When 19-year-old Elizabeth Holmes set out to revolutionise the billion-dollar blood testing industry, the outcome was supposed to be nothing short of groundbreaking. Except it wasn’t. Like many others, Holmes’ overzealous ambition was spurred by fame and fortune and eventually saw the demise of her $1 billion company. Holmes deceived global business executives into believing that the innovative technology she created was actually legitimate, however as it turned out, it was all a lie.
But the biggest question begs to be asked: was she a con-artist or simply a determined young woman with noble intent? In line with the release of the HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, which excoriates Holmes' shortcomings and examines her belated fall from grace, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about the disgraced former Theranos CEO.
Who Is Elizabeth Holmes?
Prior to 2015, you’d be forgiven for not having heard of Elizabeth Holmes. While the failed entrepreneur managed to fly under the radar, for the most part, it’s easy to have missed where she came from or what exactly has landed her in hot water. Holmes was just 19 when she withdrew from Stanford University, where she studied electrical and chemical engineering, to focus on the launch of Theranos (an amalgamation of ‘therapy’ and ‘diagnosis’). In order to acquire funds, Holmes was dependent upon several family connections to secure $8.4 million by the end of 2004.
What Is Theranos?
Under the provision of Holmes, Theranos marketed groundbreaking technology which could perform hundreds of lab tests using minimal amounts of blood. Instead of collecting blood samples through traditional needles, samples could be obtained from a finger stick and deposited into a small tube called a “nanotainer.” By the end of 2015, Holmes had raised approximately a whopping $129 million for her now-defunct company. As the funds continued to roll in at a frightening pace, she was subject to widespread media attention and was exalted as a financial visionary and feminist pioneer. In 2015, she was even crowned Forbes youngest self-made female billionaire in America for her efforts.
Yet, Holmes’ deception eventually caught up with her when John Carreyrou, an investigative journalist from The Wall Street Journal, received a tip from a Missouri-based pathologist who questioned the veracity of Theranos' technology. Carreryrou spent two years investigating the alleged misdeeds of Theranos which eventually culminated in a series of explosive reports exposing the company for its illegitimate methodologies. In 2016, it all came crashing down when Holmes was removed from the lab-testing industry for two years and by 2017, the company had officially closed its last laboratory.
So, What Happened To Elizabeth Holmes?
In 2018, Holmes and the former president of Theranos, Ramesh Balwani, were indicted for their fraudulent conduct. After surrendering control of the company, Holmes was fined $500,000 and subsequently banned from serving as an officer or director of a public company for 10 years.
Why Is Everyone Talking About It?
Now, a podcast called The Dropout has bought to light Holmes' story, as the once-billionaire is now facing up to 20 years in jail. Released by ABC News, the podcast details the founding and eventual downfall of Theranos — and has listeners in the US hooked.