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Opinion
Parmy Olson

‘Fake It Till You Make It’ Will Live On After Theranos

A guilty verdict for Elizabeth Holmes won’t kill Silicon Valley’s most notorious startup strategy.

Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos Inc., center, outside of federal court with mother Noel Holmes in San Jose, California.

Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos Inc., center, outside of federal court with mother Noel Holmes in San Jose, California.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

When Elizabeth Holmes went to court last year to face 11 charges of defrauding investors and patients through her disgraced biotech company Theranos, it looked like Silicon Valley itself was on trial. If the court came down hard on her, it could end the “fake it till you make it” mantra that seeded so many successful tech firms.

Her $9 billion valuation was achieved by pitching a product that was alluring in theory but didn’t work in practice (and quite possibly never would). Plenty of other technology companies have done this. As one venture capitalist put it to me when asked about another egregious startup founder, it’s the fine art of “selling the future.”