WeWork would like potential investors to think of it as a tech firm.
But its numbers tell a different story. No matter if you look at WeWork’s revenue and expenses, its assets, or just its cash flow, it looks far more like a real-estate company than a typical tech firm.
The distinction is more than just semantic. The company’s valuation in the public markets will be in large part determined by how investors classify it. They tend to be willing to pay a much steeper premium for tech companies than for real-estate firms.
WeWork, or rather the We Company, its corporate parent, certainly pitched itself as a tech firm in the initial public offering paperwork that it released on Wednesday. The document mentions “technology” 93 times, many of them in connection with its business offerings or investments.
“We offer a space-as-a-service model that we operationalize by using a global-local playbook powered by technology,” We Company said in the part of its IPO filing where it describes its business.
To date, its venture and other investors have bought that line, valuing WeWork like a tech company. With a $47 billion valuation in the private markets, it’s worth more than 15 times its annualized sales for this year, a relatively steep valuation considering it has consistently posted losses.
But public investors may have a different take. That’s because, as its IPO paperwork makes clear, it’s not really in the technology business, no matter how many times it tries to wrap itself in that mantle.
Here’s what its financial numbers show: