Once the reelected Obama administration gave the okay for the diversity industry to begin shaking down Silicon Valley like it does everybody else, we began to read over and over that the reason there are few female tech founders is because the white male power structure leaves billion-dollar bills lying on the sidewalk just to spite women.
And yet, the industry’s most memorable story of recent years, as recounted in Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou’s page-turning new book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, is how young blonde Elizabeth Holmes became tech’s pioneering female self-made billionaire (on paper) despite not quite having gone through the formality of actually inventing her breakthrough medical gizmo.
Starting Theranos in 2003 as a 19-year-old Stanford dropout, Ms. Holmes specialized in charming elder statesmen with her vision of disrupting the blood-testing industry. Over the next dozen years, Ms. Holmes raised (and spent) about $900 million, and saw her half of the company’s stock valued at $4.5 billion. Carreyrou writes:
As much as she courted the attention, Elizabeth’s sudden fame wasn’t entirely her doing. Her emergence tapped into the public’s hunger to see a female entrepreneur break through in a technology world dominated by men…. In Elizabeth Holmes, the Valley had its first female billionaire tech founder.
Bad Blood: Secrets and... Best Price: $6.56 Buy New $12.95 (as of 10:05 EDT - Details) To lend credence to her claims for her Edison blood-analyzing device, Holmes assembled a board of directors featuring a Deep State hall-of-fame lineup, including former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, current secretary of defense General “Mad Dog” Mattis, and former Senate majority leader Bill Frist. Her Democrats included retired Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sam Nunn, Carter administration defense secretary William Perry, and Al Gore’s superlawyer David Boies.
Investors in her Potemkin start-up included Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Mexican monopolist Carlos Slim, New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft, various Waltons, and Rupert Murdoch. The press baron lost his $125 million investment, but emerged with some dignity because he refused Holmes’ calls to spike Carreyrou’s 2015 exposé in his WSJ.
The movie star, though, has more va-va-voom than the CEO. The entrepreneur’s aged Bilderberger board members seemed less drawn by her sex appeal than by a sort of dynastic this-is-the-daughter-I-deserved-to-have-had emotion. (By the way, Carreyrou notes that her deep Voice of Command timbre is an affectation.)
It’s hard to reconcile today’s conventional wisdom that the sexes are enemy genders with how enthusiastically all these aged alpha males fell for Holmes’ self-positioning as the female Steve Jobs.
It’s almost as if there will never be a final victory in the battle of the sexes because there is too much fraternizing with the enemy.
Kissinger avuncularly tried to set Holmes up on dates with promising young fellows he knew, unaware that she was living with her “executive vice chairman” Sunny Balwani, a middle-aged businessman who had gotten lucky and rich in the 1990s Internet Bubble.