The Elizabeth Holmes-Theranos criminal trial hasn’t been without its share of theatrics.
Yes, Holmes’s massive fraud is obvious. She entranced (read WSJ reporter John Carreyrou’s excellent chronicle, Bad Blood (2018; my summary)) journalists, investors, politicians, and business partners into believing her fantasy science. She may even be responsible for negligent homicide if people died because of her company’s fake test results.
Then again, these sorts of cases generally hang on subtle distinctions between hyperbole and outright dishonesty and whether such deceit was deliberate.
Holmes’s lawyers will argue that she was merely an ambitious entrepreneur who failed to realize her vision but wasn’t a fraudster. Her lawyers will make a case that she is not to be blamed because people took her puffery and exaggeration as factually accurate. At what point do her wishfulness and enthusiasm go from optimism to intentional fraud? That’ll be the critical question.
At any rate, the Theranos verdict is unlikely to deter others from the swagger, self-assurance, hustle, and the “fake it till you make it” ethos that is so endemic to start-up culture. Investors will never cease looking at people and ideas rather than the viability of their work.
Idea for Impact: Don’t be so swayed by story-telling that has a way of making people less objectively observant. Assemble the facts, and ask yourself what truth the facts bear out. Never let yourself be sidetracked by what you wish to believe.