King Queen Has No Clothes (Other Than Black)
“U.S. Probes Theranos Complaints”
—Headline; The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 21, 2015)
If you’re not familiar with blood testing start-up Theranos, here’s the Reader’s Digest version: wunderkind founder Elizabeth Holmes drops out of Stanford at 19 years old, comes up with a revolutionary (and vastly cheaper) way to test blood, and raises gazillions from Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
Along the way, she hires what seems like a clutch of Stanford faculty (including her former advisor), and stuffs her Board of Directors with more big names than a Presidential cabinet (no coincidence: many were recruited by Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of State, George Shultz).
And Holmes’ company is (privately) valued at almost $10 billion, making her a multi-billionaire.
Fall From Grace
Theranos’ crash — precipitated by a Wall Street Journal expose this Fall — is much more succinct: apparently, none of the company’s supposedly revolutionary technology has been peer-tested (independently validated), and the company’s various joint ventures and business relationships have all gone “poof!”
To add insult to injury, the company is now apparently squarely in the regulatory cross-hairs of the FDA.
If you want an even briefer summary of Theranos’ trajectory, all you need to do is compare the “before” photos of Holmes — from what I’ll call her “iconic (airbrushed?) visionary” phase — with the more haggard, slightly jowly profile shots that have been appearing more recently (top and immediately above, respectively).
Will Holmes and Theranos have an Act 2?
Stay tuned (and keep watching those photos) . . .