It took Elizabeth Holmes a year to step down from the pedestal of being referred to as America’s youngest and wealthiest self-made billionaire to one of the ‘World’s Most Disappointing Leaders’. Founder of a seemingly breakthrough health technology company, Theranos, back in 2003 at just the age of 19, Elizabeth enjoyed years of admiration for her revolutionary ‘contributions’ to the medical industry.
During its peak in the years of 2013 and 2014, the corporation was valued at $10 billion. Theranos received acclaim from all quarters, investors and the press alike. The company claimed to produce technology that would revolutionize the way blood screening is done. Theranos enjoyed several years of convincing people that they could screen blood for various diseases with just a drop before an investigative health care journalist began looking into its claims.
John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal is the journalist who set the pace for the eventual downfall of Theranos. For months, he conducted secret investigations into the company. This was after a tip given by a medical expert who was convinced there was something suspicious about the blood testing device. Through the months, Carreyrou sought out Theranos’s ex-employees for further insight and information. He also made his way through several company documents.
When Holmes learned of his intentions, she tried to keep Carreyrou from publishing the article. Through her lawyer David Boies, she made both legal and financial threats against The Wall Street Journal and those who had testified against the company. This however did not stall Carreyrou, who went on to publish the article that marked the beginning of Theranos’ fall. The article reported that the blood testing device by Theranos actually gave inaccurate results. There was also claims that Elizabeth Holmes’s company had been all this time using machines from other companies to do their blood tests. Holmes was quick to refute the claims and defend the legitimacy of her company’s operations. Three years after John Carreyrou’s article, the company announced its dissolution.
From the very beginning, it was clear that Holmes was, in her words, out to do something that would change the world. It was a childhood desire of hers, to “discover something new, something that mankind didn’t know was possible to do”. Maybe it was this vision and drive that got a lot of wealthy, influential investors for her company. She was even at one time referred to as ‘the next Steve Jobs’.
Suspicion into Theranos’s methods happens to have lasted longer, but no one had actually managed to bring the complete truth to light. In the beginning when she was receiving investors, Holmes made it clear she was receiving funds on the condition that she couldn’t divulge details on how her ‘revolutionary’ technology actually worked. For those who tried to get a bit of information before they invested, they were turned away.
There also was the fact that Ian Gibbons, at one time Theranos’s chief scientist, had his doubts about the technology.
For more than a decade, Elizabeth Holmes managed to fool the entire medical community. It’s an impressive feat how she got away with it for so long. However, as it finally turned out, her house of cards was bound to fall one day.