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Elizabeth Holmes’s Miscalculation

The line between vision and hubris in Silicon Valley has always been blurry. So often, CEOs are hailed as visionaries (Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg). Other times, they’re hailed as overly arrogant and cocky. I increasingly think the difference boils down to a simple thing: how fast their companies are growing.

A fast-growing company like Apple, Google or Facebook gets a big pass. But if growth slows, the situation changes. See a company like Jawbone or other once-hyped startups that sputter. All of a sudden the CEO’s grand proclamations about changing the world or building the best products seem annoyingly grandiose.

Why do I bring this up now? Because it is all I can think about when I watch the blood feud between Theranos and the Wall Street Journal.

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Holmes is is fond of talking about Theranos’s “community,” which is not the buzzword I would use for people who happened to get their cholesterol tested in the same Walgreens.