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The flourishing of high-tech entrepreneurship, garage craftsmen who have become billionaires, startups, startups, startups … All this excites the imagination, forcing us to forget that the dark sides of human nature are also manifested here. Here are four stories about the talented masters of showing off.
Blood on the needle
An incomparable startup scam was, of course, the case of Theranos. And the saddest thing is that this great scam happened in a sensitive area like healthcare. Elizabeth Holmes, a 19-year-old girl from a good family who left Stanford, founded a startup that soon announced a revolutionary blood testing technology.
Let others draw blood from patients in tubes - Theranos knows how to get by with the tiny droplet on the tip of the needle. The firm also set out to produce automated assay devices that were fast, efficient, and significantly less expensive than the old-fashioned competitors.
The young lady was believed, and soon she became the youngest business woman with a billion-dollar fortune: at the peak of its fame, Theranos was worth about $ 9 billion, and Elizabeth owned half.
It is surprising, bordering on admiration, the fact that Elizabeth managed to powder the brains of the public and the moneybags for ten years, forcing them to believe in technology that did not exist. All the information that came from Theranos was one continuous stream of lies, manipulations and falsifications. The darkness finally collapsed when exposing material appeared in the press in 2015, and it finally attracted the interest of government agencies such as the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission in Theranos.
In 2016, everything that Holmes owned depreciated from $ 4.5 billion to almost zero. Elizabeth and her associate Ramesh Balwani were brought to trial. Courts in America have been going on for a long time, this year the process was suspended due to the pandemic, but as a result, the former star of the startup business still has good chances, as they say, to sit down. For a long time.
Rides from the slope
The name of the famous Serbian-American scientist Nikola Tesla is literally being torn to pieces: the competitor of the Tesla brand, owned by Elon Musk, has become the Nikola company, which also set out to master the niche of the trucks of the future. In 2016, she presented the design of the Nikola One electric tractor unit. Each of the six wheels in it was supposed to be driven, and they were to be driven by six electric motors with a total capacity of 1000 horsepower.
The power-to-weight ratio of the vehicle, as stated, made it possible to provide a speed of up to 105 km / h while moving 36 tons of cargo. The main feature of the tractor is the power supply from fuel cells that consume hydrogen.
As you know, electricity in such batteries is generated in the course of an electrochemical reaction, and the only exhaust is just water. This beautiful car was supposed to go into production in 2019, but there is great doubt that it exists in at least one working copy.
A big scandal was caused by the leak of information that during the filming of the Nikola One promo video, the car was set in motion by the preliminary rolling of the truck to the top of the slope - in other words, the electro-hydrogen truck cannot move differently than under the influence of the earth's gravity.
Then an injection from a fellow Tesla arrived in time. Tesla accused Nikola of patenting someone else's design for a car that does not exist in reality.Confirmation that Nikola is doing badly, and that a super-ecological tractor is likely to never be built, comes from the departure of founder Trevor Milton as CEO of the company.
Do you want to make a really fashionable gadget? It's simple! Order a design in an expensive design bureau, take care of the quality of materials and workmanship, set an exorbitant price for the product … And let it be completely useless. Recipe from the American company Juciero, founded in 2013 in San Francisco by curly-haired bespectacled Doug Evans.
Evans positioned himself as a supporter of healthy eating and even ran a chain of organic food stores, but something went wrong, the business had to leave, but an enterprising young man from Frisco had a new idea. Do you like freshly squeezed "organic" juice? He will always be at your home.
Just buy a high-tech cold-pressed press and juice from a mixture of pureed fresh vegetables and fruits, which are selected especially for you. No, no, no third party manufacturers! Juice mixes are sold only in branded Juciero bags (priced at a hefty $ 5-7).
Before spinning, the press scans QR codes on them in order to connect to the manufacturer's database on the Internet to check the authenticity and expiration date. The Juciero press itself hit the market for $ 699, but how can such an advanced piece be cheap? By 2015, Juciero had become truly fashionable, the press could be seen not only in homes, but also in expensive hotels and restaurants, and the newspapers glorified the next “shot” startup.
It's time for some serious money. They invested $ 120 million in the developing company, and even Google was among the investors. Former President of Coca Cola North America Jeff Dunn took Evans' place. However, the moment of truth came when a short report from Bloomberg TV showed that juice from a branded bag can be squeezed with your hands - with exactly the same result.
And even though the press had fallen in price to $ 399 by that time, no one needed it anymore. In 2017, the Juciero company ceased to exist.
It is one thing to take a lot of money from several large investors (this is risky), and another thing is to borrow a little from thousands (the risk is less, and the amounts may be comparable). That is why tech scammers are often attracted to crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo, which announced in 2014 a fundraiser for the communication device of the future - Dragonfly Futurefön.
It was represented by the startup company IdealFuture. The idea of all kinds of portable convertible clamshells was in the air in those years.
Even large companies with a solid reputation drew their concepts; however, the trend has not received serious development. Futurefön on very high-quality (and still hand-drawn) videos, which are still abundant on the Web, was shown in the form of a transforming smartphone, unfolded into a small computer with a normal QWERTY keyboard and two screens - they could act both separately and as a single whole. A slim slide-out touchpad was also proposed.
A separate feature was the ability to display the Windows interface on one screen, and Android on the other. IdealFuture founder Jeff Baitio was not a pure scammer. He was really interested in the career of a computer designer, and more than once he designed all kinds of gadgets - only the manufacturing companies were not interested in any of them.
Well, at the same time Jeff began to gradually master "relatively honest ways of taking money from the population." Finally, it's time to draw something very inspiring and raise money for it from naive gadget lovers.
On Indiegogo alone, Futurefön managed to raise $ 725,000. And then the company disappeared. However, the dodgy startup did not get away with it. In the end, law enforcement agencies became interested in his "design", and in 2019, Beitio was brought to trial. He is charged with numerous cases of fraud.
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