Adam Neumann is one of the most successful Israeli entrepreneurs in the world. He founded an American company worth $20 billion, and his capital was recently estimated at $2.6 billion. But despite all that, he is a Sabbath observer who does not work nor take phone calls on the seventh day of the week.
"In the past two years, I have begun to observe Shabbat," Neumann, who now lives in New York with his wife Rebekah Paltrow Neumann (cousin of actress Gwyneth Paltrow) and their five children, told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper in an interview published Sunday.
"During Shabbat I am completely cut off, there is no one to talk to, and I do not compromise about it,” he said. “At first it felt like a tough assignment, but it gives me time with my children, my wife, my friends. Last week I had a crazy week in which I was flying and working a lot. On Friday morning we got up and said to each other, 'We are ready for Shabbat.' Shabbat arrives, we light candles, relax, friends come over, we eat a meal that we cooked beforehand. We are cut off from the rest of the world, but in reality connecting with each other. I spend more time than I ever did with my family and even phone and see my mother more. And the real magic is that the more I do it, the more successful the company is. Go figure."
Neumann is the head of WeWork, an American company which provides shared workspace, community, and services for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and small businesses. He founded the company in 2010, along with Miguel Mckelvey. WeWork has more than 2,000 employees and has locations in 23 United States cities and 16 countries including Australia, Canada, India, China, Hong Kong, France, United Kingdom, Israel, South Korea, Mexico, Netherlands and Germany.
Neumann, now 38, grew up in Kibbutz Nir Am, which is located in southern Israel, near Sderot. He served in the Israeli navy before moving to New York with his sister Adi, an Israeli model. He founded WeWork after several failed ventures.
"When I met my wife 10 years ago, I thought money was the goal," he told Yediot Aharonot. "I had a difficult childhood, my parents divorced, my mother was a doctor and worked late hours, Adi and I were alone, and we moved apartments 13 different times. When I came to the U.S. I tried to take shortcuts to make money - but everything crashed. I was angry at people, I felt I deserved everything. Then, when I met my wife, she told me to stop complaining about the past. She made me stop smoking and told me that I was chasing the wrong things. She made me realize that the goal was to be happy, to do something that is meaningful to you.”
"If you had asked me 10 years ago what my life would look like,” continued Neumann, “I would not have believed that I would have such a relationship with my wife, and that I would be able to improve in the way I treat people. I would not have guessed how much I love being a father. As for my money? I may have thought I'd establish a company worth a hundred million dollars - but I did not even know the number billion, I would not have guessed [it was possible].”
Asked whether having so much money changed him, he replied, "I have more access to things today, but the most fun part is that I can help those who helped me in the past, the family, mom, dad, my grandmother, friends, and also return money to investors who invested in me in the past and lost their money."