Al-Rumayyan told him, “Let’s go,” and “within a week we had a half dozen really interesting meetings set up,” Horowitz said. “In April, we’re bringing our companies out to Saudi. And that’s what a startup feels like.”
Read more: Neumann, Klein, Novogratz Lured to Miami by Saudi Billions
The eagerness and praise for Saudi Arabia indicates investor appetite for the kingdom’s cash, as the US is grappling with layoffs at major technology companies and the fallout of a banking crisis. It also shows that investors are no longer shy about their openness to the kingdom following the 2018 slaying and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, even after US officials said that the Saudi crown prince had signed off on the killing, which he denies.
Neumann’s Flow aims to become the community-centric housing version of WeWork, the office real estate firm from which he was ousted as chief executive officer in 2019, following a disastrous public offering attempt. Describing the importance of housing, he said, “If you don’t feel safe, grounded and protected, if you’re not part of a community, we’re not going to be able to have a discussion with you about anything else.”
He also praised the kingdom, saying it “almost feels like a startup.” Neumann said artificial intelligence and other technologies offer the potential for dramatic changes to the world, “If we stop looking at the negativity of every single thing.”
“We don’t get to choose what happens in life. We get to choose how we react to it,” Neumann said. “It’s leaders like his royal highness that are actually going to lead us where we want to go.”
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