One of the biggest frauds of last year had nothing to do with a doomed music festival in the Bahamas, but rather a company called Theranos that promised a medical miracle to consumers. And unfortunately for the woman at the center of it all, former Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, a rush of books, podcasts, documentaries, and movies are quickly unveiling just what led to the demise of her now shuttered company.
Holmes is famed a college dropout who started her own business at the age of 19 years old (Holmes is currently 35). Theranos, her company named by combining the words “therapy” and “diagnostics,” was supposed to be able to run hundreds of medical tests with just one drop of blood from a pinprick on each patient's finger. With no tubes of blood or syringes needed, Holmes envisioned a world where average Americans could control their own health. It was an inspiring pitch that many investors fell for instantly, and Theranos was, before its dismantling, valued at a billion dollars.
There's only one small problem: Theranos' machines didn't work.
Whistleblowers claim that Holmes knew this all along. In newly released testimony delivered to the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC), Holmes admits no wrongdoing. Holmes has been indicted on nine counts of wire fraud, along with chief operating officer and Theranos president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani; she has not plead guilty as she awaits her trial. The SEC accused them of “raising more than $700 million from investors through an elaborate, years-long fraud in which they exaggerated or made false statements about the company’s technology, business, and financial performance.”
Naturally, the allegations against Holmes have made her a fascinating subject for journalists, authors, documentarians, and movie producers alike. Here's every Elizabeth Holmes project you can read, listen to, watch, and mark your calendars for:
The Book: A Seriously Detailed True Crime Investigation
After former employee and whistleblower Tyler Shultz came forward with allegations against the company, including claims that Theranos was hiding the company's lack of actual progress and success from the public and investors, he talked to John Carreyrou, a Wall Street Journal investigative reporter who was working on the book: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.
The book might be the most in-depth way you can learn about the Theranos story. It's so detailed that the New York Times reviewer joked that it was like like having two books in one.
The first part of the book is all about Holmes: how she started the business, what the company promised, its massive success with investors, and how the results didn't add up. Details about Holmes include the depth of her Steve Jobs obsession and her ability to “turn on people in a flash.” The second part of the book focuses on the unraveling, starting with Carreyrou being tipped off to the story and later following him as he chased it down. In it, Carreyrou also alleges that Holmes had him and his witness, Schultz, followed for a year.
The Podcast: New Details, Interviews, And 2019 Update
On January 15, 2019 the first episode of ABC News' highly anticipated podcast about Holmes premiered and it was met with fascination. Titled The Dropout, the podcast quickly became a major hit; all seven episodes are now available on iTunes and ABC Radio. It's hosted by ABC News' chief business, technology, and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis and as listeners well know, it took Jarvis and her team almost three years of investigating to complete the pod's seven episodes, which span Holmes' childhood to her status in 2019 — charged with massive fraud, in dept to investors, and awaiting trial and an eventual verdict. Like the book, the podcast is detailed, but focuses more on the “how” of the Holmes story.
It also makes all the twists and turns of the story feel all the more real by including actual audio of the whistleblowers, former Theranos employees, Holmes' 2017 SEC testimony, and Balwani's lawyer.
Two Documentaries: The Podcast Expanded & A Doc That Drags Silicon Valley Culture For Enabling Theranos
To go with its hugely successful podcast, The Dropout, ABC News and 20/20 are producing their own documentary of the same name. It was announced on March 8, the same day its trailer dropped, and will debut March 15. The doc includes the video of the deposition heard on the podcast along with new interviews. Jarvis, who hosted the podcast, is back to do the interviews for this one as well. It's a great option for anyone who's run out of episodes of The Dropout podcast.
People said she was “the next Steve Jobs.” Once the youngest self-made female billionaire - before it all came crashing down.— 20/20 (@ABC2020) March 9, 2019
She denies all wrongdoing. Now, new interviews, new details and the deposition tapes of Elizabeth Holmes.
20/20 ‘The Dropout’ – @ABC Friday at 9/8c pic.twitter.com/SH9SjttxzV
HBO also has a new documentary, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, which debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The film premieres on HBO March 18 and largely focuses on the the ways in which Silicon Valley's culture allowed the Theranos situation to happen — it also has first-hand interviews with Holmes.
In a Q&A following its Sundance premiere, director Alex Gibney (known for HBO's The Jinx, which famously captured long suspected murderer Robert Durst confessing "I killed them all") explained how he didn’t believe Holmes set out on this Theranos journey intent on scamming anyone. “She had a noble vision,” Gibney said, according to HBO.com, “which is part of why she was able to lie so effectively.” Carreyrou noted at the same event that the “fake it till you make it” mentality is a staple in Silicon Valley, and contributed to the mentality that created Theranos.
The Movie: Directed By Vice's Adam McKay, Starring Jennifer Lawrence
Before any of the above options came out — and a week before the book dropped in May 2018 — a studio movie about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos was announced via Deadline. It’ll take the name of Carreyrou’s book, Bad Blood, and it employs Shape of Water co-writer Vanessa Taylor as screenwriter. Adam McKay (director of Oscar-nominee Vice, also about a controversial figure from recent history), will direct the film with Jennifer Lawrence set to star as Elizabeth Holmes. Deadline reports that “the film casts a skeptical eye on how innovative companies gain astronomical valuations, and sometimes prove too good to be true.”
If you’re really into the story of Elizabeth Holmes and the downfall of Theranos, then you're in luck because the content just doesn't seem to end. Though each project technically tells the same story, each has a point of view and its own unique access point to the story. Happy listening, reading, and viewing.