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Elizabeth Holmes was the ex-CEO of Theranos. In September she requested a new trial. Holmes argued that one key prosecution witness had apologized for his involvement in Holmes’s criminal conviction.

It’s worth revisiting why she’s facing jail time for her actions while other founders who obliterate billions of dollars simply walk away from their failed companies. Many people emerge seemingly unharmed, much like the phoenix. the ashes, and For their next great idea, raise more millions.

Crossing is the key to success the Fine line between optimism More the The future is something all tech entrepreneurs must know. and fraudThis can put a founder behind bars.

To be clear, Holmes is not alone in her plight, she’s just the The most prominent poster child, and the latest high-profile example of a founder to cross the line. There are numerous examples of founders that have risen to the top, or even over it. the threshold — and You can get away with it.


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It’s important for leaders in the Learn from the startup community the Lessons from the recent past — when times were good and funding was abundant — because as the Economy slows and When money is tight it becomes difficult the Move beyond optimism Your company may become stronger. It is possible to start another company. It’s much harder to bounce back from a loss of trust and reputation.

What a difference between optimism and fraud

Paul Allen, Microsoft’s co-founder and CEO once declared: “Any crusade requires optimism and the ambition to aim high.” 

Part of optimism is the founder’s creed. It’s required to create something out of nothing. James Dyson has to be quite the optimist. He worked five years on 5127 prototypes prior to he made his creation. the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner and a multi-billion dollar empire in the process.

It is important to have optimism for more than just the Resistance and Grit to create a product that works, and to find a product market match, and to launch a company. the ground. The founders should have an optimistic view of the future. the future — the total addressable market and their product’s potential — to raise money from investors.

The key thing to keep in mind is that while it’s okay, even advisable, to express a bold vision of the future, misrepresenting what happened, or didn’t, in the Past will make you miserable. That’s fraud.

Here’s an example:

  • Optimism: Describing the Potential of your product and Projection of revenue the Future based upon reasonable assumptions (even though they may be highly optimistic).
  • Fraud: Falsifying revenue/profit figures or test results

Investors with sophisticated skills can assess the Based on the knowledge they have, future projections are plausible the Markt and a founder’s track record or lack thereof. They are willing to place all bets the Time on positive founders. That’s their business model. 

However the When numbers are miscalculated, the system will fail. Do not try to secure more customers or raise additional rounds. the Slippery slope fraud.

It’s not uncommon for mistakes to occur

As a lawyer, I’m glad I’ve never had to defend a client against allegations of fraud. Helping clients to understand is one of my jobs and steer clear of the Fine line between optimism and fraud As described previously. 

These are the issues I discuss with clients when speaking to them. the concepts I try to get across — shared with me by a mentor I truly respect — is the Different between truth, lies and mistakes.

Telling the truth is useful when you are making financial projections. the “truth” This involves using accepted, standard formulas. Third parties should be able reverse engineer such projections to arrive at a final conclusion. and understand the There are many assumptions that go behind it. Based on their perceptions, a third-party might come up with a different conclusion. the There should not be mystery about market opportunities. A “lie” You would lie about past performances, miss key information, and/or misrepresent other information.

However, even a founder can be telling the truth, it doesn’t mean the The expected outcome may not come to pass. It often doesn’t. It is not always perfect. Founding founders have many balls to keep them occupied. and they can’t foresee every eventuality. Even institutions large enough to evaluate can’t foresee every eventuality. the The future the so-called “experts” We were given the task of telling you where the The stock market’s direction is often wrong. They’re (typically) not lying.

We become used to their mistakes. We also have many more. the This same dynamic applies to founders, who are required to give their best guess about what they think. the The future is at your fingertips.

Mistakes aren’t fraud. They’re often an unavoidable part of telling the truth.

Prediction making best practices: Best Startup Practices

Projection the Being a founder of a startup is all about the future. These best practices will allow you to make projections and help raise capital. and Avoid risks such as the possibility of being accused fraud.

  • Clear and concise about the Your projections are based on assumptions
  • Create different scenarios — best case, likely case, and worst case — to establish credibility.
  • Comparison of industry averages with benchmark projections You can find a lot more information about average SaaS company growth rates.
  • Take financial responsibility and Get legal assistance Get help from CPAs who are experienced and You can get help from legal professionals to avoid common mistakes.

Trustworthy third-party sources are recommended when setting up your valuation. the Valuation or, if your goal is to be a DIYer, use an investor-trusted methodology such as the Berkus Methodology (Berkus Methodology), Scorecard Method and Risk Factor Summation Method. Tie your optimism To real numbers and Competitor values. Don’t just say, “We are worth $5 billion,” Only optimism To show how you got to this valuation. 

Don’t be afraid to sprint forward with an optimistic vision for your company. That’s the secret sauce for your future success. However, there is more. the way, don’t get tripped up by the Fine line between optimism and fraud.

Kristin Corpion is the founder and Chief legal officer of CORPlaw.


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