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Women in tech rue the Theranos effect

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes in 2015. David Orrell/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank

👩‍🔬 🩸 Elizabeth Holmes was once hailed as “the next Steve Jobs” by the Silicon Valley set, says Erin Griffith in The New York Times. Her company, Theranos, and its supposedly ingenious blood-test kit were set to revolutionise medicine – even more impressive given that she set up the company when she was 19. Now she’s facing trial in California for defrauding investors, doctors and patients. Her implosion has spawned a documentary, a book and podcasts, with a miniseries starring Amanda Seyfried on the way.

All lurid, knockabout stuff, perhaps, but women in Holmes’s field are suffering because of her actions. Alice Zhang’s drug discovery start-up, Verge Genomics, became the butt of jokes about Holmes. DotLab’s Heather Bowerman initially had to hold off from raising venture capital in the wake of unflattering (and ill-informed) comparisons with Theranos.

Other women blame “a start-up ecosystem that venerates bold, disruptive businesses, with investors often forgiving those who bend the rules or take short cuts”. Last month Beth Esponnette, founder of custom jeans company Unspun, published an essay describing this struggle, titled “I get it, Elizabeth Holmes”. While she says many of Holmes’s actions were inexcusable, she adds: “She thought she was doing the right thing taking the universal advice of Silicon Valley: ‘Fake it till you make it.’”

Indian weddings go digital

Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

🇮🇳 🎊 Matrimony is big business in India, says The Economist. It was a $50bn industry that was growing by 25% a year before the pandemic. But Covid-19 has forced many Indian couples to postpone. No one wants to host the superspreader event of the summer.

Happily, digital platforms that help families plan and even conduct weddings online are thriving. With arranged marriages still common, digitisation even extends to courtship. The boss of expects its video-calling feature for introductions to persist, “not least because it deals with the common grouse from customers that their chosen one’s profile picture embellishes reality”.

Woke funds won’t save the planet

🌎 💵 Investors have poured money into ESG (environmental, social and governance) funds in the past few years, assured they can line their pockets and save the planet. This silly idea is “a bit like the NRA’s traditional answer to mass shootings and related concerns around public safety – the answer is more guns”, says banking dissident Tariq Fancy in an essay on Medium. As former chief investment officer for sustainable investing at BlackRock, he should know.

A repentant Fancy says ESG is a distraction. The rules of capitalism need to change to stop the planet consuming itself to death. I agree, says Robert Armstrong in the FT. We need “a whopping big carbon tax, and soon, or we’re cooked”. Yet some of the smartest, most powerful people in the corporate world are rattling on about this sustainable investing drivel instead. “It scares me.”