This is 31-year-old Elizabeth Holmes. She dropped out of Stanford when she was 19. Twelve years later, she’s a billionaire. She did some regular stuff in between like founding a company and revolutionising medicine.
Holmes founded her company, Theranos, with the money she had saved for college. Now, Theranos is worth $9 billion. As owner of half the company, Holmes’ worth is estimated at $4.5 billion. This makes her the youngest self-made woman billionaire in the world.
We hope she brings Theranos to India sooner than later. Inspired by her fear of needles and syringes, Holmes patented a new, painless method of blood analysis. Owing to the rising medical costs in the US, Holmes says one of her main concerns was to make blood tests cheaper.
Theranos does blood tests at a fraction of the market price in the US and without a syringe. It uses a painless method to prick a finger instead of puncturing a vein. Theranos claims it can perform tests on samples as small as 1/1000th of the amount of blood drawn in the usual method. They also claim that more than 30 tests can be performed on a single sample.
In September 2014, Holmes wowed the medical world when she took the stage at TEDMED and spoke of Theranos’ quick and painless blood analysis and diagnosis. Holmes said 40-60% of people who are told to get a blood test fail to do so, either because of the costs or the fear of needles, which delays or prevents effective diagnoses. Her goal, she says, is to “make a world where no one has to say goodbye too soon”.
According to Holmes, “the concept of sticking a needle into someone and sucking blood slowly, while the person watches, probably qualifies as torture”.
Critics say Elizabeth Holmes is trying too hard to be Steve Jobs. Holmes’ standard attire of a black turtleneck and black suit reminds many of Apple’s co-founder. She is also criticised for trying to be as secretive as Apple before launching a new product. The lack of information on Theranos’ methods has prompted many to question their credibility.
Holmes, on the other hand, says she is only trying to protect Theranos from competitors.
Elizabeth Holmes’ story is one of endurance, perseverance, and success. But it’s far from over. She promises some radical changes in the medical world. We can only wait and watch what else this young CEO pulls out from under her hat.