It seems that being featured on the Forbes cover can be a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s a great way to get some recognition for your business and achieve celebrity status in the world of entrepreneurship. On the other hand, it can also be a surefire way to end up in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos
Take Elizabeth Holmes, for example. She was a rising star in the tech industry, hailed as the “next Steve Jobs” and featured on the several business cover review’s in 2015. But it turns out that her company, Theranos, was more of a fraud than a revolutionary breakthrough. And now, instead of being hailed as a visionary entrepreneur, Holmes is facing multiple counts of fraud and the prospect of spending years behind bars.
Sam Bankman Friedman and FTX
Or how about Sam Bankman Friedman? He appeared on the Forbes cover in 2021 as the CEO of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange. But it turns out that FTX has been involved in some shady business practices, including allegations of insider trading and market manipulation, at the end the company failed badly. And now, instead of being celebrated as a trailblazing innovator, Friedman is facing questions about his future with a incoming process for fraud.
Adam Neuman, Wework
And then there’s Adam Neuman, the former CEO of WeWork. He was featured on the Forbes cover in 2019, when his company was valued at over $47 billion. But it turns out that WeWork’s valuation was a bit of a fantasy, and the company’s business model was unsustainable. And now, instead of being lauded as a genius entrepreneur, Neuman is a cautionary tale of what can happen when you believe your own hype.
Silicon Valley Bank
Ah, Silicon Valley Bank, the one bank that had the audacity to lend money to startups in the tech hub of the world. But what happens when those startups fail? Well, apparently the bank fails too.  The recent collapse of the bank has sent shockwaves through the entire tech ecosystem, with Square, Mozilla, and Slack being just a few of the companies affected. The bank lost billions of dollars in loans to startups that ultimately went bust, and now it’s gone bust itself.
The fall of Silicon Valley Bank Financial Group (SVB) is the biggest banking collapse in the past 15 years, and its recent downfall has led to a run on the bank, causing it to crumble under the pressure.
The problem of Forbes Lists
Moreover, Forbes’ narrative of success, with its “Under 30” and “Billionaires” lists, fuels a culture of achievement that whips people instead of motivating them. The publication suggests that the only way to succeed is to achieve it quickly, without any consideration for the long-term consequences of one’s actions. The fact that people can enter these lists by being recommended by others can also distort the objectivity of the lists themselves.
This type of narrative is not only unrealistic, but it is also dangerous. It fosters a toxic culture of success that sidelines ethics and responsibility. This attitude can lead to reckless and harmful decisions, both for the individual and for society as a whole because it incites people to follow a culture that is not only toxic but also fragile when it comes to real life.
Forbes should leave aside the miraculous business captains who end up sinking and start talking about how real change happens by giving space to technicians and researchers. It is only with solid skills that positive change is created.
Finally, a piece of advice for those who follow the Silicon Valley world: not everything that glitters is gold. True, a significant portion of the innovations we live with today have emerged from there, but so have many of the problems they have caused (if you think about the harmful effects of social media, it’s an excellent example). Europe has a tradition of critical thinking and should culturally try not to flatten itself into an American model, no matter how successful it may appear.
Stop fake until you make it and even after?
So what can we learn from all of this? Well, maybe it’s time to take a step back and reassess what we value in business. Maybe we should stop celebrating short-term success and start focusing on building sustainable, ethical businesses that contribute to society in meaningful ways. Or maybe we should just stop taking Forbes covers so seriously. After all, it seems like being featured on the cover can be a bit of a curse as much as a blessing.
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