In 2015, Forbes named Elizabeth Holmes the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. Shortly after, she would send shockwaves through Silicon Valley.
Hailed as a genius, 19-year-old Holmes dropped out of Stanford in 2003 to focus on her medical technology company: Theranos. Styled as a female Steve Jobs, she adopted black turtlenecks and boasted of never taking a vacation.
Fast forward to 2013 where her company was the talk of the tech world. Their invention? Revolutionary finger-prick blood tests that got rid of big needles. With a small amount of blood, the tests would be able to detect cancer. Boy, were people excited, and funds rolled in! Walgreens offered in-store blood tests and a $100 million “innovation fee”, while Safeway signed a $350 million partnership.
When the dust settled, Theranos had an incredible $700 million in funding! Holmes appeared on Fortune and Forbes, gave a TED Talk, and spoke on panels with Bill Clinton.
Was there a catch? A tiny one: the product didn’t, erm, actually work.
A chief scientist at Theranos warned of inaccuracies in the technology. But they pushed on, using 3rd party technology and duping the media, until a WSJ reporter rained on her parade.
The glory was over. By late 2017, Theranos was virtually bankrupt and Holmes was ordered to pay a $500,000 fine, surrender 18.9 million shares, and was barred from running a public company for 10 years.
The story is now due on cinema screens. And Holmes is yet to find her own happy Hollywood ending.
MURPHY’S LAW, ANYONE?
“If there is a wrong way to do something, then someone will do it.”* Thankfully though, it is absolutely possible in this world to impress and innovate without piling up lies. It is still possible to do big things the right way. You have every reason not to fall prey to Murphy’s Law.
© Story by Tarek Issa.
- Facts as told by Business Insider.
- Picture: Getty Images via Business Insider.
- *Attributed to Edward A. Murphy in “Murphy Lives!” by Robert L. Forward, in Science 83 (January-February 1983), p. 78.