After much discussion, WeWork finally dropped its S-1 filing with the SEC today as it makes preparations for its IPO. While the company has been producing sizable revenues the past few years, the company didn’t disclose everything I think it needed to in order for investors to make a judgment about its financial future.
It’s not as though WeWork hasn’t tried to give us some insight in its S-1. One of WeWork’s core operating metrics is “contribution margin including non-cash GAAP straight-line lease cost” (or what I will abbreviate just this one time as CMINCGAAAPSLLC). Through this metric, the company offers us a single number into the health of its business — essentially a way for investors to understand the performance of the company’s mature office locations.
What’s missing here though is that WeWork has aggregated its finances for hundreds of locations down to a summary statistic, complemented with a huge amount of text devoted to describing the evolution of a property from lease signing to mature profit-making office. At no time does the company describe the contribution margin and how it changes throughout the course of a single lease. Instead, it provides the following completely numbers-free chart showing that … it makes more money as time goes on.How even the best marketplace startups get paralyzed
Marketplaces are hard to build. You have to generate both supply and demand, and if that isn’t bad enough, you then have to work to match both sides of the marketplace to get a transaction to clear (and therefore generate revenue).