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Lessons from Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes

The story of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes offers many teachable moments.

  • Consumers were convinced that Theranos offered a simpler way to get blood testing.
  • Distributors like Walgreens partnered with Theranos believing that the company was offering a viable solution.
  • Investors bought into the Theranos promise and put millions into the company.
  • News media was quick to help promote Theranos with news coverage bordering on endorsements and infomercials, although they apparently had not done any in-depth fact checking or investigative journalism.

Theranos CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, used her charismatic personality and photogenic appeal to gain public trust in her company. Much like the character played by Tom Hanks in the movie “Big” who proposed a multimedia comic book, Holmes seemed to believe that her product could really work, or perhaps was on the verge of working. As investors and partners joined Theranos, Holmes seemed to be too far down the rabbit hole.

Below are some videos in chronological order that convey the Theranos story. The original video descriptions are provided.

Commonwealth Club (12 Jun 2018)

Sometimes a commitment to an idea can drive the idea’s originator to do unthinkable things. According to journalist John Carreyrou, this is the phenomenon that drove Silicon Valley company Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes down a road that led to charges of “massive fraud.”

The story of Theranos began like many companies in Silicon Valley — as a bold vision. Theranos’s goal was to create a portable mini lab that could capture accurate test results from a drop or two of blood pricked from a finger. To make this goal a reality, Holmes and Theranos lied when the devices did not work. Eager to see her vision through and offer tests to the public, Holmes sidestepped federal regulations and covered up inaccurate test results with high gloss PR.

John Carreyrou, investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal, dives deep into this conspiracy in his book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. He will explore what he calls “a narrative about heroes and villains, and an examination of failed oversight, lax regulation, corporate malfeasance and the lengths some companies are willing to go to in an effort to circumvent the law.” Join us for this can’t-miss discussion!

KPIX CBS SF Bay Area (15 Jan 2018)

“A woman once hailed as a Silicon Valley visionary is facing federal fraud charges. After a rapid rise to the top of the tech world Elizabeth Holmes has fallen into the FBI’s hands. Andria Borba reports.”

CBS This Morning (16 Apr 2015)

“Youngest self-made female billionaire takes high-tech approach to blood testing” – Elizabeth Holmes is being compared to visionaries like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Holmes founded a biotech company called Theranos in 2003, and her mission is to allow blood testing in every drugstore at a fraction of Medicare costs. Norah O’Donnell reports on how her tiny invention is reshaping health care.

CNBC – Mad Money (27 Apr 2015)

“Theranos CEO: Female Billionaire Changing The World” – Jim Cramer’s interview with the visionary being compared to Steve Jobs. How her $10 billion dollar company is revolutionizing healthcare.

CNBC – Mad Mone (16 Oct 2015)

“Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes: Firing Back At Doubters” – It’s one of the most valuable Silicon Valley startups, and has come under fire recently. Jim Cramer’s exclusive to hear what she has to say about the accusations against the company.

Wall Street Journal (8 Mar 2016)

“Theranos Ran Tests Despite Quality Problems” – A federal inspection report finds that health start-up Theranos ran blood tests despite having erratic quality control results. WSJ’s John Carreyrou reports.

Engadget (26 Dec 2016)

Theranos (one big fat lie): Year in Review.

Wall Street Journal (24 Mar 2017)

“Theranos to Offer Investors Shares if They Don’t Sue” – Theranos plans to offer investors shares in the company in exchange for them not filing lawsuits against the embattled blood-testing company. WSJ’s Christopher Weaver has exclusive details on Lunch Break.

CNBC (14 Mar 2018)

CNBC’s Meg Tirrell reports on the Securities Exchange Commission charging Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes with massive fraud.

Bloomberg Technology (14 Mar 2018)

“Theranos CEO Holmes Accused of Fraud by SEC” – Theranos Inc. and its founder Elizabeth Holmes agreed to settle U.S. allegations that they raised more than $700 million from investors through an elaborate fraud. Bloomberg’s Drew Armstrong reports on “Bloomberg Markets.”

Forbes (16 Mar 2018)

“How Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes Committed Massive Fraud” – Wednesday, the SEC charges Elizabeth Holmes with fraud. Holmes is the CEO of Theranos, a medical company that misrepresented its technology while raising money from investors.

CBS This Morning (18 May 2018)

“’60 Minutes’ speaks with the Theranos whistleblower” – In perhaps the greatest fraud in the history of the Silicon Valley tech boom, Norah O’Donnell investigates the failed biotech company, Theranos, for Sunday’s “60 Minutes.” Stanford University dropout Elizabeth Holmes created the innovative blood testing company and was named the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. But it all came crashing down after an employee at Theranos blew the whistle. Watch O’Donnell’s report this Sunday, May 20 on “60 Minutes.”

CBS This Morning (21 May 2018)

“‘Bad Blood’ author on the unraveling of Theranos’ fraud” – Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes told us in 2015 how she would transform blood tests by using a drop of blood from a finger-prick to get fast, low-cost test results for everything from cholesterol to cancer. But this past March, the Securities and Exchange Commission called Theranos “an elaborate, years-long fraud.” Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou broke the story of the Theranos deception. He joins Norah O’Donnell in the Toyota Green Room to discuss chronicling the company’s collapse in his new book, “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.”

TheStreet Investing Strategies (21 May 2018)

“What’s Next for Theranos and Its Founder Elizabeth Holmes” – TheStreet speaks with WSJ Reporter John Carreyrou who brought Theranos’ issues to light in a 2015 article. Carreyrou is author of the new book “Bad Blood.”

Business Insider (22 May 2018)

“How Theranos Pulled Off Its $9 Billion Scandal” – John Carreyrou of The Wall Street Journal broke the original story about how Theranos, a company that pitched a revolutionary blood-testing system, was misleading investors, patients, and business partners about how its technology worked. Carreyrou’s new book, “Bad Blood,” documents the history of Theranos and how its CEO Elizabeth Holmes sold a vision that was too good to be true. Carreyrou sat down with Business Insider.

CNBC (22 May 2018)

“The Rise And Fall Of Theranos” – John Carreyrou, Wall Street Journal, discusses his new book about the fall of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes, the company’s founder and CEO.

CBC News (26 May 2018)

“Inside Theranos Scandal (The Investigators with Diana Swain)” – Theranos was hailed as a revolutionary tech company. But then it collapsed amidst allegations of massive fraud. We spoke with the investigative reporter who broke the story about the challenges he faced. Watch The Investigators Saturdays at 9:30 pm ET and Sundays at 5:30 pm ET on CBC News Network.

Bloomberg Technology (8 Jun 2018)

“How a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Exposed the Lies of Theranos” – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Carreyrou describes how he helped expose the lies of a Silicon Valley darling. He speaks with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang on “Bloomberg Technology.”

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com

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