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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Monday's Elizabeth Holmes verdicts became, instantly and inevitably, a Rorschach test for Silicon Valley's self-image.

What they're saying: Critics of tech's go-go startup culture saw the Theranos founder's conviction on four counts of conspiracy and fraud as evidence that the entire industry sits on a foundation of deception and hype. Others cited the outcome as healthy proof that even a business built on daring the impossible has a ceiling on hubris.

  • "The verdict signaled the end of an era. In Silicon Valley, where the line between talk and achievement is often vague, there is finally a limit to faking it," tech journalist David Streitfeld wrote in the New York Times.

Why it matters: Tech's giant companies now make up a big chunk of the U.S. economy and operate in every facet of our lives. If the industry were really built on lies, we'd all be in trouble.

Yes, but: If Big Tech's services were frauds the way Theranos' blood tests were, the iPhone would still be vaporware, Google wouldn't provide search results and you'd never get your packages from Amazon.

  • Also, Theranos' biotech category set it apart from the classic Silicon Valley startup model — and subjected it to tighter regulations.

The other side: "This verdict makes me concerned that the spirit of entrepreneurship in America is in jeopardy," venture investor Tim Draper, a Theranos backer, said in a statement.

  • "If this scrutiny happened to every entrepreneur as they tried to make this world a better place, we would have no automobile, no smartphone, no antibiotics and no automation, and our world would be less for it," Draper said.

Our thought bubble: Holmes, who carbon-copied Steve Jobs' black-turtleneck look, also borrowed much more from Jobs — particularly the obsessive secrecy in which Apple has always shrouded product development.

  • At Theranos, that stance helped hide the company's lack of progress toward actually delivering its medical breakthrough.

Of note: "Genius hatches something amazing in a garage" isn't the only Silicon Valley playbook.

  • The tech industry, particularly its software wing, has also embraced a nimble style of product development that advises companies to "ship early and often" and share data widely to find and fix flaws fast.
  • A more transparent Theranos would never have won the kind of adulatory coverage and FOMO-driven investments that Holmes did. But it would have been a lot less likely to end up as a trial-certified fraud.

Whether Holmes ends up serving a long prison sentence or not, don't expect too much introspection from tech's leaders in the wake of her convictions.

  • Most tech entrepreneurs do not see anything resembling Holmes when they look in the mirror (and that's not only because most are not women).
  • In a marketplace that favors confidence and speed, soul-searching and self-questioning have never been popular — and indeed are widely seen as liabilities.

The bottom line: As long as the startup world is full of way too much cash chasing way too few hot deals, the next Theranos will probably find funding.

  • As Bloomberg's Matt Levine put it: "Theranos raised a lot of money from investors who did not do too much due diligence, because the world was awash in money and investors got careless; that is much, much, much, much more true now, and Theranos looks a little quaint."

Go deeper

The state tech policy battles that will rage in 2022

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

States will ramp up the momentum they've built in tackling key tech policy priorities through 2022, speeding ahead of any potential federal legislation.

Why it matters: As Congress continues to make little tangible progress passing new rules for the tech industry, state legislatures have taken the lead in enacting new tech regulations.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: The judge said the most prominent far-right figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.