Ralf Wenzel is the German who is supposed to save WeWork

new York At eight o'clock in the morning, just before Thanksgiving, it is leisurely to New York's WeWork headquarters. The coffee is being refilled fresh, in the water for the office community swim a few chunks of tea in front of him. Ralf Wenzel rolls his hand luggage suitcase past billiard tables and Pacman games into his glass office, it's his first week here.

Only a few meters further Adam Neumann once had his place, the co-founder and longtime chief of the office letting start-up. In October he left the company after a burst IPO. Now it's up to Wenzel and a handful of new executives to shrink the high-deficit companies and make them profitable by 2023. Only three months ago, the Berliner started at WeWorks major investor Softbank.

He led the so-called Tech-Hub, a kind of in-house incubator that aims to bring business models from WeWorks portfolio companies to other markets. But WeWorks new boss, Marcelo Claure, summarily brought the Germans to New York to save Softbank's most important investment from bankruptcy.

"Chief Product and Experience Officer" is Wencesel's official title at WeWork. Behind this lies a wealth of central tasks: design, construction and standardization of office buildings, for example. But also the leadership of the technology department with its about 1000 programmers and in general the corporate culture.

"For me, everything that makes WeWorks operational business comes together, the responsibility for the entire customer experience," says the 40-year-old in an interview with Handelsblatt. In his team is also WeWorks co-founder, Miguel McKelvey, who is especially concerned that the community idea in the letting offices will be maintained despite austerity.

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Not known for thrift

At present Wenzel spends his days getting to know employees, processes and the WeWork offices. Many details will only be decided in the coming weeks. But it is already clear that WeWork will rely even more on new technologies and additional services when operating the buildings.

"We want to use spare capacity more efficiently, especially through the use of algorithms. This would allow us to offer vacant space at better terms and, for example, to lease individual conference rooms for one-off events, "says Wenzel. WeWork has received another $ 5 billion in loans from Softbank, and the lender will contribute $ 1.5 billion in fresh capital to the start-up, repurchasing shares in Neumann and other employees.

Last week, the startup announced that it would dismiss 2 400 employees worldwide, just under 20 percent of the total workforce.

"WeWork has a lot of potential, but there are many aspects we can improve," said Wenzel. The company grew faster than its structures and processes. Even at the management level, WeWork has long been unaware of thrift. Ex-CEO Neumann was notorious for his lavish parties, he made a Maybach and let the chauffeur pay from the company, as well as the $ 60 million private jet, which has since been sold. In the third quarter, WeWork reported losses of $ 1.3 billion, more than twice as much as a year earlier. Wenzel counters such numbers with typical start-up optimism: "Co-working will be the new standard of work," says the manager.
Wenzel is familiar with the customs of a fast-growing start-up. In 2012, he founded the delivery service Foodpanda, which was acquired by competitor Delivery Hero in 2016 and went public one year later. "We were active in 40 countries and had to reorganize the company and organize it more clearly," he says. He also did not forget the many skeptics. That helps him for his new role at WeWork.

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More: Founder Adam Neumann once sold a sense of community with WeWork. In the meantime, not much is felt of it.


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