Back in 2017, Casey Woo took a vow to move beyond early-stage companies.
“What I like to tell people is that as an operator you will be characterized and judged by the stage of your businesses,” remarks Woo, who from 2011 to 2017 had served in a succession of finance leadership roles at a number of early-stage “A-B-C series”–funded companies.
“At that point, I had three A-B-Cs under my belt, and for me, the concern was that if I took a fourth, I’d be labeled a ‘Van Wilder,’” recalls Woo, naming the Ryan Reynolds character whose seventh year of college served as the backdrop for a National Lampoon movie.Read More
“I understood what hypergrowth and product market fit were, but I was not able to say that I had seen ‘scale,’” Woo reports, as he explains what led him to nab the position that he now credits with having opened his next CFO chapter—and enabled him to add “scale” to the list of descriptors in his professional portfolio.
The role to which Woo refers was noteworthy as much for its transformative effect on Woo’s future as it was for the company itself: WeWork.
“They needed a regional CFO, but this was a huge step up for me, as the size of my P&L on Day 1 was 10 times greater than that of any other business I had ever been a part of,” reports Woo, who from 2017 to 2019 oversaw finance and operations for the flexible workspace company’s U.S. western region and Canada.
At the same time, Woo’s timing placed him inside the headline-grabbing WeWork saga that would ultimately lead to the ouster of the firm’s founder and CEO, Adam Neumann, and withdrawal of the company’s IPO.
“We were asked by some of the biggest investors in the company to go fast, so in a weird way we were doing what we were told … and following orders,” comments Woo, whose tour of duty at WeWork gave his real estate credentials the boost needed to allow him to soon thereafter step into the CFO office at Landing, a company specializing in flexible-lease apartments.
Asked what lessons he may have gleaned from his days at WeWork, Woo observes: “After Adam left, everything changed—the culture went from ‘Go, go, go!’ and ‘We’re top of the world!’ to the reverse and layoffs.”
It sounds like Van Wilder may have finally graduated. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Landing … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Woo: Landing is the leader in flexible living. Said another way: There is no consumer brand in apartment renting. It’s made up of a highly fragmented market of landlords and properties. We all know the renting experience. It’s probably second to the DMV experience. It is not fun. It lacks innovation. On top of this, if you think about it, renting has not changed for a very long time. It’s a 12-month lease, unfurnished. This is how it works—we all know that. You go to Craigslist or Apartments.com. But what happens if you think about other industries? There are some undeniable secular trends. Number one is flexibility. Two is on-demand. Three is brand, people being drawn to brands. Number four is digital. I’ll give you some examples: In transportation, Uber; in vacation rentals, Airbnb; in grocery delivery, Instacart and shipped. On and on and on, you can do this.Read More
Then you get to apartments, where we have Craigslist and the sound of crickets. The sector is ripe for disruption. I ask people, “Don’t you think that apartments are going to change in the way that they’re rented just like transportation has changed and food delivery has changed and so on?” The answer is “Absolutely!” And this is what’s happening. So, COVID—funny enough: call it being in the right time, the right place—pulled the future forward. We were all going to be on Zoom anyway, but COVID just made this happen 7 years faster.
It is undeniable now that there will be a large portion of the population that will live flexibly. But what does “flexibly” mean? For one thing, turnkey living, so that you don’t have to drag around your furniture. Why do you have to drag around your furniture when you go from Austin to New York all the time? Second, why just a 12-month lease? Why can’t it be 5½ months? Get up and go. COVID has changed our mind-sets, too: You can work from a lot of places. On top of this, you have a generation for whom this whole thing about being at a company for 25 years just doesn’t work anymore. Two years, 1 year, 3 years. “I want to have experiences, I want to see Austin, I want to see Miami.” Flexible living is going to be the next wave, and what Landing wants to do is enable this.
“A CFO’s job, among many others, is like that of ‘Google Translate’—it’s a cross-functional role that aims to bring together a diverse ‘breed’ of stakeholders to speak ‘one language.'” –Casey Woo, CFO, Landing
Landing | www.hellolanding.com | Birmingham, AL