In yet another blow to Silicon Valley's "fake it till you make it" mantra, a federal jury has convicted former Theranos executive Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani on all 12 counts of fraud. Balwani was born in 1965 in Pakistan to a Sindhi Hindu family. He attended Aitchison College, an elite prep school in Lahore that is also the alma mater of former Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan. His family emigrated to India in 1984 and then to the United States in 1987. He studied at the University of Texas at Austin and University of California at Berkeley. His one-time girlfriend and partner Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, was convicted on similar charges earlier this year. Both face up to 20 years in prison.
|Elizabeth Holmes (L) and Sunny Balwani of Theranos
"Fake it till you make it" is a well-known phrase in Silicon Valley. It means to consciously cultivate an attitude, feeling, or perception of competence that you don't currently have by pretending you do until it becomes true. Holmes and Balwani claimed to have developed a proprietary blood-testing technology to produce results with just a few drops of blood from a finger prick, eliminating the need for large needles and vials of blood. They used this false claim to defraud unsuspecting investors, including VCs, of more than a billion US dollars.
Balwani, 57, ran the company’s lab, where the blood testing occurred, and was quick to rebuff and sometimes fire employees who raised concerns about the performance of Theranos technology, prosecutors and witnesses said. He was responsible for the financial models given to investors that greatly exaggerated revenue, prosecutors said, and he managed the company’s partnership with Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., in which the startup would offer its finger-prick tests inside the drugstore chain, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Balwani is a technology industry veteran. He has worked in the software industry, including at Lotus Software and Microsoft Corp., but much of his wealth is derived from CommerceBid.com, an e-commerce startup that was acquired by CommerceOne, led by Pakistani-American entrepreneur Asim Abdullah, for $228 million. Karachi-born Asim Abdullah now owns the fashion house of Emmanuel Ungaro.
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