She was the youngest billionaire on the planet and was compared to Steve Jobs, but it all ended in monumental fraud.
9 years ago, Elizabeth Holmes was considered the youngest billionaire on the planet. Magazines began to link the success she’d had with her health-tech company to the meteoric career of none other than Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. If the tycoon had a fortune of 100 million dollars at the age of 25, “the new Steve Jobs”, then 32, treasured about 4,500 million, according to Forbes.
The glory ended scandalously fast. Today the businesswoman is serving 11 years in prison in a Texas jail for defrauding the investors of her company, Theranos.
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The United States Department of Justice had convicted her in January 2022 of one count of conspiracy and three counts of fraud for fraudulent activities in the company she had created at the age of 19.
Holmes, entering a Texas prison this week to serve 11 years in jail. Photo: Reuters.
Holmes was the founder and CEO of Theranos, a biotech startup dedicated to simplifying laboratory testing, which promised to detect hundreds of diseases, including cancer, with a drop of blood through state-of-the-art machines.
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However, Holmes came to bill exorbitant figures based on those claims. Theranos would be dissolved in 2018, but was valued at $9 billion and in 2015 employed more than 800 employees. It was some of them who would accuse her of fraud.
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Elizabeth Holmes, when what she touched seemed like gold and ended up tried and convicted.
Holmes’ top aide and ex-boyfriend of the Theranos founder, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, was convicted of defrauding investors and patients in the failed venture.
Holmes displayed exceptional tenacity throughout his life. As a teenager, in Texas, he self-taught Mandarin and set up a business selling software to universities in China. He managed to get into Stanford University, but at 19 he considered that he didn’t need to continue studying with the experience he already had and opened his own company.
The former CEO of Theranos will serve 11 years in jail.
It was 2003, and the company was called Real-Time Cure. Located in Palo Alto, California, it started while she was a freshman at Stanford and was funded by money her parents had saved for her to complete the rest of her college degree.
Then she changed the name of the company to Theranos (therapy plus diagnosis: “therapy” and “diagnosis”), since the young businesswoman noticed that the term “cure” (cure, in English) aroused suspicion in the social imagination.
Holmes is 39 years old today and is serving an 11-year prison sentence. Photo: Reuters.
In 2015, it all fell apart when The Wall Street Journal revealed the scam. The newspaper reported that the “miracle machines” did not fulfill what the businesswoman promised and that the deception reached important figures.
As it became known later, among the investors and others involved were from the magnate Rupert Murdoch, the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and another former secretary, in this case of Defense during the term of Donald Trump, James Mattis; former President Bill Clinton, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and Mexican mega-millionaire Carlos Slim, all of whom invested in Theranos.
Holmes had lied about her technological development, but the question for those following the case was whether she knew that the claimed invention did not work. The mystery ended up turning her life into the miniseries The Dropout, on the Star + platform, which earned six Emmy nominations.
The HBO chain also echoed the case, with a documentary on the repercussions of the scam. It’s called Bleeding Silicon Valley, and it’s about the rise and fall of Holmes and his company.