Vanity Fair has a big story on Elizabeth Holmes, the Silicon Valley “world’s youngest female billionaire” wunderkind who turned out to be a fraud. It’s by the excellent Nick Bilton, who wrote about Burning Man and the tech elite in the New York Times in 2014 (and quoted us)
Before the company’s collapse, Holmes gave speeches at universities detailing…when she started Theranos in 2003, she had resolved to never, ever give up on the company, no matter what…“the minute you have a backup plan, you’ve admitted you’re not going to succeed.”…she would stay with Theranos even if it failed, determined to see her life’s work through to the end.
Holmes had always done things her way—she hewed herself to a diet of disconcerting green juices, wore a Jobsian turtleneck, and as I recently reported, walked around the office with a dog whom she repeatedly told people was a wolf, and whom she doted on even when he shat all over the company boardroom. Indeed, Holmes spent Theranos’s final days not in mourning, but at the biggest party on earth. As Taylor locked the door at the company’s lab in Newark, California, Holmes was roughly 375 miles away, dressing in white fur, with pink bug-eyed sunglasses, prancing around the playa at Burning Man with her boyfriend.
I learned this detail, along with plenty of others, after the publication of my recent article [which] struck a nerve with former Theranos employees, many of whom say they hate Holmes like a cartoon villain. One former Theranos employee reached out to me to recount how small and petty her lies could be…Holmes’s comment about being able to quote Jane Austen in a New Yorker profile was nonsense. In public, Holmes often attempted to appear well-read and scholarly, in a dreary New England sort of way, despite her single year of college. She touted the titles of works of philosophy that she had absorbed. According to this former employee, however, it was all fiction. Colleagues who questioned her about the canon found that Holmes’s intellect was mostly superficial. For this person, it was a harbinger of what was to come. “How is it that you can remember every word of Jane Austen but you say ‘I don’t remember’ 600 times during a deposition,” the employee asked me rhetorically, referring to Holmes’s now infamous pattern of response during a series of depositions with 12 attorneys from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Read the full story by Nick Bilton at Vanity Fair