Elizabeth Holmes

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And we’re back because the HBO Elizabeth Holmes shtick is on youtube, probably not for long, and I couldn’t help myself.  Rather I did help myself.

Did that guy really have a beard on half his face?  I don’t mean a light beard, it was half of his face shaven and the other with a beard.  Who is he?

Still, they get better at telling their stories.


What I am best able to add is mostly unrelated experience.  I worked in some big company marketing departments.  Besides, I was 19 at one point.

There was a strange comment in the 20/20 doc from a NY Times reporter:  ‘I am always suspicious of big marketing expenditures,’ she said something like, referring to the hiring of Chiat Day advertising and the $6 million dollar retainer.  That is nothing for a national advertising campaign.

That was a turning point in the rollout in that the two ad execs went on camera to tell the story.  They are trying to make advertising claims like “pin prick Walgreen’s blood test,” “4-hour turnaround,” and “200 tests” when this product did not exist.  There was no history of developing such a product either through science or consumers.  There were no defense department contracts, secret or otherwise.  It is not clear at all if Theranos even had a marketing department or customer service department.  They did not even have a website.

Holmes had a $25K a month personal promotions person.

Sunny and Theranos had mounds of data but his role was not to hide it for proprietary or legitimate secrets purposes, it was to hide the cover up.

[The guy’s name is Dan Ariely, behavioral economist.]

What happens when you watch Elizabeth Holmes videos on Youtube?  “How to spot a liar” videos pop up.

She is a con artist like all the rest and she got caught.  I don’t know about the San Francisco district, but I learned from good ‘ol Frank Parlato and NXIVM that the EDNY has a 97% conviction rate.  She is very similar to Bernie Madoff, right down to the visible company and the actual back room offices.

An important learning here is the one really boring vid that popped-up:  A psychopath is always a narcissist, a narcissist is not always a psychopath.  Psychopaths are born; sociopaths are learned.

She continued:  Psychopaths in business are those people who buy a company and say ‘I am going to gut it and take the money.  They say they don’t care and they mean it.’

Anyway, Elizabeth Holmes is one of those.

Another thing that came out is the word “titlement.”  That is a part–maybe the last part of a the series below on this blog–on narcissism on entitlement.

As part of my marketing research career I used to do cell phone tests.  We spent a lot of time developing new phones with Motorola when I was with Nextel (a cellular company that later merged with Sprint).  We tested new models, competitors, details around screen size, ergonomics, typing, performance, battery life, and everything else.  Motorola obviously also designed and tested everything having to do with technical performance; my role was, we also tested everything with customers and prospects.

Just like in everything else associated with tech product development, in my experience, we all had spreadsheets surrounding each potential flaw in every beta or further development of a product.

Then there is much further research in terms of marketing.  I’ll just say the 4 P’s, product (above, supposedly developed for a customer need with prospect input), place, price, and promotion.  We did research around everything, including every word in major advertising campaigns.

As far as I can tell Theranos did not really have a marketing department.  Their research was in order to try and develop their machine.  That was Holmes’ mission, to use the company to develop the machine, a machine that could not be made.  The company was basically a(nother) testing lab with a sideline of fraudulently pushing this non-working technology.

That is the part of big company national roll-outs that I know.  There are certainly many aspects of managing a big company that Holmes and Sunny were very bad at.

The rest of it was all fluff and narcissistic visions.

“Miss Holmes, you are magnificent!”  (Watch the HBO doc on youtube too.)

P.S.  I’m not an expert but I think Edison more or less changed the way electricity is delivered to households.  I do not know if that was before or after he invented the light bulb, or how that relates to Holmes.  I’ll have to look into the chronology there with Edison, plus whistleblower laws.


Link doesn’t work here; it is possible to find the original WSJ article through a PDF online, especially on an Android phone.  It is unspectacular now, but at the time statements surrounding fraud were a very big deal.  Also, excerpts of the book are available through Google books.  The book did not do much for me; I think the writing is ordinary and now, after all the documentaries, it seems most of story has been presented.

But I’ll say this for Mr. Carryrou:  his performance against Boies and the other suits was brilliant.  He had done his homework.  Fraud is not a trade secret.