When Marc Andreessen announced that he was sinking $350 million of a16z investors’ money into a new venture by WeWork co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann, plenty of jaws dropped. For one, there was the massive sum and equally massive valuation for a company that, as of today, owns a few thousand rental units.
Then there were the claims that Flow could help solve inequality, anxiety, loneliness and a number of other social ills. Neumann’s ideas for Flow, Andreessen said, are “not lacking in vision or ambition, but only projects with such lofty goals have a chance at changing the world.”
That’s idealistic rhetoric, even by the standards of Silicon Valley.
Something didn’t feel right to us. Yes, there was the Neumann factor. But there was something more. Neumann and Andreessen were trying to privatize the neighborhood. Here’s why we think that’s not such a great idea.
Amanda Silberling: Venture capital won’t save us
There are some problems that venture capital can solve. For example, I find it pretty great that I can get a ride home from a vetted stranger if I’m out alone late at night and don’t feel comfortable walking to the subway, then transferring to a bus to get home.
But therein lies the crux of the problem: What if public transportation was simply just better? What if I didn’t need to decide between dropping $25 on an Uber and walking 15 minutes to the subway, standing alone underground, riding the subway, getting out, waiting for the bus outside alone, then taking the bus home at midnight?
By the same notion, Adam Neumann’s Flow wants to solve what investor Marc Andreessen calls a housing crisis.