Top new series about the world of start-ups

The series super pumped, we crashed Y abandonment counts the fortunes and misfortunes of three unicorns of the new economy. But what do they say about the contemporary business world?

Are all unicorns the same? Not really. But a bit anyway if we are to believe the story given by three series. Super Pumped tells Uber, and his poker players strategy; WeCrashed, the bitter failure of the WeWork coworking company and The Dropout, the blatant rip-off of Theranos that, however, worked in the field of health. At the heart of these three stories, three leaders of the new times recite the same mantra: “Fake it, until you make it.” To translate, more or less, by: “Fake it until you can do it.” All three exercise their strength of conviction throughout the episodes, far more than any other skill. To the point of contagious neuroses and lies: Travis Kalanick asks Uber employees to be above all “assholes” capable of anything to achieve their goals, while Elisabeth Holmes of Theranos pushes her people to knowingly lie about the efficacy of the product.

Unicorns or idiots?

These three series document how three of the most prominent models of the networked economy have failed to be implemented in the real world. Because fake does not resist the real world. This second generation of tech giants seems to have retained from their predecessors only their exponential, frictionless growth. It is forgotten that Google, Facebook and others have not built their empires on fake. Amazon’s supply chain is extremely efficient, Apple products are not just beautiful. Certainly, Jeff Bezos and especially Steve Jobs (whom Elisabeth Holmes reveres) have often behaved like megalomaniacs, but they have been able to offer products that stick to the market at least as much, if not more, than they dreamed.

Distributed by platforms that are part of the digital adventure, these series therefore strive to present us with the straw of capitalism and its gallery of portraits of more or less enlightened scoundrels. In short, the donkeys of the unicorns.

Is Adam Neumann (WeWork) an inconsequential dilettante and Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos) a pathological corrector? Or are they simply people who believed too much in the cardinal virtues of a liberal world: individual merit, growth, gain, and conquest? What is so fascinating about them that they managed to convince seasoned business investors, defying the most basic economic logic? How the whole system, the media and politics, could hear these entrepreneurs launch without even questioning their narrative to sleep well. Inside we crashed, only one of the investors has the lucidity to tell Neumann: “You are not making a revolution, you are renting offices with free Kombucha. »

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These stories of unicorns with an unlikely model are broadcast by unicorns with a model that is sometimes uncertain in itself (Apple TV+, Disney+, Starz or Canal+). These streaming platforms are there to tell us good stories by capturing our attention for as long as possible. Therefore, the three series are distributed in 8 or 9 episodes. Let’s be clear, a movie or a miniseries would have sufficed. As a result, their ratings with viewers do not live up to the expectations they may have raised. Here we come to the limit of this playful mise en abyme. Is too long. We witness entire episodes that illustrate the errors and megalomania of its protagonists: sexism and brutality in the case of Travis Kalanick (Uber), hallucinated messianism and neurotic self-blindness in the other two… Before these failures trigger his downfall, three or four later episodes.

While all of these platforms seem to be absolutely looking to create their Bucher des vanités 3.0, Netflix has preferred to dedicate a series to Anna Delvay (inventing ana). This false heiress wanting to create a contemporary art foundation in her name to integrate New York high society. There are not many new technologies in this story, but always and again the same mantra that seems to be one of the times: “Fake it, until you make it”.

Super Pumped (Starz/ Canal +)

Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick is an aggressive businessman haunted by fears that his investors will steal his start-up like his previous company. He thus assumes a Silicon Valley bad boy stance: fostering competition among his employees, acknowledging the sexism of his teams, exploiting his pilots, and viewing any regulation as an unacceptable affront to his vision. All this, ironically, thanks to the wise advice of his mother and his girlfriend. Joseph Gordon Levitt (Origin, The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln…) works wonders as a speed and testosterone manipulator. We don’t know if it’s necessary here to replace Kevin Spacey (house of cards) into villainous roles in Hollywood, or if he copies too much of Spacey’s own game.

We Crashed (Apple TV+)

For Jared LetoDallas Buyers Club, Blade Runner 2049…), it is clearer. His strangeness has long allowed him to play curiously fragile negative characters like Adam Neumann, creator of WeWork. A coworking box that spans every continent has been valued at over $50 billion. Earlier we realized that structurally it was in a deficit and that, unlike the unicorns of the virtual world, it did not have to improve in the long term. Sharing his expensive lifestyle, his wife Rebekah, unlikely actress/yoga teacher/main club vibe is perfectly camped by Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada, The Dark Knight Rises).Supporting him in his crazy dream of becoming the first, if not the only office provider in the world. A dream that stopped in 2019, even before the pandemic and the rise of remote work, with a scathing article on the cover of Wall Street Journal. He came away with a net worth of nearly a billion dollars that helps put his failure in perspective.

The Dropout (Disney+)

While in her sophomore year at Stanford, Elizabeth Holmes envisioned a portable machine that would allow her blood to be tested from a single drop. Fifteen years later she has raised hundreds of millions and paraded on the covers of magazines and in the arms of people, even becoming part of the board of directors of Harvard Medical School, a shame when we dropped out of school. But her company, Theranos, was unable to produce any conclusive analysis. And her affair ended with a resounding trial after which she still faces 20 years in prison. She persists even today in repeating like a mantra that she didn’t really cheat the world out of her, but that she didn’t deliver it on time. Amanda Seyfried (Mama mia!, Twin Peaks, Mank…) gives his ambiguous fragility to this character who never knows if he allows himself to be manipulated by his mentor and lover or if he manipulates him like everyone else.

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