In 2003, Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos, a company that was supposed to change the world. The startup promised a technology that would allow a full physical and mental health diagnosis based on just a single drop of blood. The revolutionary idea attracted investors who donated billions of dollars to the project. But after some time, Theranos went bankrupt and Holmes became widely known as Silicon Valley’s biggest fraud.
We at Bright Side have grown fascinated by Elizabeth Holmes’ story and decided to find out more about this unusual woman.
Elizabeth Holmes was born in 1984 to a family of civil servants. Whenever people asked little Elliewho she wanted to be when she grew up, she promptly replied, “A billionaire.” She was just20 years old when this dream became a reality.
While studying at the Department of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, Elizabeth became interested in biotechnology. During one of her internships, she was surprised by how long it took to analyze medical samples. It was then that she came up with the idea of a simple patch that could diagnose any type of disease. Holmes filed a patent application, dropped out of Stanford, and set up a medical startup called Theranos.
The company promised that people would be able to do medical tests at home. The wonder-patch was supposed to detect illnesses in their early stages without the need to waste time in hospital lines and laboratories. Soon, the idea of the patch transformed into the concept of a portable device which needed just a tiny drop of blood to perform the diagnosis.
The first million dollars invested in Theranos came from a friend of the Holmes family, Tim Draper. This increased the startup’s popularity, drawing the attention of figures like Rupert Murdoch, George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, and even Barack Obama.
Elizabeth Holmes quickly became a legend in Silicon Valley. She was signing contracts with pharmaceutical companies, delivering lectures for TED, and appearing on the covers of The New York Times and Forbes. Journalists dubbed the founder of Theranos, “Steve Jobs in a skirt”. Indeed, there were many similarities between the 2 entrepreneurs, including a love for black turtlenecks, incredible charisma, and the ability to remain in the spotlight.
But the strange thing about it all was that Theranos’ founder’s claims remained the only indicator of the research’s success. Not a single person had seen a working prototype of the diagnostic device. Still, Holmes inspired many with words about the upcoming revolution in medicine and it proved to be enough to keep the money pouring in. By 2014, Theranos was valued at $9.5 billion.