I’ve just learned about Elizabeth Holmes, former CEO of defunct medical equipment company Theranos (so close to Thanos that I actually wrote that first!) she’s 6 months older than me, almost to the day, and 16 years ago, she convinced investors and the general public that she was on the verge of a breakthrough that would change modern phlebotomy (that’s blood tests). She claimed that she had invented a machine that could run “1000 tests” on a single drop of blood. It was a spurious claim that was never substantiated, never fully peer reviewed and never approved by the FDA.
Somehow, the company continued to receive funds from investors, hire people (and fire them for asking too many questions), and run inaccurate tests on real human patients for many years. The company dissolved in September 2018, 15 years after its incorporation.
Elizabeth Holmes, disgraced CEO of Theranos
This tale made me think a lot. This woman is a generational peer, and she had a really good idea. Anyone who knows me knows I am constantly full of good ideas. But where we differ is in our approaches. She dropped out of Stanford after 2 years and never completed her degree in chemical engineering. She didn’t have the knowledge to make her idea work. It’s a shame because a 1 drop testing solution would be beneficial to so many people. It really was a good idea, and perhaps with time, patience, study, and due diligence it could have been viable.
She became the youngest female self-made billionaire. Meanwhile, in the same amount of time, I’ve drifted from job to job, I’ve never really found my place in the world, until now. Everyone has their own timeline. I might only just be starting my journey to greatness, but then I haven’t committed the biggest fraud of the 21st Century, so... silver linings!
In a way, she’s what you’d describe as a typical millennial (as described by many a baby boomer). Impatient, entitled, and not prepared to do the work. Others, including John Carreyrou (the Wall Street Journal journalist who broke the story) have called her a sociopath. I think she was foolish, and the lies got out of hand. But I also think that ultimately, she set out to deceive.