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The Controversial and Disgraced ex-CEO of WeWork Is Back

Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann is back in the public eye.
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Who said there are no second acts in American lives?

It was F. Scott Fitzgerald if you really want to know, but the author of "The Great Gatsby" and "The Last Tycoon" never crossed paths with Adam Neumann.

'It's A Big Idea'

Neumann, who made a name for himself with his vertiginous rise and spectacular fall as co-founder and CEO of WeWork  (WE) - Get WeWork Inc. Class A Report, is back in the news and this time he's going crypto.

The Israeli-American businessman and investor is backing Flowcarbon, a blockchain-enabled carbon credit trading platform, which has raised $70 million in its first major funding round.

"Huge thanks to our incredible investors for believing in our mission," the firm said in a tweet. "We started Flowcarbon to scale the carbon market -- the single most immediate solution to climate change. It’s a big idea but we have the best partners to help us get there @AriannaSimpson @cdixon @htaneja."

The firm raised $32 million in the funding round led by Silicon Valley financiers Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz through their a16z crypto venture capital firm. Other investors included General Catalyst and Samsung Next.

The balance was raised through the sale of the Goddess Nature Token, which is backed by certified carbon credits from nature-based projects over the last five years. 

The tokens can be retired as an offset, sold, used for borrowing and lending, or redeemed for an underlying real-world credit.

'A Brilliant Financing Mechanism'

Flowcarbon takes a 2% tokenization fee, the company said, compared with the 30% cost of selling carbon credits in the traditional manner.

The firm currently has 35 employees with offices in New York, Montana and Berlin, Germany.

"There are powerful economic incentives to destroy and degrade critical natural landscapes around the world, but the voluntary carbon market is a brilliant financial mechanism that creates a counterbalancing incentive to reforest, revitalize and protect nature,” Flowcarbon CEO Dana Gibber said in a statement.

Neumann came to prominence in 2010 when he co-founded WeWork with Miguel McKelvey.

The company hit the road in 2019, looking to raise $47 billion and follow in the footsteps of other successful high-profile IPOs.

WeWork's financial outlook immediately raised eyebrows, however

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Though the company intended to expand into other areas such as education, its core business of selling memberships to its co-working spaces as well as founder and Neumann’s penchant for spending on lavish trips and real estate and his tastes for partying and marijuana ultimately forced the company to shelve its plans.

Neumann was ousted in 2019 and replaced by real estate veteran Sandeep Mathrani. WeWork finally began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in October following a $9 billion "blank check" deal with BowX Acquisition.

'The Frog and the Scorpion'

Neumann's exploits inspired a documentary “WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn," and the Apple TV+ scripted series "WeCrashed."

Reaction on to social media to Neumann's return was swift, spirited, and for the most part, downright snarky.

"Please tell me this is Season 2 of WeWorked and not actually real life…. http://WHAT.IS.WRONG.WITH.YOU.PEOPLE!!!!?" one commenter tweeted.

Another person recalled the story of the frog and the scorpion, where the clueless amphibian gives the poisonous arachnid a ride across a river only to get a fatal sting that dooms both critters.

"People do not know how easy it is to generate funding if you know the right people and how to play the game," one person tweeted

"i dare any of my a16z followers to explain why they invested in this," another said.

'A Depressing World'

"It's such a depressing world to know that you can be a CEO that bring your company to a colossal collapse because of your ego, and then get millions for your next startup," read one tweet. "If Adam Neumann was a woman or any other minority this would not happen.'

"This is why I hire double-ex-felons to baby sit for me," another commenter remarked.

And still another person posted a clip from the Apple TV+ series.

There were some words of encouragement as well, with one person tweeting "Congratulations! So grateful to have you in our community. Can't wait to see what comes from the GNT launch and everything that follows."

Flowcarbon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Early this year, Neumann made headlines again when he began acquiring more than 4,000 apartments across the southern U.S. valued at more than $1 billion.

He purchased properties in Miami, Atlanta, Nashville, Fort Lauderdale, and other U.S. cities.