At first glance, this may seem like an obscure joke created by Adam Neumann, who is sometimes considered the worst entrepreneur in the world. The creator of WeWork planned to convert carbon credits into units (tokens) of cryptocurrency. According to the French Agency for Environment and Energy Management, these loans consist of “financing a project to reduce or sequester greenhouse gas emissions for which we are not directly responsible.”
Specifically, most often a company pays an NGO or other company to plant a certain number of trees, estimated to be enough to offset one tonne of carbon emissions. In other words, carbon credits mean that multinational corporations have the right to pollute the environment. It’s also inefficient, as trees planted today won’t begin to sequester carbon for many years.
Back in 2019, the UN warned of this “danger” that could “lead to complacency,” a tool that allows companies to “offset” without first reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Worse, it is also tantamount to giving the market a completely non-transparent estimate of the price of a tonne of carbon.
The currency of the Goddess of Nature…
Adam Neumann’s horrific idea was to “tokenize”, i.e. convert a carbon credit into a unit of cryptocurrency. He wanted to create an additional tool to speculate on the right to pollute the environment using technology that itself pollutes the environment. And to end this joke, Adam Neumann wanted to call his currency Goddess Nature Token, the currency of the Goddess of Nature…
In its defense, however, the Algorand (Algo) blockchain technology used is much less energy intensive than bitcoin, which consumes, remember, more electricity than the Netherlands or nine nuclear power plants. To close the loop, Adam Neumann ensured that some of the transaction costs that the Flowcarbon platform would incur would be converted into a carbon credit.
Thus, the entrepreneur promised, thanks to the blockchain, to “finance projects to save the planet.” The problem is that he launched his cryptocurrency in the midst of a crisis in the sector. In seven months, the market was divided into three. The capitalization of virtual currencies has fallen from over $3 trillion in November 2021 to less than $1 trillion today. Specialized companies are being laid off with a vengeance: 1,100 people were laid off for Coinbase and 250 for crypto.com, to name the biggest exchange platforms, as several specialized hedge funds filed for bankruptcy.
Private jets, orgiastic parties and hangovers
However, Adam Neumann and his wife Rebecca, who is also one of the co-founders, managed to raise $70 million at the end of May to start their business with investors. And it’s all the more incredible when you know the track record of these two.
In 2019, they sank $50 billion worth of WeWork and were fired while creating it. In 2008, after losing $100,000 “borrowed” from his grandmother in his first two business failures – he was offering pop-up heels that proved to be a real danger, then children’s clothes with reinforced knees – the young man had the idea of subletting a part of his loft in New York to a startup looking for cheap space.
So he had the idea of starting a co-working company inspired by the Israeli kibbutz he grew up on, but in a version of surveillance capitalism. The project offers individual offices for rent in an environment full of sensors, where everything is algorithmically monitored and optimized. The idea caught on, and within a few years, co-working spaces flourished in all cities.
But the business has never been profitable. Not only because she never bought the buildings she moved into, unlike Neumann, who did not hesitate to rent out his premises at a very high cost to his own company, but also because the management was surreal. He threw wild parties on private jets, no longer came to investor meetings because of a hangover, and his wife fired employees when they got into a bad mood. Neumann and his partner would eventually be ousted by a $1.7 billion golden parachute SoftBank shareholder.