Robin Daniels is best known for being the chief marketing officer at one of the most iconic — and controversial — VC-backed companies of the last decade: WeWork.
Now, after 20 years in the US, Daniels has returned to his home country of Denmark to do what he didn’t manage at WeWork — pulling off a successful IPO, which he hopes to do with Danish scaleup LMS365. WeWork went public in 2021 after Daniels left.
“After 20 years abroad in Silicon Valley, I'm fairly known there, but here — nobody knows I exist,” he laughs.
Life at WeWork
Daniels joined WeWork in the autumn of 2018, when a C-suite role at the company was one of the hottest tickets in the US tech scene. At the time, WeWork was already in 20-something countries and SoftBank had poured billions into the company.
Daniels, who had been approached several times before by the communal working giant, agreed to an interview after his close-knit network of other CMOs ranked WeWork as one of the top companies to work for. A meeting with cofounder Adam Neumann in San Francisco sealed the deal and convinced him to leave his safe job at LinkedIn.
“You can say a lot about Adam but he's a force of nature. His energy and level of conviction around what [WeWork] could be was really compelling,” Daniels says.
WeWork was so interested in Daniels because of his long-term experience in B2B enterprise sales. The office space unicorn wanted to shift its perception of being a workplace for small companies and a temporary office in favour of increasing the number of long-term enterprise contracts.
It's not like anybody plans to go through the crater, an implosion that happened like that
Daniels joined WeWork a month after its $3bn raise in November 2018, giving the company a $42bn valuation. In January 2019, its valuation hit $47bn after WeWork raised an additional $2bn, both rounds led by the giant Japanese investor SoftBank.
“Then we announced [we were moving] towards an IPO and so [the valuation] kept going up and up, and then, of course, it all came crashing down,” Daniels says.
By the end of the same year, the company’s IPO attempt had failed after investor concerns were raised about governance and financials. Neumann resigned as the CEO in September and in November the company announced 2,400 layoffs. The same month, Daniels left the company.
“It's not like anybody plans to go through the crater, an implosion that happened like that, and trying to show up every day and be a good leader for your team and motivate them to do work when all they're doing is reading the news and the gossip that's happening was challenging,” Daniels says.
So was the experience anything like the Apple TV series “WeCrashed”? Daniels says the only people he recognised were the two cofounders and Neumann's wife Rebekah — the rest was “a combination of various bits and pieces”.
“Jared Leto and [Anne] Hathaway [playing Adam and Rebekah Neumann respectively] did a phenomenal job of that show — they did a good job of capturing the vibe,” he says.
When asked about his relationship with Neumann now, Daniels says that he got in touch when Neumann raised about $350m for his new startup Flow from VC firm Andreessen Horowitz last summer.
“I sent him a text message after the announcement of Flow saying congratulations. And he wrote back and said thank you. That was it,” Daniels says.
From Silicon Valley to Copenhagen
After leaving WeWork, Daniels started going through a long list of startups that could give him the satisfaction that his ending at WeWork had failed to deliver.
He ended up at the California company Matterport, which successfully IPO’d in 2021, 16 months after he started. By that time, the pandemic had struck and Daniels had relocated back to Denmark with his family.
Talking to Daniels is like talking to an American, not just in his vocabulary but also his openness. He’s still finding his place in “the duckpond”, as the Nordic tech scenes are commonly referred to.
“In Silicon Valley, I had my CMO group of friends that I would hang out with all the time, we would have each other's backs and share things that it's hard to share with other people,” Daniels says. “I guess I just need to find my tribe here.”
Aiming for another successful IPO with Danish scaleup LMS365
Now, he is perhaps one step closer to finding his tribe as well as getting another IPO on his CV — this time on his home turf.
He joined Danish scaleup LMS365 a few weeks ago as chief business and product officer. The learning platform, built into Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams, raised a $20m Series A in April and is looking to grow by introducing new products and partnerships. The goal: an IPO within the next few years.
“An IPO is a marker of a huge moment in a company's success. And I'm a competitive person, I'm a high achiever. So I think to me, it's a marker of massive success, but not just for me, but for everybody who's worked really hard,” he says.
“The ultimate pride for me would be to do another IPO with a company from where I'm from. There are so many IPOs in the US but so few in Scandinavia. So that would be the highest achievement for me personally.”