Once considered a successful entrepreneur, Elizabeth Holmes has been the topic of recent controversy. Today, Elizabeth Holmes is much more widely known for her alleged crimes than anything she actually accomplished. However, she was once a bright and shining star in the startup world, which was an example to women everywhere who aspired to corporate success.
Holmes started her now infamous company, Theranos, in 2003 when she was only 19 years old. Shortly after that, she left her studies at Stanford University to spend all of her time growing the company. She initially succeeded in this and recruited the much older and more experienced Ramesh Balwani to serve as CEO and president of the company.
The cornerstone product that Theranos offered was its blood-testing technology. In an unprecedented breakthrough, Holmes claimed that the company could successfully run hundreds of diagnostic tests from a single drop of blood. This was up-and-coming technology, and Holmes and Theranos received a ton of media attention when they announced a partnership with Walgreen’s pharmacies in 2013. Soon, Theranos testing would be available at Walgreen’s locations nationwide.
The wake of this surge in attention marked the high-point of Holmes’ Theranos journey, as Forbes magazine named her one of the richest women in the world in 2014, with a net worth estimated at $4.5 billion. However, problems for the company started soon afterward.
In 2015, The Wall Street Journal released a report claiming that Theranos was not doing what they claimed they were doing. While they were using their proprietary technology on a few of the tests that they performed, most of them were done with traditional blood draws that require a full vial of blood.
Holmes criticized The Wall Street Journals reporting, but it led the FDA to pressure Theranos. The result was a report that detailed 14 distinct areas of concern, which prompted Theranos to suspend many of its practices. Another government agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also expressed its concern in early 2016.
Things deteriorated quickly from there. Belwani stepped down as CEO, and Walgreens terminated their partnership with Theranos. The company was battered over 2016 and 2017, with claims that their proprietary blood-testing technology, which incredibly ran hundreds of tests from a single drop of blood, never existed at all. Theranos had to settle a series of lawsuits, which led to massive downsizing. To add insult to injury, Holmes’ net worth was downgraded by Forbes from $4.5 billion to $0.
In 2018, both Holmes and Belwani were charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission for perpetrating a massive fraud on their investors by misrepresenting what their company was capable of. They will both go to trial in early 2022. It is unclear where Elizabeth Holmes will end up, but she has fallen a long way from being named one of the richest women in the world.
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