The verdict was eagerly awaited. Elizabeth Holmes, the 38-year-old billionaire who tricked Silicon Valley by promising a “revolution” in blood tests, is serving 11 years and 3 months in prison. Convicted in January of fraud, she had demanded a new trial due to the reversal of a key witness, but her request was denied. Prosecutors have held her responsible for fraud involving more than $800 million, but Judge Davila said on Friday that she had enough evidence to show that at least ten investors were victims of scams totaling $121.1 million.
The founder of start-up Theranos risked up to 20 years in prison and a $3 million fine. “I am devastated by my failures. Every day for the last few years, I feel a deep pain for what people went through because I failed,” she said, in tears, in court, just before the judge pronounced his sentence. She apologized to Theranos staff and patients who trusted her. “I gave everything I had to build and save our business. I regret my failures with every cell in my body, ”she added.
She is at the center of a saga that mixes money, blood, ambition and trickery. She founded Theranos in 2003 when she was just 19 years old. Her goal: to offer blood tests that are faster, more complete – more than 200 analyzes from a single drop – and cheaper than traditional labs.
She promised investors the moon and many saw nothing but fire: Elizabeth Theranos has confidence, a certain charisma and, obviously, arguments. It deceived its partners by raising more than 945 million dollars, while the tests in question never had the promised reliability.
In 2015, forbes valued her fortune at $4.5 billion and made her the youngest female billionaire in the country. But for Elizabeth Holmes, the nightmare arrives in June 2018, when she is accused. The coronavirus pandemic then caused her trial to be postponed several times and in July 2021 she welcomed her first child with her husband Billy Evans, heir to the Evans hotel group. She is currently expecting a second baby. Once again, her detractors suspect that she is seeking to pity the jury and soften her image in public opinion.
Last week, more than 140 letters in his favor arrived at the courthouse in San Jose, California. One is from Democratic Senator Cory Booker. “I still think she has hope that she can contribute to other people’s lives and, despite her mistakes, make the world a better place,” he wrote. “I can’t tell you how many founders and investors I spoke to sympathize with Elizabeth and think that Theranos’ mistakes weren’t all that different from any other startup in Silicon Valley,” notes Jeremy Carr, an executive and active investor in technology. .
The John Carreyrou Investigation
Who really is this woman, always elegant and who rarely lets go of a smile, even under the most difficult conditions? Devilish, manipulative, con-man, and downright evil, looking only to raise money by scamming investors? Or a naive woman who believed in her dreams and ideals and dared to take risks? It is this last image that lawyers have sought to convey. She was allegedly in the hands of Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, a former director of operations for Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes’ lover for several months, who tried to press her defense. Found guilty of twelve counts, Sunny Balwani will receive his sentence on December 7th.
Elizabeth Holmes studied chemistry at Stanford University. In 2003, she founded a start-up, Real-Time Cures, in Palo Alto that offers cell-phone medical monitoring. Real-Time Cures will become Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes decides to focus on blood tests, touched by the unexpected death of an uncle whose illness was not detected in time. Because she is afraid of needles, she is thinking of taking tests that allow early detection of pathologies from a single drop.
But from October 2015, things went wrong for her. French-American journalist John Carreyrou publishes the first in-depth investigation into the street newspaper, which questions the reliability of its technology and methods. False contracts, approximate results, false diagnoses: Theranos is far from proposing a “revolution”. Edison, should your tool allow ultra-fast diagnostics? It really doesn’t work.
John Carreyrou does not give up. In 2018, he published Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies at a Silicon Valley Startup🇧🇷 For Elizabeth Holmes, it’s the beginning of the end. Her pharmaceutical and medical partners begin to doubt and turn their backs on her. In March 2018, the young businesswoman accused of fraud by US stock market police agreed to pay a $500,000 fine in exchange for dropping part of the lawsuit against her. She will step down as CEO of Theranos three months later. And it was in September of the same year that Theranos officially disappeared.
Among the ensuing witnesses to his fifteen-week trial were patients who were victims of false diagnoses. A man, for example, was wrongly declared HIV positive.
John Carreyrou’s book will be taken to the cinema. And Hulu produced an eight-part series, The Dropout, inspired by the Theranos saga. Finally, HBO is producing a documentary, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley. Elizabeth Holmes continues to fascinate. But she now has until April 27 to begin her sentencing, Judge Edward Davila said.