Forbes 30 Under 30… And 30 years behind bars

from fetishist-solo-entrepreneur department

Back in 2016, when both Theranos and Zenefits were embroiled in scandals involving their superstar founders/CEOs lying to investors, we had a podcast discussing the innovation and marketing mantra of “ fake it till you make it”. it” for startups. One of the points raised is that there is a difference between outright fraud and the usual fragility and exaggeration that occurs in both startups, and that it is important for startup founders not to get carried away.

Of course, we’ve seen many more examples that have crossed over into the fraud category in the past few months, including a number of founders being arrested and jailed, including FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried, Ozzy’s Carlos Watson, and Frankie’s Charlie Javis. All three involved CEOs who became very much the face of their companies, and two of them, Bankman-Fried and Javis, appeared on the infamous Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

The Guardian has an article noting how remarkable it is that several “30 under 30” winners have been arrested. This line is really remarkable.

“The Forbes 30 Under 30 have collectively raised $5.3 billion in funding,” the tech entrepreneur. Chris Bakke tweeted Tuesday. “The Forbes 30 Under 30 have also been arrested for more than $18.5 billion in fraud and embezzlement. An incredible record.” The first number comes from Forbes and the second is Bucke’s own envelope calculation, but you get the gist. the line between innovator and fraud seems to have narrowed alarmingly.

The article makes a point that I think is legitimate and important, calling out the “fetishization of youth.”

The problem here is certainly not Forbes. The problem is the vision of success we’ve been sold and the fetishization of youth. 30 Under 30 isn’t just a list, it’s a mindset. Pressure can lead some ambitious people to take shortcuts. And, in fact, shortcuts are encouraged. after all, millennials grew up being told to “fake it till you make it”, cash in now before you’re a withered, unhinged, 30-year-old prune. If you exaggerate a little, it’s not a scam, it’s a hustle. Until, of course, the Justice Department comes knocking.

I think there’s something to it, but it’s also combined with some other types of fetishization; including the myth of the lone genius who is also often described as “hard to work with” and how such people drive great innovation.

The reality, as always, is that great breakthroughs, great innovations, and a host of other advances come from a team of partners working together. It’s natural to focus on the person at the top, but when everyone is too focused on that one person, it makes for a pretty flammable situation. Combined with awards like Forbes and you create not only a set of expectations, but an entire identity for the entrepreneur. You say they are defined by their entrepreneurial endeavors and thus their success.

In such a world, failure is seen as an attack on their very identity, and it creates huge incentives to take shortcuts that, when in over your head, can eventually turn into outright fraud.

To be clear, Silicon Valley is one of the best places in the world to embrace entrepreneurial failure, often celebrating it and the extent of the lessons learned, but we must begin to understand that most of these famous failures tend to be much more. focus rather than in it. Throwing people directly into the spotlight too early has consequences.

And it shouldn’t be blamed on the media, which made these entrepreneurs heroes. In most of these cases, you can see entrepreneurs looking for such accolades. Indeed, it’s almost part of the “fake it till you make it” handling strategy; see what you can do to get some impressive press coverage to bring in more business for the fact that you don’t really have a sustainable business. .

Of course, most of it is human in nature, so it’s not like it’s going to go away. But it seems worth bringing it up, if only to make some people be a little more careful about labeling “sole entrepreneur” before they’ve actually done something that indicates a particularly sustainable or successful business.

Is presented. 30 Under 30, Carlos Watson, Charlie Javis, Exaggerations, Fake It Till You Make It, Fraud, Cheating, Fried By ATM, Scams

Companies: frank, ftx, ozy

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