Elizabeth Holmes, Adam Neumann, and some Schadenfreude

I spent weeks obsessing over Elizabeth Holmes after reading Bad Blood. I watched videos. I read how the media reported on Theranos before we discovered what was really happening behind closed doors. I convinced a friend to read the book so we could talk about her. I sent him screenshots of the news that reported how Holmes had changed her appearance.

I couldn’t get enough.

Still, every time I see anything mentioning her, I have to read it.

The story is that good.

And then Adam Neumann came.

At the time he became a thing, I was running a coworking space. This space was about to be closed and reading about a guy that crashed and burned with a business similar to the one I had not succeeded at, made me even more interested.

I had failed and, unlike Neumann, I would not be able to exit with billions in my bank account.

I had failed, but at least, I didn’t have erratic behaviors and people still trusted my professional abilities. I guess.

Some weeks ago, during the last SXSW, I watched the documentary WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn.

Just look at Adam’s face on that still hahaha. Ugh!

Let me tell you, I thoroughly enjoyed watching how Adam Neumann failed. And that’s why I included Schadenfreude in the title of this post.

I met a lot of people while running the coworking space. Some with great ideas and projects, others that were simply selling smoke, as we say in Spanish.

These were people that talked about their ideas as if they were the next Mark Zuckerberg. They used garbage language to describe projects that I had seen many times before. They talked but never worked. Some of them didn’t even have a product (or worse… a market!). They had named themselves disruptors. They were full of bullshit.

I could see through them.

And my instincts were always good, I never failed to identify these bullshit entrepreneurs.

After meeting them, I was always checking their social media profiles or their websites. I wanted to know what they would do next. I wanted to know if they would actually launch or if they would actually get clients.

Ok, there’s a darker truth here.

It’s terrible to accept but I was secretly hoping for them to fail.

I was waiting for some Schadenfreude to hit. Eventually, in most of the cases, it did.

The entrepreneurs I met didn’t have the skills and resources that Elizabeth Holmes and Adam Neumann had. They didn’t have their grit. They weren’t in the right place at the right time. They were just unlucky.

But for every unlucky bullshit entrepreneur, there are others that succeed.

They’re people that take advantage of others, most of the time of their naivete or desperation. These entrepreneurs fake it ‘til they fake they made it just to fake and lie a bit more. 

And I don’t like them.

I hate that this system is so easy on them. Why do they even get the chance to deceive people? 

So yes, deep down inside of me I’m always hoping for some divine justice.

I want them to fail, and fail hard.

I want people to see through them, through their lies and their yogababble.

But if I’m being honest, as much as I don’t want people like this existing anymore, I can’t wait for the next Neumann or Holmes to fail.

I just can’t get enough.

Yes, I’m a terrible person.

And just to end this, go and watch the WeWork documentary and read Bad Blood. Get a fix of Schadenfreude.

ps. If you want to know more about terrible people in terrible places a.k.a. Silicon Valley, go read Whistleblower by Susan Fowler.

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