The Daily Beast - November 14, 2021
Elizabeth Holmes might be regarded as a privileged, entitled fraud now, but for a few years there she was mostly identified as the world’s “youngest female self-made billionaire.” The chattering classes damn near wore themselves out fawning over Holmes as a model of indefatigable rise-and-grindism, whose “dues-paying,” “honesty, hard work, self-reliance and perseverance” had taken her—a “college dropout” they kept reminding us— from child “prodigy” to tech “wunderkind.” (“She only pauses in her work to run—seven miles a day,” The New York Times gushed in 2015.)
No one’s charging that everyone who ever said anything nice about Holmes, who is currently facing several federal criminal charges, should have known the Theranos founder was allegedly swindling rich marks for their untaxed millions.
But what is definitely worth noting is that Holmes, whose congressional staffer mom and ex-Enron vice president dad reportedly used their connections to hook her up with the same megarich investors she would later reputedly defraud, was never a “self-made” anything. All the endless hailing of her as such was as much a part of the con as the rest of her now debunked story.
Holmes was breathlessly and repeatedly compared with very rich entrepreneurs like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, all of whom I only bring up because none of them are self-made, either. For all the boot-strappin’ mythologizing of their supposed backstories, not a single one turned rags into riches, billionaire messiah-style.
Sure, Buffet has made a lot of brilliant investment decisions, but had his father been a janitor instead of a stockbroker who later served as a U.S. House member representing Nebraska, he would probably not have had a friend and “family circle” containing people who could afford to pony up the $10,000 in the 1950s (about $102,000 today) to invest in his first company.
Gates’ dad, a well-known corporate lawyer, married up when he got hitched to Gates’ mom, a highly successful business lady who reportedly mentioned her son’s little computer startup to a buddy who happened to be chairman of IBM, resulting in MS-DOS being chosen as the operating system for IBM’s first personal computer. (Gates’s maternal grandfather, who served as director of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in Seattle, left his grandson a million-dollar trust fund that rarely gets mentioned in all those “Harvard drop out” hagiographies.)
Mark Zuckerberg’s dad reportedly donated $100,000 in Facebook seed money, a contribution I assume he will later have to take up with his God. And the list goes on—Elon Musk’s white South African family reportedly mined blood emeralds during apartheid, Jeff Bezos’ parents gave him $250,000 to launch Amazon in the 1990s. ...
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