Everything You Need To Know About Alleged Fraudster Elizabeth Holmes
TL;DR: The whole sitch is basically the Fyre Fest of the biotech world.
Elizabeth Holmes started out with a dream to democratise the American healthcare system -- it was a dream which quickly turned into a nightmare for everyone involved.
You may have heard her name of late, with the news that SNL's Kate McKinnon is set to portray the 35-year-old in a Hulu series, The Dropout -- just one of many shows, documentaries, movies and podcasts that attempt to tackle the increasingly bizarre story of Elizabeth Holmes that at times is stranger than fiction.
Elizabeth's story starts at 19-years-old when she dropped out of Stanford University and founded the now-infamous blood-testing startup, Theranos. By 2014, Holmes had become the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire (only recently being succeeded by Kylie Jenner) with a net worth of $4.5 billion, and was the star of Silicon Valley after pioneering a revolutionary device called Edison, a portable machine that she said would be able to detect a plethora of medical conditions simply using a single drop of blood from a pinprick test.
The entire idea was inspired by her extreme fear of needles, and it wasn't long before the entrepreneur -- who modelled herself as the female answer to Steve Jobs -- was on every talk show and magazine, winning over powerful and wealthy supporters that ranged from the Clintons to Henry Kissinger, who all insisted the young CEO was changing the future of American healthcare.
The only catch was, she took money from investors on the condition that she wouldn’t have to reveal how Theranos’ technology worked.
So how did something so promising all come crashing down?
Well, after around $900 million had been invested into her product by some of the world's wealthiest investors, including Rupert Murdoch and the Walton family, it was soon discovered that Theranos, basically, had been a lie -- the technology simply did not exist. Soon, the situation spiralled out of control and Theranos -- and Elizabeth -- began to crumble.
Fast forward to the present day, and the disgraced startup founder is now facing federal fraud charges which could see her sentenced to up to 20 years in prison -- not that that's bothering her, in fact, just days before her company Theranos was dissolved, she was living it up at Burning Man in the Nevada desert. She has pleaded not guilty.
As bizarre as the entire situation is, it's only the tip of the iceberg. The deeper you delve into the intriguing and enigmatic character that is Elizabeth Holmes, the more convoluted the tale of ambition, deception and greed becomes.
It's really too much to cover in just one article, so here's a round-up of all the content you can watch, read, and listen to find out more about Elizabeth Holmes, as well as some wild stories to come from those who worked closely with her.
The Podcast: The Dropout
Hosted by ABC News business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, The Dropout is a six-part investigative podcast that goes into detail on the rise and fall of Holmes. The result of a three-year investigation, the podcast contains deposition tapes along with interviews of former Theranos staff and family members.
The Book: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
Written by journalist John Carreyrou, 'Bad Blood' is also chock-a-block with info on the case, featuring interviews with over 150 people, including more than 60 former Theranos employees. Here are just some of the explosive revelations from the book:
- Elizabeth was obsessed with Apple CEO Steve Jobs
“To anyone who spent time with Elizabeth, it was clear that she worshipped Jobs and Apple,” Carreyrou wrote. Holmes even hired several former Apple employees, telling them that Theranos’ blood-testing device would be “the iPod of health care.”
Holmes started wearing black turtlenecks like Jobs, decorated her office with his favourite furniture, kept up a veil of secrecy around her project, and like her idol, never took vacations.
- She was hugely paranoid
At one stage, Carreyrou alleged that Holmes’ “administrative assistants would friend employees on Facebook and tell her what they were posting there.” On top of this, many former employees believed that Holmes had been spying on their computer searches.
Carreyrou even wrote that he had suspected Theranos of placing himself and Tyler Shultz -- a former employee -- “under continuous surveillance for a year.”
- Many swear that her deep baritone voice is fake
In one of the most bizarre stories to come from the book, several former staff members alleged that her deep voice was put on by Holmes in order to sound more authoritative and "to get people's attention and be taken seriously" in the male-dominated world of Silicon Valley.
Former Theranos engineer Greg Baney revealed, "One evening, as they wrapped up a meeting in her office shortly after he joined the company, she lapsed into a more natural-sounding young woman's voice. 'I'm really glad you're here,' she told him as she got up from her chair, her pitch several octaves higher than usual. In her excitement, she seemed to have momentarily forgotten to turn on the baritone."
The Documentary: The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley
The HBO documentary was directed by Oscar-winner Alex Gibney, director of Taxi and Dark Side, again features interviews with former Theranos employees, as well as Bad Blood author John Carreyrou. Gibney uses CGI re-creations, internal company footage, and news and interview clips to tell the story of Holmes' rise and fall, as well as the disintegration of Theranos.
The Series: The Dropout
Based on the podcast, the Hulu series will, as mentioned before, star Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Holmes and will examine the "unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong".
"How did the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lose it all in the blink of an eye?" The Dropout asks. "How did the woman once heralded as ‘the next Steve Jobs’ find herself facing criminal charges -- to which she pleaded not guilty -- and up to 20 years in jail?"
The Film: Bad Blood
In competition with the aforementioned series will be a feature film on the entire Theranos fiasco, based on the book by John Carreyrou and starring Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence as Elizabeth Holmes.
Set to be released in 2020, the film is set to be produced by Legendary, the studio behind such films as Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises, 300 and The Hangover. It will reportedly be written and directed by Oscar-nominated director Adam McKay, director of The Big Short and Vice, while Will Ferrell has also reportedly signed on to the project as a producer.