Silicon Valley ‘fallen star’ Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11 years in prison – World

SAN JOSE: Elizabeth Holmes’ startup Theranos made her a multibillionaire hailed as America’s next tech visionary at age 30, but it all vanished in a flash of lawsuits, ignominy, and ultimately a prison sentence 11 years in prison on Friday.

The rise and fall of Holmes, who was convicted in January of defrauding investors of her biotech startup, is a newsworthy saga that has prompted a careful look at her methods but also at the inconvenient aspects of startup life.

In many ways Holmes fits the image of a Silicon Valley businesswoman, from her dark-colored turtleneck sweaters that evoked tech legend and Apple founder Steve Jobs to her dropout of the elite at Stanford University in California .

She was “the world’s youngest self-made billionaire”, Forbes magazine once said. The “next Steve Jobs”, he said Incanother business magazine that put it on the cover.

But it all came crashing down with the tech star, who is now pregnant, set to give up in April next year to start discounting.

The fundamental question surrounding his case was always whether Holmes was a true visionary who simply failed, as he claimed on the witness stand, or a clever self-promoter who took advantage of a gullible background to commit fraud.

Her story begins in the U.S. capital Washington, with her birth to a congressional staffer mother and a father whose online bio says he was once an executive at Enron, an energy company that went bankrupt in a massive scandal. of fraud.

He won admission to Stanford, and there he began working on cutting-edge biomedical initiatives, founding what would become Theranos in 2003 when he was just 19 years old.

Part of Holmes’s ability to win over her supporters was her apparent deep personal commitment: she applied for her first patent while still in university and after dropping out, convinced her parents to let her use their savings of tuition to build the company.

“Self-Made Billionaire”

By the end of 2010, it had raised a whopping $92 million in venture capital for Theranos, which pledged to develop machines that could perform a range of diagnostic tests on just a few drops of blood.

Over the next two years, he assembled what one news outlet called the “most illustrious board in US corporate history,” including former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz and former Pentagon chief Jim Mattis.

“Incisive, articulate, committed. I was impressed with her. That did not take the place of demonstrating the device,” Mattis said in a surprise appearance on the witness stand.

Forbes gave her a net worth of $4.5 billion in 2014, based on her half ownership of Theranos, and noted: “Youngest woman on Forbes 400; Youngest self-made female billionaire.

This brilliant coverage impacted Theranos investors like venture capitalist Chris Lucas, who told Holmes’s trial that the Fortune article made him “proud we were involved, very proud of Elizabeth.”

But there were some things that didn’t end up in those glowing reports that bubbled up with statements like “Steve Jobs had huge ambitions, but Holmes’s are probably bigger.”

Silicon Valley sexism?

First, he personally placed the logos of pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Schering-Plough on Theranos reports acclaiming its blood testing technology, which were then shared with investors.

This was done without the companies’ permission and was a key element of the prosecution’s argument that it deliberately sought to inflate Theranos’ credibility to win backers.

It also kept secret machine failures and the fact that once Theranos started performing diagnostics on real patients, some of the tests were done using the same equipment sold to standard labs.

Ultimately, though, it was a series of Wall Street Journal reports starting in 2015 — whom Holmes tried to kill by appealing to newspaper owner and Theranos investor Rupert Murdoch — that set in motion the company’s collapse.

Holmes’s case has also raised questions about why she was prosecuted, but not other tech CEOs who engaged in Silicon Valley’s “make it till you make it” method or other misconduct.

Ellen Pao, the former CEO of Reddit and critic of tech industry discrimination, argued in a New York Times opinion piece that sexism carries some blame.

He noted that WeWork’s Adam Neumann and Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick have raised billions with fanfare, while there have been allegations of racism and sexism at Tesla and misleading claims about vaping by Juul leaders.

Holmes “should be held accountable for her actions as chief executive officer of Theranos,” Pao wrote. But she “may be sexist to hold her accountable for alleged serious wrongdoing and not hold a number of men accountable for wrongdoing complaints or misjudgments,” she added.

Published in Dawn, November 20, 2022

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