WeWork and Theranos – what can we be taught? – Hemant R Joshi

Just a few weeks in the past, I completed studying a e book known as “Billion Greenback Loser” – a e book concerning the epic catastrophe at WeWork. The corporate, which was going to IPO at a valuation of $47bn as soon as, was valued at lower than $10bn weeks later, and in addition determined to not IPO.

Proper after, I noticed a documentary about one other firm known as Theranos, one other colossal startup failure.

Each of those made me marvel concerning the motivations of founders. What was it they had been actually wanting that they stored rising their corporations regardless of not having a enterprise that labored?

What precisely occurred?

Theranos, based in 2003 was a startup “revolutionizing” blood assessments as we all know them. The corporate was constructing a tool that might conduct greater than 200 blood assessments with only a few drops of blood, as an alternative of the test-tubes filled with blood that’s collected at this time in blood testing centres. The corporate claimed it required just one/100 of the quantity of blood that will ordinarily be wanted.

At its peak, the corporate was valued at $10bn {dollars}.

However there was an issue. The corporate didn’t have a working product! It was all a rip-off. And what’s extra fascinating is that the corporate managed to persuade giants like Walgreens (a big pharmacy chain within the US) to be its early clients.

As an increasing number of folks began popping out and telling that issues weren’t how they seemed, investigations began in 2016. The corporate turned defunct in 2018.

WeWork was a distinct sport altogether. WeWork is an organization that rents actual property to freelancers, small companies and enterprises – a contemporary idea known as co-working areas. The founders of WeWork all the time talked about that they weren’t renting actual property, however had been constructing a “international neighborhood” of staff. They claimed the corporate was a tech firm, however actually, it was an actual property enterprise that didn’t scale very effectively. But, they had been in a position to get to a sky-high valuation of $47bn after they filed their paperwork for IPO.

Weeks later, because the investigators began poking holes into their IPO paperwork, the onion began getting peeled. The corporate lied on its financials, was shedding rather more cash than it acknowledged, and it didn’t have a lot of a “tech operation.” Because of this, the corporate determined to again off from its IPO. Later, the buyers within the firm determined to oust its CEO, who bought $1.7bn to get away from the corporate. WHAT?

The issue, in each the instances, lay on the prime – the founders.

In regards to the founders

Each Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos) and Adam Neumann (WeWork) appeared nice at promoting. Elizabeth persistently motivated her staff to suppose that that they had a breakthrough product, even when the staff knew they didn’t have a lot going. Adam was in a position to persuade buyers that the corporate was a tech operation, and was constructing a bodily social neighborhood, form of like Fb or Twitter, however in actual areas. Actual property simply occurred to be part of the enterprise.

Each of them appeared a little bit delusional – Elizabeth believing that what she was doing was good for the world, whereas Adam considering that he was genuinely constructing a worldwide neighborhood that might assist one another. However, how might they not actually take a look at the world round them? In a single case, the product didn’t work (and this was blood assessments – the accuracy of medical studies is of supreme necessary. One mistake and you possibly can kill folks). Within the different case, the corporate was spending an excessive amount of cash and didn’t present any worth on the neighborhood side. Certain, they may have had the fitting intentions at begin, however later, how might they be delusional when elevating an increasing number of cash? It appeared like they had been chasing greater valuations, and never sound companies.

Each of them had been unafraid of mendacity in public. Theranos, for instance, made a declare that they had been making $100mn in income after they had been actually making $100k. WeWork got here with its personal manner of calculating EBITDA, calling it the “neighborhood adjusted EBITDA”.

[EBITDA = the money a company makes before taxes]

What concerning the buyers?

Enterprise capitalists (VCs) must take enormous bets with little or no information. It’s assumed that when you spend money on 20 startups, just one or 2 are going to succeed and others are going to fail. However the returns on these 1 or 2 are 10x, 20x, and even greater, which cowl up for the losses with the opposite corporations.

In enterprise capital, you can not spend money on any firm you need, like you’ll be able to within the inventory market. It is advisable to get permissions from founders as a way to make investments. As such, there’s a fantastic demand amongst VCs for investing within the prime startups, whereas different startups don’t see any responses to their funding pitches.

Within the case of WeWork, one thing comparable occurred. One in style agency determined to take a position, contemplating how Adam Neumann was in a position to persuade them of his imaginative and prescient. Because of this funding, many extra folks adopted. Ultimately, the whale within the ocean – Softbank, determined to spend money on WeWork. And Softbank was able to go daring and make investments billions of {dollars} within the firm.

Nevertheless it appeared like diligence was lacking. Desperation of the buyers to get in on a “fast-growing firm” was greater than the endurance required for diligence.

A quote about WeWork from the e book:

“These folks invested, they knew the phrases, they knew concerning the governance points, and so they instructed this man, ‘Be you, however be ten instances you.’ What did they anticipate?”

Billion Greenback Loser

To present the buyers credit score, I feel this can be a actually onerous sport they’re enjoying and such misses can occur.

They will display for “mental honesty” to an extent, however are most likely not going to know somebody’s internal motivations absolutely. In each the instances, it’s clear that the founders had been keen about their corporations, however they weren’t trustworthy.

This to me looks as if the core subject right here.

Certain, as founders, you might be visionaries. You chase visions that individuals don’t consider in, perhaps for years, however mendacity is just not the answer. You may say your small business is just not working presently, however you have got a plan to make it work. However saying that your small business goes nice simply to boost your valuations is problematic.

In conclusion, what I’ve learnt is scamming is just not that arduous. All of it boils right down to how trustworthy you might be.


  1. Billion Greenback Loser – the story of WeWork – e book hyperlink
  2. The Inventor: Out for blood in Silicon Valley – the story of Theranos – documentary
  3. Theranos – Wikipedia
  4. WeWork’s IPO catastrophe – Vox

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I am Christian Nnakuzierem Alozie (Kris Kuzie Alozie). A native of Eziama Nneato in Umunneochi LGA, Abia State, Nigeria. I am an inspirational writer and a motivational speaker. And above all, a lover of charity.

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