Valley of the unicorns: consumer genomics, venture capital and digital disruption

02 Oct 2017

Drawing on the sociology of expectations and sociology of conventions, this paper explores issues of worth and value in the bioeconomy, and the promissory character of contemporary capitalism. Arguing that the literature on biocapital has paid insufficient attention to geographical differentiation in capital accumulation strategies, this paper situates the consumer genomics firm 23andme in the entrepreneurial culture of Silicon Valley. The paper suggests that in Silicon Valley the relationship between moral worth and economic value is mediated through the concept of disruptive innovation, which functions as both ideological construct and a set of commercial practices utilized by the founders of start-up firms and the venture capitalists who invest in them. Analyzing 23andme’s status as a “unicorn” firm, the paper describes how the recent increase in private investment capital in Silicon Valley has led to a new model of business development for start-ups and considers its implications for corporate governance.