As the trial in the US begins of Elizabeth Holmes, briefly the world’s youngest billionaire, I’m reposting the piece I wrote about her two years ago. Her story starts with the kind of big hairy audacious goal that was lauded by business school gurus twenty years ago. It’s a story of an ambitious upstart challenging entrenched interests with vision and confidence. That all sounds great, so why was it wrong? More to the point, how can we tell the difference between authentic and fake in the world of start-ups and innovation where thinking big and talking bigger is part of winning? I’ve tried to draw out the innovation lessons from the Theranos story.

I’d also recommend John Carreyrou’s book about the rise and fall of Theranos. It’s called “Bad Blood: secrets and lies in a Silicon Valley start-up”. It’s a great read.


Comment | September 2021