Billion Dollar Loser: A Short Book Review

Reeves Wiedeman’s Billion Dollar Loser is the story of Adam Neumann and his startup WeWork. As I write this review, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son – the false prophet of the venture capital world who bamboozles his way into industries with his Vision Fund, and one of WeWork’s biggest investors – has reported a $23B loss. Incidentally, it also comes as Ruki and I are finishing The Dropout, a series on Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of Theranos and one of Adam Neumann’s contemporaries. Continue reading

Bad Blood and Permanent Record: Short Book Reviews

So I set myself a target of reading at least one book every month. Happy to announce that I’m ending January a little late by finishing two fantastic books: Bad Blood and Permanent Record.

John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood is the story of a 22 year old Standford dropout who was supposed to change the face of the healthcare industry – with her real-time blood-testing device ran an array of tests using only a few drops of blood from a finger-prick – but instead faked her way to a $9 billion valuation, till the house of cards came crashing down. This book is Carreyrou’s baby, born from his investigative pieces for the Wall Street Journal that exposed Theranos for the sham that it was, and it can be seen from his writing, at times meandering but mostly detailed and powerful.

There’s a lot that’s wrong with Silicon Valley’s toxic startup culture but this book makes you question the very model on which such unicorns stand: investors throwing enough money at remotely promising companies in infancy with no proven sales to ensure that they scale and capture market share quickly, and then cashing out before an IPO. I guess this was easy in an era of cheap liquidity and bullish markets propped up by government investments and central banks. But not anymore! This SoftBank-esque approach to business is looking more and more stupid, with Uber’s shaky market debut and the WeWork debacle. Elizabeth Holmes, the founder/ CEO of Theranos now faces criminal charges, and the company has ceased to exist. Continue reading