[dropcap sid=”dropcap-1446585320″]A[/dropcap]dam Neumann has come a long way since his student days at Baruch College—but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

On Thursday, September 22, he returned to campus to speak to a crowd of more than 200 Baruch students, alumni, faculty, and staff as part of the Russell Banks CEO Leadership Lecture. Neumann is the founder and CEO of WeWork, a wildly successful company founded in 2010 that provides shared workspace for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, and small businesses. With locations across 11 countries, WeWork has been valued at approximately $16 billion.

“My life as a mature adult started right here in New York City and right here at Baruch College,” said Neumann, who studied at Baruch from 2002-2006. “Being back here really means a lot to me, so thank you for having me.”

Originally from Israel, Neumann came to New York in 2001 and enrolled in Baruch with a particular interest in entrepreneurship. His first attempt at a start-up business was “Krawlers,” a brand of baby clothes with padded knees to protect crawling infants.

Russell Banks CEO Leadership Lecture: A Conversation with WeWork Founder Adam Neumann
WeWork Founder Adam Neumann chats with Baruch students after his lecture.

“I didn’t even have babies and knew nothing about the category,” Neumann joked to the crowd. “That’s how I learned firsthand that doing business just for the sake of making money, in my opinion, does not work.”

In 2008, his then-girlfriend, now wife, Rebekah, advised him to try his hand at a business he truly believed in. “She told me,” Neumann recalled, “‘Take your passion, make sure there’s real intention behind it, and success and money will follow.’”

He started WeWork shortly afterwards, inspired by his passion to bring people together, and hasn’t looked back since. WeWork’s incredible success prompted Neumann to branch out with WeLive, a companion company that offers community living spaces to urban professionals. It was an idea that Neumann had first conceived as a student at Baruch—in fact, he had used the idea in a student entrepreneurship competition.

“My idea didn’t even make it to the second round,” Neumann laughed.

Among his advice to current Baruch students: surround yourself with the right people.

“I’ve always made friends with people smarter than myself,” he said. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, change rooms.”

Learn more about WeWork and WeLive and view the full photo gallery from the lecture on Facebook.

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