Theranos: a thin line between Fraud & Visionary
Khian Reid – Staff Writer
How did a company set to revolutionize the healthcare industry by placing affordable diagnostic tests in the homes of consumers become a global symbol of “fake it till you make it” gone wrong?
For John Carreyrou, the Wall Street investigative journalist whose article led to further investigations by the United States’ Department of Justice, it does not come as a huge shock that Theranos turned into a flop and quite essentially and deservingly, a perceived criminal enterprise led by Founder Elizabeth Holmes.
According to Carreyrou, the Nobel Peace Prize in medicine is usually awarded to candidates at least 60 years old and there is a valid reason for this, “it is after a lifetime of research and work, that they’ve added value.”
This is contrasted by Holmes’ resume, which includes starting her medical engineering company at the age of 19 having dropped out of Stanford University at the end of her sophomore year. Surely, the success stories of tech entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg shares the similar young college dropout factor; but, for Carreyrou, this is where endeavors in medicine and technology differ, with medicine requiring the more conservative journey.
While it is true that all great inventions begin with an idea, one must ask the question, where did Theranos go wrong? According to the prosecutors in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, it was Holmes’s manipulation of the truth, the lying and deceiving actions towards her investors that was the beginning of the end of the rise of Theranos.
The prosecution was able to call 29 witnesses to the stand, some of whom were investors, doctors, patients and scientists, who all helped layout the deception and fraud which placed founder Elizabeth Holmes at the center of this fraud.
Holmes’ main defense seems to have been that she was a victim of her partner’s control and abuse, and that she had no intention to commit fraud. The witnesses, however, did not excuse her and found her an essential ringleader of manipulation and deception who was in charge of the company and a primary force influencing her investors.
So where do we go from here? The Securities Exchange Commission advises future entrepreneurs to learn from the mistakes of Holmes and advises that “innovators seeking to disrupt an industry must tell investors what it can do today and not just what it hopes for in the future.”