Silicon Valley Can’t Escape Elizabeth Holmes

In a holiday video, the start-up founders sang, "Theranos doesn't represent, we are better."

Silicon Valley shouldn't be blamed for Theranos, wrote several columnists over the next few years.

Last month, a venture capitalist said that articles linking Theranos with Silicon Valley culture contained more fabrication than anything ever said by Trump.

The technorati in Silicon Valley and beyond have tried to separate themselves from Theranos, the blood testing start-up in Palo Alto, Calif., that was exposed for lying about its abilities. The fraud trial of the company's founder, Elizabeth Holmes, has shown that Theranos and its leader were very much products of Silicon Valley.

The usual refrain was that Theranos was more of a health care company than a tech company. Wealthy families and people outside the tech industry gave money to it.

The testimony and exhibits in the trial underscored her participation in Silicon Valley's culture.

The tech industry's big shots like Larry Ellison and Don Lucas helped Ms. Holmes raise money from other people. She was welcomed into the circles of Silicon Valley's elite when she lived in California.

She used the start-up style of hype, exclusivity and a fear of missing out to win over investors. She maximized her life for the maximum amount of work. She didn't care what the "haters" did to her vision of a better world. She was talking about mission-driven technobabble. She wore clothes that looked like Steve Jobs.

The industry doesn't want to be judged solely by its actors. Many venture capitalists who heard Ms. Holmes's claims didn't fall for her. None of the people in Silicon Valley spoke publicly about her statements until after things went south.

Some prominent tech investors rushed to defend her after The Wall Street Journal exposed her alleged fraud at Theranos.

The judge who oversaw the case agreed that Silicon Valley culture was an essential part of the trial. She was allowed to discuss the tech industry's overly optimistic puffery as part of her defense.

In a hearing in May, the judge said that it was common for Silicon Valley promoters to engage in that type of conduct.

Silicon Valley is optimistic. It is so nave that it believes its own hogwash. Her lawyers argued that she was simply a wide-eyed believer. They said that any statements that weren't completely true were about the future. It was what investors wanted to hear, they said.

They weren't interested in today or tomorrow. They wanted to know what kind of change we could make.

Ms.Holmes used her vision of the future to win over investors and advisers like Mr. Ellison and Mr. Lucas. Mr. Lucas was involved with more than 20 investment vehicles that backed Theranos. His son's venture firm, Lucas Venture Group, and another vehicle, PEER Venture Partners, were included in the list.

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Theranos exploited connections with Silicon Valley figures like Larry Ellison.

Mr. Lucas introduced Hall Group, a real estate firm that invested in Theranos. His nephew's firm invested $5 million. Crosslink Capital has a fund called Beta Bayview.

Mr. Lucas and his son died. The Lucas Venture Group did not respond to the request for comment.

The founder of the Silicon Valley investment firm DCM, as well as the founder of the venture firm IVP, invested in the company. Tim Draper's firm, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, invested in two funds that also invested in Theranos.

A DCM representative said that Mr. Doll left the firm more than eight years ago.

Mr. Draper said that the verdict suggested that America's spirit of entrepreneurship was in danger. Silicon Valley has become the innovation engine of the world because of a willingness to bet on these entrepreneurs.

Not everyone was impressed by her pitch. Bijan Salehizadeh, an investor at Highland Capital Partners, said he did not invest in Theranos in 2006 because Ms. Holmes was unwilling or unable to answer most of his questions.

Mr. Salehizadeh questioned his judgement as the fund-raising made headlines. The Rosewood Hotel on Sand Hill Road, one of Silicon Valley's main arteries, became buzzing about the company when venture capitalists were there.

They were wondering if the health care guy saw the Theranos thing and didn't do it. How could you have passed on a unicorn if it was sitting in your office at the earliest stages?

Ms. Holmes was able to get bigger checks from wealthy families, including the heirs to the Walmart and Cox Enterprises fortunes. Industry insiders endorsed them. Murdoch met Ms. Holmes at a Silicon Valley event hosted by a tech investor. According to a book by John Carreyrou, Mr. Murdoch was praised by Ms.Holmes.

The co- founder of Coatue Management, a prominent investment fund with a San Francisco presence, helped Brian Grossman, an investor at the health care focused hedge fund PFM Health Sciences, learn about Theranos. In an email that was part of the court filing, Mr. Laffont gushed that Theranos had one of the most impressive boards he had ever seen.

Coatue did not respond to a request for comment.

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The headquarters of Theranos was in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2015. More tech start-ups have followed the funding strategy of the company. Jim Wilson is a reporter for The New York Times.

Ms. Holmes made sure that she would have control of the voting power even if the start-up went public. Chris Lucas, founder of Black Diamond, explained on a call with other investors that this was typical for such companies.

He said that Ms. Holmes's shares were similar to other high-flying companies in Silicon Valley.

The investment in Theranos was bragged about on Facebook. The firm wrote that they were proud to have supported Elizabeth and Theranos for over a decade.

The next year, when Mr. Carreyrou was investigating Theranos, Ms. Holmes embraced Silicon Valley's favorite form of evasion: label anyone who asks hard questions a hater. The start-up's COO poked fun at the reporter's French heritage before Mr. Carreyrou published his first expose about Theranos.

In a text message, Ms.Holmes said she was proud of her cynicism.

Mr. Balwani said that cynicism and skepticism are a disease of the human soul. No one should be proud of diseases.

The rebuttal was used by many in the tech industry. She said in a TV interview that this is what happens when you change things. They think you are crazy, then they fight you, and then you change the world.

Since Theranos collapsed, more tech start-ups have looked outside the small network of Sand Hill Road venture capital firms for funding. The start-ups are raising more money. SoftBank's Vision Fund is one of the megafunds that rushed to back them.

Silicon Valley's shift to a focus on fund-raising over all else was one of the reasons Mr. Salehizadeh left to set up a private equity firm on the East Coast. He said that the big money brought more glamour to tech start-ups, but it had little to do with business.

He said that you are always left feeling like either you are an idiot or brilliant. It is difficult to be an investor.