Dressing like Steve Jobs, she spoke as if saving the world. No wonder rich men fell at their feet and investors could hardly wait to give their money. With Elizabeth Holmes & # 39; company Theranos, however, there was only one problem: it was all a lie.
New HBO Documentary The Inventor: In Silicon Valley, the rise and fall of Theranos, a startup that promises a miracle, has turned out to be a blood test that turned out to be billions of dollars worth of fraud. At first glance, this film might be like the recently released series ofwhich has encouraged us to point to rich people who have outrageously betrayed. But The Inventor, premiered in Sundance (1
The inventor is headed by Oscar. Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney, who starred in films such as The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi in the Dark Side and Going Clear, and formerly directed at Enron, Wikileaks and the Church of Scientology. His documentaries often deal with entrenched, intertwined influence and abuse of power, which is fueled by huge amounts of money. At first glance, the story of a Callow entrepreneur may seem like a contrast, but the documentary shows how Theranos and Silicon Valley are built on foundations of power, money, and privilege, no matter how much they protest.
Elizabeth Holmes set out in Stanford to found Theranos, inspired by the desire to help people like a cancer-stricken uncle. By combining the terms "therapy" and "diagnosis" she founded a company with the intention of revolutionizing phlebotomy and replacing extensive and expensive blood tests with a machine that could sense diseases from a drop of blood. And she was not deterred by little things, as it was impossible.
Holmes and his business partner Sunny Balwani continued to make grandiose claims – including fake demos for investors – while even their own employees and engineers told them their vision could not be realized. It was not a lie, it was just that the technology had to catch up on the dream. A lie was renamed a vision.
The documentary reveals how her vision deceived high-profile investors, journalists and cheerleaders and highlights the importance of stories in the calculating business world as well. "Stories have emotions," explains behavioral economist Dan Ariely, "and the data is not."
The story of a Foundress determined to do good and the technological possibilities to support it was just too perfect to resist. From Larry Ellison, Rupert Murdoch, Henry Kissinger, to Bill Clinton, a rich cavalry of older men fell for it. And apparently for Holmes.
The backing of these powerful figures, including Betsy DeVos, legitimized Theranos. These titans of industry and government wanted to be part of the story. This shielded Holmes and Balwani from scrutiny by the press and regulators, but their luck could last only so long before they were exposed.
On the one hand, the history of Theranos is a delicious yarn. Who does not love to see liars and unlucky people get their gifts, or rich fools and their money shared publicly? But there is more to do than to immerse rich guys and Silicon Valley shower bags. The company's chief scientist, Ian Gibbons, has committed suicide because of the lies in Theranos. And real people were in danger when the company launched the product too soon.
The Theranos case exposes dangerous cracks in the founding of the modern economy, especially in the technology sector. Fittingly, the acclaimed Theranos all-in-one tester was named Edison. The documentary cites Edison as the first prominent businessman, a genius in marketing as well as technology. Edison knew how to tell a good story by choosing himself as the main character, and he promised more than he could deliver. He faked light bulb demonstrations for four years and pretended that the technology was working long before his engineering team figured out how it should actually be done.
Recalling the name of one of our most respected innovators, The Inventor takes a line through the Industrial Age to Silicon Valley's founding culture today, based on storytelling and perception as well as innovation. In addition to the thousands of patents by his name, Edison invented "forgery until you make it". A century later, Elizabeth Holmes refined his invention.
Silicon Valley's quick approach is one thing when creating an Emoji app. It's different when you talk about self-driving cars, medicine and health care that balance real life. In these cases of high commitment, care, safety and accountability are paramount. And these are things that are not necessarily paramount in startups.
When it comes to putting cars on public streets or telling people if they have cancer, the oft-cited Valley saying, "Moving fast and breaking things," is not the case. It does not seem to be such a good advice.
"No one questions their motives," says Dan Ariely of Holmes, describing Theranos' situation as "the story of how people were caught." Whatever their intentions, the effects of the fraud are not only felt in Silicon Valley.
The inventor is a cautionary tale for the way we view so-called visionaries who promise the world, from entrepreneurs to politicians. Silicon Valley may see itself as the heart of our culture, but it's pumping blood through veins and arteries that span the world – and it's not very good at diagnosing its own problems.
If you miss a dose of The Inventor, you'll be satisfied right away when you see rich guys look stupid. But it's the side effects we should worry about.