Elizabeth Holmes is a character I think of when I say it. She has a wispy blonde hair, a black turtleneck, and possesses dazzling eyes. She is holding a small vial that contains the blood for the company's finger-prick blood tests.
After I had finally come to terms with Elizabeth's essence, I realized I could have looked into the eyes of a Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates. Channing Robertson, a Stanford professor of chemical engineering, shared this insight with Fortune in 2014. Although she is sometimes referred to as another Steve Jobs, I believe that's an inaccurate comparison. William Perry, a former defense secretary and Theranos board Member, told Fortune in 2014. (Perry knew Jobs. She has a social consciousness Steve didn't have. He was a genius, she is one with a big heart.
This is what I have literally planned my entire life for.
According to the Forbes article, Holmes says that she tests a drop from her blood after eating. She claims she can tell the difference in a person who ate a healthy meal and one who ate a cheeseburger. In an interview with Inc, she said that she had never been on a date or taken a vacation in her 20s. I literally designed my whole life for this, she said in what the article describes as a strikingly baritone voice. She only stops working to go for seven-mile runs, she told Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, spouse of Silicon Valley VC Marc Andreesen, in a piece for The New York Times T Magazine.
. @eholmes2003 suggests that we should instill the belief that girls can excel in science, engineering, and math. #CGI2015 Theranos September 29, 2015 (@theranos).
Theranos was valued around $9 billion before John Carreyrous' expos was published by The Wall Street Journal. Holmes faces 10 wire fraud charges, as well as two conspiracy to commit wirefraud counts.
It seems that the character was designed to appeal to Silicon Valley's vision of itself. It is not clear who created Elizabeth Holmes, Girl Genius Holmes or Ramesh Sunny Balwani (ex-president and COO at Theranos) as her ex-boyfriend. It doesn't really matter in some ways. It continues to be a prominent figure in Silicon Valley, regardless of who created it.
Theranos only had a few innovations in retrospect. Theranos first used a regulatory loophole to market its tests as laboratory-developed tests. This meant that Theranos did not have to submit data the US Food and Drug Administration before it could use the tests on patients. This is not a common practice. Second, Elizabeth Holmes, Girl Genius was invented to extract the maximum amount from people who are used to investing in tech.
The Holmes persona was able to check off the boxes Silicon Valley's startup world is obsessed with.
Holmes was a persona that checked boxes that Silicon Valley's startup world loves. Drop out of a prestigious school You can check. Are you obsessed with work to the point that you have no personal life? You can check. Are you under the age of 32 Check. Check. You can check. Steve Jobs worship? Take a look. Is there any need to keep your innovation secret? Tech secrecy is the norm when it comes to new inventions.
Interesting about Elizabeth Holmes' character is her fit with the founder myth. She was, of course, female. However, she is a very specific type of woman. She has a low voice and wears only pants, high-neck shirts, and clumsy make up. But not like the other girls. She first graced magazine covers shortly after Sheryl Sandberg's misguided book Lean In was published by Facebook. Sophia Amoruso also published Girlboss in 2014, which is a book about starting an online discount clothing shop.
Techs were perceived as a bunch of sexy, hooded men in hoodies. This was why the Lean In/girlboss period was created. Lower-level engineers often suffered from sexual harassment. Moreover, women were rarely able to get money. In 2019, 2.8 per cent of VC funds were given to female founders. This is an unprecedented high. These are systemic, large-scale issues. Instead of talking about them, the corporate sector chose to inspire us, as if the only thing that would stop women from becoming CEOs was a lack in role models.
I believe that women who help other women have a special place in history. #ironsisters #STEM http://t.co/eDefBtcSdD Elizabeth Holmes (@eholmes2003) October 14, 2015
Holmes was the next. She was, conveniently enough, a woman who succeeded in Silicon Valley. This was a place that some had suggested was possibly sexist due, among others, to Paul Grahams aforementioned Zuckerberg comment and Ellen Paos lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins, VC firm Kleiner Perkins.
Theranos was just coming out of stealth mode. Despite the fact that Holmes was a medical company, her mythos was tech founder gold. Tim Draper, of DFJ and Larry Ellison of Oracle, were backing her. Because they have chosen the most important details in advance, it is easier to write about people you already know. People are generally more drawn to quirky founders than long explanation paragraphs that may contain jargon. Holmes quotes in her New Yorker profile are primarily big vision stuff. Although there are some brief mentions of automation and lab-on a chip technology, when Holmes gets to explaining how her tech works, she makes some Star Trek-sounding statements.
Chemistry is the process of generating a signal from a chemical interaction with a sample. This signal is then translated into a result which is then reviewed and approved by laboratory personnel.
This is a typical example of a soap opera about doctors. This is science fiction science fiction. You need something that sounds scientific and moves the plot. Theranos received one FDA approval in 2015 for a test to treat herpes.
Carreyrou published his exposes less than a year later, just one year after that nonsense quote. Theranos didn't use its own chemistry for chemical reactions that generated signals from chemical interactions with the sample. It used machines from non-tech fuddy-duddy competitors for most of its testing. Employees didn't believe that the Theranos machine (which was named Edison) gave accurate results. Theranos' response was total denial of all reports. Holmes received the benefit of doubt for a time.
The hits continued: Theranos' labs were not up to standard, partnerships with Safeway, Walgreens and Safeway were dissolved, FDA opposed Theranos vials, Theranos threw away two years of test results. Balwani, Theranos' president, was fired. Holmes was barred from operating labs and Theranos went bankrupt in 2018.
The founder myth saw Holmes's fall from grace as the first crack. Then, Uber fired Travis Kalanick for his culture of bullying, sexual harassment and general lawlessness. Adam Neumann, founder of WeWork, was expelled after the company filed deranged paperwork to its IPO. This was later cancelled. These three founders borrowed tech hype from other companies for products that weren't tech. Uber, Theranos, and WeWork were all car services with nice apps. Investors tended to ignore tech-hyped products that were not actually tech during this period.
Are you convinced that shell uses the voice?
The Holmes mythos was able to smoothen any cognitive dissonance investors might have experienced. Investors may have wondered why the board that included dignitaries like George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, and James Mattis (later Donald Trumps secretary for defense) didn't have someone with diagnostics experience. There weren't any FDA experts to help with the regulatory hoops that were required for marketing approval. When the founder is so convincing, who needs to do due diligence? A lot of people have endorsed her.
The Holmes trial is appealing because it reveals how much the Elizabeth Holmes, Girl Genius character closely resembles Elizabeth Holmes, the daughter of an Enron executive. The question of Holmes' deep voice, for instance, is still up for debate. When I tell someone that I will cover the trial, they reply: Do you believe shell uses the voice?
The trial will determine whether Holmes or Balwani deceived investors. The Inventor is a poor documentary about Holmes. Director Alex Gibney plays a lot to the idea of deceiving investors as a common part of Silicon Valley. Daniel Ariely is a psychologist who lies and is currently involved in a fake data controversy. He is the documentary's explanation. Ariely suggests Holmes might have fooled her investors and herself. It is not illegal to be foolishly optimistic. This is Holmes' ideal line, since the prosecution must prove that Holmes knowingly deceived investors.
Holmes' marketing campaign as Girl Genius was too successful, and other women are now comparing her to others because there arent enough well-known startup women.
The most difficult thing to prove is that you knew. This is where the prosecution will need to focus. Balwani and Holmes exchange a lot of emails and texts. Holmes' team has tried unsuccessfully to prevent them from being presented as evidence to the jury.
Holmes could argue that Holmes is not as close to Elizabeth Holmes she once was. Her lawyers could argue that Theranos' character and deception were the result of her abuse. The filings show that Balwani, who is 20 years older than Holmes, claims that he controlled her eating, dressing, sleeping, and even monitored her calls and texts. Mindy Mechanic may be called as an expert witness to support these claims.
Holmes' girlboss image, which was intended to inspire women, could be the result of an abusive boyfriend. Holmes may behave differently in court to support this.
It also means that Holmes defense will argue that Holmes was merely a prop for Balwanis' scheme, and that Holmes had no agency. Holmes was a helpless woman and therefore cannot be held responsible. Holmes is not the only one to rely on stereotypes about women. She implied that Carreyrous' investigation was a witch hunting in 2015
It's not the 16 hundred, or we would be burned at the stake!
Balwani and Holmes may be tried together. This could help us find out who created Elizabeth Holmes, Girl genius. Holmes defense could bring another unpleasant surprise to women in the Valley. It will be difficult for women working in tech to believe if her abuse accusation is not found credible. It doesn't matter how impossible it may sound, she can still make things worse.
No matter who created the character, Elizabeth Holmes was a negative influence on other women. Theranos has made it more difficult for women in diagnostics to obtain funding. Holmes is a common question for female founders of biotech and medicine. They may not be doing the same thing Holmes did, but they are being compared to her because of the lack of famous women in startup. Girl Genius Elizabeth Holmes is an incredibly memorable character. Why was she created?