My TikTok Famous Friend Is Taking a Page Out of Elizabeth Holmes’ Playbook — And It’s Working

My TikTok Famous Friend Is Taking a Page Out of Elizabeth Holmes’ Playbook — And It’s Working

Here’s why influencers are beating entrepreneurs at our own game and the 3 mistakes holding you back from similar success.

Photo by Cande Westh on Unsplash

Let’s not beat around the bush: TikTokers (famous ones) think they’re hot you-know-what. Or at least my friend does after his meteoric rise from no one to digital celebrity. I’m not bitter — I’m intrigued.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve been building, running, and consulting businesses for years — long before most of today’s social media platforms came around. However, I’ve never asserted that there’s one silver bullet strategy to infallible success; in my experience, there isn’t. However, this newly-famous TikToker believes he’s cracked the code to success in all aspects of his life, career, and business — and I hate to admit that he just might be right.

It has nothing to do with consistency — we all know some algorithms prefer it, but that isn’t the transferable secret sauce I’m talking about. Even pre-TikTok fame, this secret sauce has gotten this friend lucrative job offers, promotions, and invitations to celebrity parties (no exaggeration). And it’s something many entrepreneurs — myself included — are severely lacking. Here’s how we can hack the influencer success bubble to take a bit of market share for ourselves and our businesses as non-celebrity entrepreneurs.

If you’ve spent any meaningful amount of time as an entrepreneur or marketer — or attempted to sell anything — you’ve probably assumed social proof was the key ingredient for winning customers over.

Influencers take advantage of social proof all the time, as the bandwagon effect makes the popular (those with a ton of followers) more popular. We’re all curious to see what’s “trending” and ensure we don’t miss out on the latest trend or viral clip. Some influencers may measure their success and credibility by those climbing views, trending ranks, followers, subscribers, or money.

Entrepreneurs are trained to use a different yardstick. We hold our customer testimonials, press features, awards, and proven products, services, or new technologies in the highest esteem. These pieces of earned proof are what legitimize our businesses, right? We feel the need to prove that our product is worthy of being marketed before confidently presenting it to a platform full of strangers with the expectation of a profitable reception.

In both these cases, the influencers and entrepreneurs are attributing their confidence and current “sales pitch” to successes they’ve already earned. They’re allowing numbers to dictate and inform exactly how they feel about themselves, and thus, how future followers and prospective customers should feel about them. In other words, they’re letting past performance and achievements determine the current sales pitch.

The problem here is simple: We live in the past, sales lag, and our sales pitch wavers as numbers fluctuate. Thus, we don’t control our future success or sales; our historical track record does.

My friend, however, attributes his confidence to a very different yardstick: The future. In watching the Theranos saga play out — and going down the rabbit hole of Elizabeth Holmes’ journey to raising 9-figures of funding with a stellar board of all-stars — I can’t help but see some shocking similarities.

I stood next to my friend, as he shouted declarations into his phone, telling his followers about the moves he planned to make that month. He told them exactly how he believed these plans would play out, without a shred of insecurity that he might be wrong. Then, as we traveled back from a weekend beach trip, I watched him watch himself back, nodding enthusiastically and mouthing along to every word.

I’ll be honest: I’m not a huge fan of the narcissistic selfie obsession. However, one thing was evident: He believes his own hype — every last drop of it.

A few weeks ago, I stood next to him at a local event where we bumped elbows with a very eclectic crowd, from obscure CEOs to notoriously private celebrities. My friend, however, in his typical fashion, somehow became the authority in the room. I kid you not. He was one of the youngest people there — by about 30 years — and easily the most green in his “success”. Nonetheless, a mini-celebrity with a $4B business invited him to lunch to “pick his brain”. He didn’t ask for social proof — or any proof at all. The unwavering confidence in my friend’s personal pitch was enough to win this man over.

My friend didn’t tell a lie, but he also didn’t muffle his pride or enthusiasm based on what he’d already achieved. Instead, he let his belief in his future potential guide the pitch, instilling the ultimate confidence that he’d undoubtedly attain the success he projected.

Sounds kind of like how Elizabeth Holmes convinced investors that, no matter how seemingly unviable her idea, she’d build the team to achieve it, with or without their support. And just like the billionaire bumping fists with my self-proclaimed guru friend, investors believed her.

But confidence isn’t the problem here; there are three shortcomings likely holding you back and poisoning your sales, fundraising, and overall success.

I’m not suggesting that Elizabeth Holmes is a beacon of integrity or that we should follow her — or my friend’s — lead to a “T”. I am, though, asserting that humility, transparent uncertainty, and a lackluster personal pitch holds real entrepreneurs back.


This is perhaps my least favorite thing about business and sales, but the plain truth is, humility doesn’t exactly exude or instill confidence in future customers, investors, partners, bosses, or colleagues.

Whether you’re talking to a new acquaintance at a party, a recruiter, a boss, a potential customer, or a target investor, this is not the place for humble modesty. If you don’t know how to brag about yourself or your venture — and to do so confidently and sincerely — someone else will happily step in front and steal your spotlight. I know because my friend did just that at the recent local event — and he got invited to lunch with the billionaire; I did not…

Transparent uncertainty

I’m not humble because I’m nice. To be honest, a large part of why I don’t boast about my various business accomplishments is because I’m well-aware of the vulnerabilities in my companies. I also know that the tides of seasonality and favor can ebb and flow, and I’ve seen too many encouraging peaks followed by soul-crushing valleys to brush that deep-seated uncertainty aside.

Sure, I know what successes I’ve accumulated in the past, but that’s no guarantee they’ll continue or ascend to greater ones in the future. However, that’s the entirely wrong way to present oneself as an entrepreneur in any public setting.

Every business has vulnerabilities, risks, and uncertainty. Heck, I pointed out about a dozen of them to my TikTok famous friend (for the “empire” he’s building), and he simply shrugged them off. Whether or not he digested those risks and vulnerabilities I’ll never know, and I believe that’s by design.

No, you don’t have to wear your entrepreneurial heart on your sleeve and reveal the fifty concerns plaguing you day and night to every prospective customer who walks down the street.

And you are?

You’d think after more than a decade of having to “pitch” myself and my businesses I’d have it down pat. Well, perhaps I do when it comes to the latter. I can write marketing copy and deploy campaigns to hundreds of thousands of people, no sweat — I do it all the time. I can even take a few phone calls if a prospect really needs the verbal pitch. But that’s pitching my proven business — not myself and not in person.

I’ve never actually thought about pitching myself to friends, neighbors, and people at local events because it seems so…formal. However, this TikTok friend takes a different approach: He’s always “on” since he never knows who he’ll be meeting. Thus, he talks to a stranger, a neighbor, a follower, and a prospective customer the exact same way. He’s always ready to fire off his big shiny pitch, and he’s decided exactly how he’ll present in every situation.

Whether you think you’re selling, fundraising, networking, or just meeting a new friend, as entrepreneurs, we represent our businesses 24/7. If you — like me — offer a downplayed or lackluster personal pitch, that’s all the recipient will know or think of you and your venture.

Go to Publisher:

Entrepreneur's Handbook – Medium

Author: Rachel Greenberg