Anew day, a new week, a new opportunity to master your destiny, to bite the ass off a bear, to be a coffee achiever, to hustle harder, to get shit done. Brendan Alper’s out the door by 8:41am. He swipes his office key card just before 9 and steps onto the poured-concrete floor of the lobby, where the tableau that greets him is composed of beadboard paneling, hanging globe-shaped light fixtures, exposed pipes, a midcentury patchwork sectional sofa, banquettes for laptop rovers, a granite coffee bar (with La Colombe brew in the urns, Ronnybrook dairy products arranged neatly in a refrigerator and bottles of Sriracha sauce), a second bar with taps (Sierra Nevada, Angry Orchard), a large glass watercooler lined with grapefruit slices, an accent wall with a mural of a starry sky and mysterious hands plying a cat’s cradle and another wall festooned with a neon word sculpture. HELLO BROOKLYN, it reads.
You might recognize in these touches the zippered-hoodie aesthetics of WeWork, the company that operates the building. You might even be a WeWork tenant yourself. Perhaps you’ve taken a meeting or two in a WeWork building, or else you will soon enough, as twenty-first-century America continues its headlong shift toward the gig economy.
Finally, Brendan gets to his pod-enclosed desk on the fifth floor, ready for some TCB: Taking Care of Business. Brendan is 30 and the founder of a tech company. He is bright, cheerfully handsome, well-related, well-connected, an alumnus of Brown University and Goldman Sachs, where he did operational risk management, which he concedes was “not exactly a crushing-it kind of job.” One day a couple years ago, Brendan looked at his bosses and saw his future self: “charting numbers under fluorescent light, two kids at home, counting vacation days, and at what cost?” He quit and tried writing comedy sketches but found it too solitary, plus he didn’t want to move to LA.
Last year, Brendan scraped together his life savings and started a dating app called Hater. It adds value, as the Shark Tank- ers say, by matching people according to their shared dislikes. He finished the beta and timed Hater’s February 2017 launch in the App Store to coincide with some canny PR stunts—coverage on The View, Good Morning America, CBS’s Sunday Morning, and Fox & Friends; features on seven blogs embargoed for the same day; a viral public-art installation depicting Trump and Putin nude and locked in an embrace. Within three weeks, he had three hundred thousand registered users worldwide. Then, per an agreement he reached with potential investors, Hater received a market valuation of $4 million, even though the company had yet to bring in a cent.
Which pretty much brings us to this fine June morning. Brendan’s wearing a striped T-shirt, jeans cuffed well above the ankle, and flip-flops—an ideal uniform if you’re hanging out at your condo swimming pool all day. That’s part of the fun of being your own CEO, he says. “But there’s that existential problem I wasn’t