Adam Neumann is back to exploring one of his WeWork-related passions: the future of residential living.
Neumann, WeWork’s co-founder who left last year during a floundering attempt to go public, invested US$30 million in Alfred Club Inc., a startup that provides apartment buildings with services such as concierge-like staff and software to manage maintenance requests and other paperwork.
The Neumanns’ family investment office, 166 2nd LLC, is leading the US$42 million round, according to Alfred and a spokesman for Neumann. The financing includes previous investors such as Spark Capital and New Enterprise Associates, as well as Greystar Real Estate Partners LLC, a major apartment developer.
The investment in residential apartments is a throwback to a Neumann pet project at WeWork. He led an expansion beyond office rentals to community-minded residences called WeLive. The venture never expanded beyond two buildings, in New York City and near Washington, D.C., but it was touted as part of a grander vision for WeWork, to expand beyond the office and into other parts of life—the same rationale for its now-shuttered private elementary school WeGrow.
Neumann has stayed fairly quiet since his company’s tumultuous period last fall, when it withdrew its plans for an initial public offering, took billions in bailout funding from SoftBank Group Corp. and terminated thousands of employees. He has since sold off some of his own real estate assets. Meanwhile, his former company said Wednesday it was changing its name back to WeWork, from We Co.
Alfred’s co-founder and chief executive officer, Marcela Sapone, said that when she met Neumann this year, they shared a vision for reinventing real estate, a traditionally slow-moving industry. They both hold “the perspective that real estate can do more for people, that we should demand more from our greatest expense,” she said. In addition to providing services such as dog-walking and rent processing, Alfred works to build community within its apartment buildings by hosting happy hours or educational events such as bread-making, Sapone said.
Alfred operates in more than 100,000 apartments and is now backed by close to US$100 million in total funding. It’s a sizable sum, though far from the billions Neumann raised for WeWork. However, Sapone speaks about Alfred in similar metaphors as Neumann used at WeWork. He often called WeWork’s expertise in managing spaces its “WeOS.” Sapone, in turn, said Alfred “is the operating system for what we think are next-generation buildings that are looking at themselves as a true home rather than a sterile apartment building.”