Elizabeth Holmes: Fallen Star of Silicon Valley
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San Francisco (AFP) – Elizabeth Holmes’ startup Theranos made her a multi-billionaire hailed as America’s next tech visionary at the age of 30, but it all evaporated in a flash of lawsuits, ignominy, and, and finally, criminal charges.
The rise and fall of Holmes, who was convicted on Monday for defrauding investors in his biotech startup, is a very chronic saga that has prompted a close examination of his methods but also the unseemly aspects of a startup’s life. .
In many ways, Holmes matched the image of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, from her dark-colored turtlenecks that conjured up tech legend and Apple founder Steve Jobs, to her abandonment of the business. elite Stanford University in California.
But just as in her trial, the fundamental question was whether she was a true visionary who simply failed, as she testified on the stand, or a skilled self-promoter who took advantage of a gullible context to commit fraud.
Its story begins in the U.S. capital Washington, with the birth of a congressional mother and father whose online biography says he was once an executive at Enron, an energy company that collapsed into a massive fraud scandal.
She was admitted to Stanford and began working there on cutting-edge biomedical initiatives, founding in 2003 what would become Theranos when she was just 19 years old.
Part of Holmes’ ability to convince her funders was her apparent deep personal commitment – she filed for her first patent while still in college and after dropping out, convinced her parents to let her use her tuition savings to build the business.
“The youngest self-taught billionaire woman”
By the end of 2010, she had raised $ 92 million in venture capital for Theranos, which she said was developing machines capable of running a range of diagnostic tests on a few drops of blood.
Over the next two years, she assembled what one report called the “most illustrious board of directors in American business history,” including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz as well as former Pentagon chief Jim Mattis.
“Strong, articulate, engaged. I was impressed with her. It didn’t replace the fact that the device is proving its worth,” Mattis said in a surprise appearance at the stand.
The Theranos hype jumped into high gear in 2014, and in just over a year, a Holmes wearing a turtleneck appeared on the covers of Fortune, Forbes, Inc. and T: The. New York Times Style Magazine.
Forbes gave her a net worth of $ 4.5 billion in 2014, which was based on her ownership half of Theranos, and noted: “The youngest woman on Forbes 400; the youngest self-made billionaire woman.”
This laudatory coverage impacted Theranos investors like venture capitalist Chris Lucas who told Holmes’ trial that the Fortune article made him “proud of our participation, very proud of Elizabeth.”
But there were some things that didn’t end up in those glowing reports that spouted out statements like “Steve Jobs had huge ambition, but Holmes’s is arguably bigger.”
The sexism of Silicon Valley?
On the one hand, she personally put the logos of pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Schering-Plow on Theranos reports praising her own blood testing technology, which were then shared with investors.
This was done without the permission of the companies and was a key part of the prosecution’s argument that it deliberately attempted to inflate Theranos’ credibility in order to win over backers.
She also kept the machine failures a secret and the fact that once Theranos started performing diagnostics on real patients, some of the tests were performed using the same equipment sold to standard labs.
Ultimately, however, it was a series of Wall Street Journal reports from 2015 – which Holmes attempted to kill by bringing in newspaper owner and Theranos investor Rupert Murdoch – that sparked the collapse of the company.
Holmes’ case also raised questions about why she was sued, but not other tech CEOs who have engaged in the Silicon Valley Method or other bad behavior.
Ellen Pao, former CEO of Reddit and critic of discrimination in the tech industry, argued in a New York Times opinion piece that sexism is partly to blame.
She noted that WeWork’s Adam Neumann and Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick raised billions with the hype, while there were allegations of racism and sexism at Tesla and misleading claims about vaping from Juul executives.
Holmes “should be held accountable for his actions as CEO of Theranos,” Pao wrote.
But “it can be sexist to hold her responsible for alleged serious wrongdoing and not hold a group of men accountable for reports of wrongdoing or poor judgment,” she added.
© 2022 AFP