However, this time, the company’s founder, Elizabeth Holmes, is currently awaiting trial.
For the uninitiated, Theranos was a company that started out wanting to change the way blood tests were run. Instead of requiring tubes of blood, the company claims that it had invented a machine — lovingly called The Edison — that could run hundreds of tests for diseases so that consumers could detect abnormalities easily and be able to sought help if required.
However, an expose written by Wall Street Journal‘s John Carreyrou revealed that the company’s beloved Edison machine wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and that Theranos was in fact, struggling to do what it had marketed itself to be both as a company and in terms of technology.
Since then, Elizabeth and her business partner, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani have been under a microscope and going through rounds of investigations for their roles in the company and the amount of money (approx. $600 million) that was lost.
Through watching the film, we’ve uncovered several shocking things about Elizabeth and how Theranos was run:
1. She Could Be A Sociopath
Theranos managed to lose more than $600 million from investors. Besides Walmart’s Walton family and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Theranos boasted investors like media mogul, Rupert Murdoch.
Each of these investors pumped in at least $100 million to the medical-tech company.
While it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about the amount of money lost, it’s worth understanding about how Elizabeth managed to engage these investors in the first place.
For starters, the former Stanford student was charismatic and according to what her former professors said about her in the documentary, she was seemingly persistent.
What’s more, body language experts have observed that a lot of Elizabeth’s characteristics and persona were that of someone trying to assert dominance and seem believable. This comes after the fact that plenty of former Theranos employees have shared that Elizabeth would not blink during interviews.
“In essence, if somebody’s not breaking eye contact, they’re lying to you… A person can stare at you with intimidation, but the stare is different. The eyes get narrowed, and there’s more tension around the frontal area… She knew exactly what she was doing. The woman’s very sociopathic in my estimation,” says Dr. Lillian Glass, a body language expert.
2. She Was Obsessed With Apple And Steve Jobs
If the black turtlenecks didn’t convince you enough, here’s something worth taking note of: During Theranos’ inception, Elizabeth hired two former Apple employees that played vital roles in the tech giant’s success.
During her TedMed talk in 2014, Elizabeth too, emulated the way Steve Jobs unveiled a new product — by removing it from her pocket. She even copied his hand gestures and the way he spoke.
At some point when she was talking about her company’s blood testing system, Elizabeth referred to it as, “the iPod of healthcare”.
3. She Spied On Employees
According to what former employees revealed on HBO, Elizabeth would monitor the emails and conversations that happened internally.
Furthermore, John’s Wall Street Journal article indicated that Elizabeth’s assistants would often add employees on Facebook and informed upper management of what employees would post.
On top of spying on employees, Elizabeth was paranoid to the point that she hired security detail and drove around only in a black Audi sedan with no license plates.
4. She Would Strong Arm Employees
The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley mainly featured two whistleblowers who worked at Theranos: Erika Cheung and Tyler Shultz (Fun fact, Tyler’s grandfather, former Secretary of State of the US, George Shultz, was an investor at Theranos).
Following their conversations with John for the Wall Street Journal story, both Erika and Tyler were pursued by lawyers hired by Theranos.
Erika was even tailed by private investigators. However, this only motivated her to write a complaint to the federal government which eventually sped up investigations about the allegations.
As for Tyler, Theranos’ attorney David Boies had sent a team to Tyler’s house to intimidate and bully Tyler into keeping his knowledge of Theranos a secret. This led to Tyler’s grandfather, George, saying, “I wouldn’t call them attorneys. The man was some sort of an animal. Wild animal. And he [verbally] assaulted my grandson,” during his deposition.
5. She Was Delusional At Best
Perhaps one of the greatest things about Elizabeth was how delusional she seemed to be.
For example, she was convinced that her Siberian Husky puppy, Balto, was a wolf because it shared some wolf lineage. In fact, when people would ask her about her dog’s breed, Elizabeth would quickly explain how it was a wolf.
While this doesn’t quite explain her actions, it’s easy to see how she believed in her work and the effectiveness of the Theranos machines.
Photos: Wiki Commons