What would you do if all your hard earned money got stolen from you in the blink of an eye?
In the early 2000s, Elizabeth Holmes was a dropout of Stanford University and a self-made billionaire. She had just created Theranos, an innovative company that combined her love for science with her charisma to convince investors to invest in her company. But something went wrong: The machines they created weren't working properly but she kept them going by lying about it and using other labs to do their tests. Eventually Wall Street Journal found out about the fraud and the investors realized they had been lied to; at one point they sued Theranos for $2 billion dollars!
It's a familiar story: A bright young woman drops out of Stanford and moves to Silicon Valley to start a company. She has big ideas, but doesn't know how to put them into action—until she meets an engineer who helps her overcome her lack of experience with computers. Together they make something groundbreaking that changes healthcare forever—but only after years of hard work and struggle do they realize their success might come at the expense of investors' money!
Holmes is the perfect example of this type of entrepreneur (or "serial entrepreneur," as I like calling them). She dropped out from Stanford after getting her bachelor’s degree in computer science with a GPA around 3.2; not bad for someone who had been raised in Texas by parents who had founded their own successful business (a restaurant called “The Pink Taco”).
She was a young woman with an entrepreneurial spirit and a great deal of money. Her name was Sheryl Sandberg, and she dropped out of college at age 19 to start an online business selling women's sportswear. By the time she was 30 years old, her company had grown into a $1 billion behemoth with more than 10 million users around the world.
Her success was all thanks to one thing: charisma! You may not believe it but some people just have that certain something that draws people in like flies to honey—and this woman had it in spades (or maybe we should say pound?).
Theranos was a blood testing company founded by Holmes in 2003. The company was based in Palo Alto, California and had several branches worldwide. Holmes founded Theranos with the goal of revolutionizing healthcare by providing cheaper and more effective tests for diseases than traditional methods.
Holmes claimed to have invented a new technology that allowed her to run hundreds of blood tests with just one drop of blood; this would enable doctors to diagnose conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol earlier than before, which could save lives. The company's services were free until 2017 when they started charging patients $300-$400 per draw (a process known as "fingerstick"). However, it turned out that Holmes' claim wasn't accurate—she didn't have any special equipment or methodologies; instead, she simply used regular old machines like yours-and-mine at home!
Holmes said her patented blood test would only need a tiny amount of blood. The technology was not actually working and Holmes kept the company going by lying about it and using other labs to do their tests.
Holmes used her charisma to persuade investors to invest in Theranos. She was a Stanford dropout, who had started her own company and was working as an executive assistant for two years before starting Theranos. She was also working for another company at the same time, but she left after six months because she didn't like it as much as working on Theranos. This shows that Holmes has some incredible hustle when it comes to getting things done!
She didn't have any formal training or degrees in medical sciences like most other doctors do; instead, she learned everything through trial and error while researching ways to improve the quality of blood tests conducted by labs across America (which cost upwards of $100 per test).
This is what happens when you have your company's money, and you're not working on any actual product. It's easy to see why Holmes was so keen to keep the company going—the business model was in trouble: she'd been using her charisma and charm, as well as lying about the machines' capabilities, all while investors were losing money by investing in Theranos.
It's a good thing Holmes was charismatic or she may have been caught in fraud. She used her charm and charisma to persuade investors to invest in Theranos, which was actually owned by another company called AquiThera.
Holmes' lies were not only about how the machines worked, but also about their cost effectiveness. Her investors thought that they would be able to save money by using them instead of sending blood samples to regular labs for testing; however, it turns out that there were no savings at all since these tests were still very expensive!
Eventually, the Wall Street Journal found out about the fraud and the investors realized they had been lied to. They sued Holmes and Theranos.
Holmes settled with all of her former employees, paying them $500 million in 2016 (more than nine times what she made when she sold Theranos). Holmes also paid out some of her own money to get out of prison early—she was sentenced to 2 years and 8 months for fraud.
So, there you have it. This woman not only cheated her investors out of $600 million but also got away with it. She claimed that she was just doing a favor for a friend and that she knew nothing about the company’s operations. She even tried to convince her investors that she had no knowledge at all about the company or its products! It's clear that this woman is truly an expert at playing people for fools.