Uber, WeWork, Theranos… Three series that destroy unicorns

the series super pumped, WeCrashed et the abandonment recount the fortunes and misfortunes of three unicorns in the new economy. But what do they say about the contemporary business world?

Are unicorns all the same? Actually. But a bit all the same if we believe the story told by three series. super pumped Uber account and its poker players strategy; WeCrashedthe bitter failure of the coworking company WeWork, and the abandonment frankly the scam of Theranos who, however, worked in the field of health. At the center of these three stories, three leaders of the new times reciting the same mantra: “Fake it, until you make it”. Roughly translating as: “Fake it until you can do it”. All three exert their strength of conviction throughout the episodes, far more than any other skill. To the point of spreading his neuroses and his lies: Travis Kalanick urges Uber employees to be above all “assholes” capable of anything to achieve their goals, while Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes pressures her people to knowingly lie about the product’s effectiveness .

Unicorns or idiots?

These three series document how three of the most prominent models of the liquid economy failed to implement in the real world. Because fake doesn’t stand up to the real world. This second generation of tech giants seems to have retained only their exponential, frictionless growth from their predecessors. This is to forget that Google, Facebook and others didn’t build their empires on fake. Amazon’s supply chain is extremely efficient, Apple’s products aren’t just beautiful. Certainly Jeff Bezos and especially Steve Jobs (whom Elizabeth Holmes reveres) have often behaved like temperamental megalomaniacs, but they have been able to deliver products that adhere to the market at least as much and if not more than their wildest dreams. .

Distributed across platforms that are part of the digital adventure, these series aim to present us with the chaff of capitalism and its gallery of portraits of more or less enlightened crooks. In short, the donkeys of unicorns.

Adam Neumann (WeWork) is a reckless dabbler and Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos) a pathological corrector? Or are they simply people who have believed too much in the cardinal virtues of a liberal world: individual merit, growth, profit and achievement? What is so fascinating about them that they managed to convince savvy business investors by defying the most basic economic logic? How could the entire system – media and politics – listen to these entrepreneurs without ever questioning their narrative? Inside WeCrashed, only one of the investors has the lucidity to say to Neumann: “You are not making a revolution, you are renting offices with free kombucha. »

Stream baby transmission

These stories of unicorns with an unlikely model are broadcast by unicorns with a sometimes uncertain model (Apple TV+, Disney+, Starz or Canal+). These streaming platforms are in the business of telling us good stories, capturing our attention for as long as possible. The three series are therefore spread over 8 or 9 episodes. Let’s be clear, a movie or a miniseries would have sufficed. As a result, your ratings with viewers don’t live up to the expectations they may have created. Here we reach the limit of this fun mise en abyme. Is very far. We’ve watched entire episodes that illustrate the mistakes and megalomania of its main characters: machismo and brutality in the case of Travis Kalanick (Uber), hallucinated messianism and neurotic self-blindness for the other two… Before those flaws trigger his downfall, three or four episodes after.

While all these platforms seem to be absolutely looking to create their Pyre of vanities 3.0, Netflix preferred to dedicate a series to Anna Delvey (inventing Ana), this false heiress wanting to create a contemporary art foundation in her name to integrate New York high society. There aren’t many new technologies in this story, but always the same mantra that seems to be one of those of the time: “Fake it, until you make it”.

super pumped (Starz/Channel+)

Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick is an aggressive entrepreneur, haunted by the fear of having his startup stolen by his investors, as he did with his previous company. He therefore assumes the position of a Silicon Valley bad boy: encouraging competition among his employees, admitting the machismo of his teams, exploiting his drivers and considering any regulation as an unacceptable affront to his vision. All this, ironically, thanks to the sage advice of his mother and his girlfriend. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln…) works wonders as a speed and testosterone manipulator. We don’t know if he’s needed here to replace Kevin Spacey (house of cards) in the roles of villains in Hollywood, or if you copy Spacey’s game too much.

WeCrashed (Apple TV+)

Pour Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club, Blade Runner 2049…), is clearer. His awkwardness has long allowed him to play curiously fragile negative characters like Adam Neumann, creator of WeWork. This coworking box that spans all continents has been valued at over 50 billion dollars. Before we realized that it was structurally deficient and that, unlike the unicorns of the virtual world, there was no reason to improve in the long term. Sharing his expensive lifestyle, his wife Rebekah, unlikely actress/yoga teacher/main club vibe is perfectly pitched by Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada, The Dark Knight Risand); she supports him in his crazy dream of becoming the first, if not the only, office provider in the world. A dream that was interrupted in 2019, even before the pandemic and the rise of telecommuting, with a scathing article on the front page of Wall Street Journal. He came away with a nearly billion dollar estate that helps him put his failure in perspective.

the abandonment (Disney+)

While she was only in her sophomore year at Stanford, Elizabeth Holmes envisioned a portable machine that allowed her blood to be analyzed from a single drop. Fifteen years later, she has raised hundreds of millions and parades on the front pages of magazines and in the arms of people, going on to be a member of the board of directors of the Harvard medical school, a shame when you dropped out of school. But his company, Theranos, has not provided any conclusive analysis. And her adventure ended with a resounding trial after which she still faces 20 years in prison. She persists to this day in repeating as a mantra that she really didn’t fool her world, but failed to deliver in time. Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!, Twin Peaks, Mank…) gives an ambiguous fragility to this character, who you never know if he lets himself be manipulated by his mentor and lover or if he manipulates him like everyone else.

Leave a Comment