On a rainy winter day in 2013, the young me was reading a magazine article about a marvelous, world changing, innovative company called Theranos. With the young, inexperienced and easily impressioned mind I had (and still do to a lesser degree), I began to furiously scan the page; it featured a story that was particularly interesting to me.
The article shone a bright light on the brighter promises of a seemingly incredible company; a company that would revolutionize blood testing, creating a healthier and cheaper alternative. It praised the founder and CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, as a new female version of Steve Jobs. The young me was fascinated, I felt empowered that a female Stanford drop-out could possible achieve so much in so short a time. Elizabeth Holmes thought of an idea, and she did it. I felt enraptured by this story of great success. Inspired you may say! Elizabeth Holmes became one of the youngest self-made female billionaires; at her height earning 4.5 Billion! She built a business and medical empire that so many older people would envy.
Now Fast Forwards 5 years to the older and harder to impress version of me. Recently looking at the news, I discovered something; Theranos was a fake! I had been living a semi lie! The very company and founder i thought should set an example for all young innovators, turned out to be a total hoax! Elizabeth Holmes was charged with “major fraud”.
Let me explain before I get too far ahead of myself.
Theranos, founded by Stanford Dropout Elizabeth Holmes, promised to provide an accurate blood test for $2.99, using a few drops of blood, for a variety of different diseases. However, as an investigator soon found out, Theranos had none of that technology. All that the tests that were conducted were through traditional blood testing ways; the very thing that Theranos sought to replace. Theranos had promised a painless, cheap and fast way to exam people; an alternative much suited for people afraid of the blood-testing process. Yet they accomplished nothing. But they said they did.
As expected, there were outcries. During the climax of Theranos’ success in 2013/14, and after; with the promise of delivery and a fat paycheck; Elizabeth Holmes and her fellow con men had cheated various investors out of 700 Million dollars! Now articles were no longer praising her for her geniosity and ambition; but mocking her on her dishonesty and utter failure.
The symbolic black turtleneck that she always wore; in the beginning a symbol meaning a new age with another Steve jobs, now became another reason for people to point out the false illusion she created. Her self ambition and motivation; what makes her devote all her hours to experimenting and running 10k a day, now became a laughing stock.
On one hand; she deserves all of the criticism. 700 Million spent listening to a false mouth! Homes saw the empire she built crumble as she fought legal case after legal case; destroyed by a web of lies she herself created. She told investors that she developed a world-changing technology, that her tests generated billions annually in revenue, that she was about to modernize the health diagnostics forever. In reality, she led people on, she had none of those qualifications.
Her own net worth went from 4.5 billion to 0. She signed a deal saying that she would refrain from partaking in any public services for the next decade, and she would pay millions in debt. You could say she deserved every bit of it. I agree to some degree. However, we must not neglect the fact that this is very common.
Commonly in the Silicon Valley and elsewhere, the motto “Fake it until you Make it” seems to be popular and frequently put into play. Many of these people are young entrepreneurs; eager to mark their place in the world, to do or develop something that would forever be imprinted in History’s pages. Many of these people develop so called “technologies”. These they market out to be something great and remarkable, in reality not. Many people, are so determined to walk the road of success; that they purposefully choose to forget that they haven’t yet tied their shoelaces (forgive my terrible metaphor).
In their minds, they think they can just swing it. Similar to the thoughts of a student; “I don’t actually have to know the contents of this test, as long as I pass it, it will never come up ever again!. They think that if they aren’t ready in the present; somehow in the future everything will work out. “Hey, the Investors won’t be mad, as long as I give them the money they want, everything will be solved!”
Many young innovators depend (and believe) in the hope that once they get their feet off the ground, everything will be forgiven. Alas, they invest their dreams in something hypothetical. In Holmes’ case, her beginning was smooth. She probably figured that somewhere over the course of these years she would develop the needed technology, create an even more successful company, satisfy the innovators, and everything would become the past. That was too much of a gamble.
So altogether, many of the news we hear today cannot be entirely true. I for one, thought that Elizabeth Holmes would become the new Steve Jobs. Many people trusted in the deliverance of Theranos. Yet we were all left disappointed. We cannot entirely formulate our own opinions without learning the true story. We cannot hope for something without learning more. Hope is always beneficial to the human mind; but utter disappointment isn’t.
Also, the second moral is, if you want to become invested in something, if you want other people to follow suit; make sure your dreams are reliable. Theranos, the clever play on words between “Therapy” and “Diagnosis”; the company that was supposed to change blood testing forever, never got to. However, I truly believe that in the future, things will improve, new technology will be invented; and the shadow left by Theranos will become the light casted by another company.