At the start of 2019, Fast Company ran a 5,300-word examination of what we called “Masa World,” the empire built by SoftBank Vision Fund founder Masayoshi Son. Contributor Katrina Brooker laid out how Son had amassed $100 billion, which he used to back a group of ambitious entrepreneurs deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning to transform food delivery, commerce, transportation, and more. Of all the strivers he’d backed, however, a clear favorite emerged: Adam Neumann, the charismatic cofounder of WeWork.
In this issue, our final of 2019, Brooker chronicles the crash of WeWork and the collapse of Neumann’s relationship with Son. Through interviews with dozens of investors, Son and Neumann associates, and current and former WeWork employees, Brooker details the cooling of a once fervid business relationship. In the process, she also reveals the inner workings of an opaque system that pumps up—and ultimately props up—private company valuations, obscures founders’ incompetencies, and leaves the rank and file in the lurch. (As we went to press, WeWork reportedly was preparing to fire thousands of employees.) It is an important story, and one you will only read in Fast Company.
In between these two SoftBank articles, Fast Company produced plenty of additional must-read journalism. We gained unprecedented access to Amazon’s senior vice president of human resources, Beth Galetti, who oversees the second-largest private workforce in the U.S.; we took readers inside Bad Robot, filmmaker and producer J.J. Abrams’s whimsical and prolific company; and we sat down with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, who talked about his tireless efforts to make business more sustainable.
We celebrated the Most Innovative Companies, introduced readers to an exciting new cohort of the Most Creative People in Business, highlighted hundreds of World-Changing Ideas, and recognized more than 400 examples of Innovation by Design. We also launched a new program, Best Workplaces for Innovators, which highlighted 50 companies that are creating cultures that encourage employees at every level to effect meaningful change.
I’m grateful to you, our readers, for continuing to support our journalism. The stories you’ll read in this issue, including our annual look at the Secrets of the Most Productive People, and the work we produce every day are a massive effort that involves a team of terrific editors, writers, art directors, photo editors, fact-checkers, and regular contributors, all of whom work tirelessly to uphold our editorial standards. I consider it a great privilege to read their work and take in their photography and designs. I hope you do too.
A version of this article appeared in the Winter 2019/2020 issue of Fast Company magazine.