Elizabeth Holmes first rose to prominence in 2014 as the CEO of healthcare start-up Theranos, but the entrepreneur became infamous about 20 months later, after being charged with an “elaborate years-long” fraud having duped millions.
Ahead of the release of HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley on Sunday, which traces the rise and fall of the one-time Silicon Valley darling, it was revealed that Holmes, 35, is currently engaged.
Vanity Fair was the first to break the news, reporting in a February story that Holmes is currently living in San Francisco, and “engaged to a younger hospitality heir, who also works in tech” and graduated from M.I.T.
According to the outlet, Evans graduated from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Economics, and has subsequently worked at LinkedIn and California-based company Luminar Technologies.
Here’s everything you need to know about Holmes, her elaborate scheme, and what’s next for her.
Holmes’s early beginnings
Holmes was born in Washington D.C. to father Christian Holmes, an Enron executive and mother Noel Anne Daoust, who worked as a Congressional committee staffer. The family later relocated to Houston, Texas where Holmes showed early signs of academic prowess.
Her short-lived career at Stanford
Holmes applied and was accepted to Stanford University in 2001, where she studied chemical engineering. Early on, she claims she started thinking bigger and about founding her own business. “At a relatively early age I began to believe that building a business was perhaps the greatest opportunity for making an impact,” she told Fortune in 2014. “Because it’s a tool for making a change in the world.”
In 2003, the semester after doing a summer stint at the Genome Institute of Singapore, where she was involved in work to develop systems to detect SARS, Holmes dropped out of Stanford to found Theranos.
Inspired by a lifelong fear of needles and having her blood drawn, Holmes sought to revolutionize the healthcare industry by developing a method of comprehensive testing from just a few drops of blood, instead of several vials, which is currently standard practice in the medical field.
Holmes’s goals were clear and pure. And she was very convincing in her pitch — one of the first to hear it was her chemical engineering professor, Channing Robertson. Holmes initially approached him to help co-found what would be Theranos. Robertson told Forbes he was wowed by her mission and initiative.
“[She said] I want to create a whole new technology, and one that is aimed at helping humanity at all levels regardless of geography or ethnicity or age or gender,'” Robertson recalled, and later joined Theranos as a paid consultant and gave up his tenured position at Stanford to do so.
Her VIP circle of trust
In addition to Holmes’s passion for the company and her change-the-world ideals, one of Holmes’s greatest strengths, as described by former employees, board members, former teachers, etc. is her steely-eyed focus and her uniquely low speaking voice.
“She’s incredibly passionate,” former Theranos employee Anna Arriola said on “The Dropout” podcast. “She’s very energetic, very expressive with their hands and has a very unique, distinctive voice that you kind of just get drawn into what she is conveying and her conviction it really, really shines through,” she said.
Those tactics helped persuade a group of impressively high-profile individuals to join Holmes’s cause. In 2014 at the height of Holmes’s buzz and estimated wealth, the Theranos board included: former U.S. Secretary of State, Treasury, and Labor George Shultz; former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry; former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger.
In addition to those heavy-hitters, at the height of its Silicon Valley popularity Theranos had raised an estimated $724 million in funding from a who’s who of investors like Oracle’s Larry Ellison, and a rumored $100 million from Rupert Murdoch. These were historical numbers for a start-up, and in the fall of 2014, Holmes was named one of Forbes’s richest women in America and her start-up was valued at $9 billion.
Flaws in the armor
Despite Holmes’ charisma, the product she peddled never actually worked.
Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, who would go on to write a tell-all about Holmes and Theranos in his book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, was the first to expose the flaws in the Theranos company. In a nutshell, he concluded that the product Holmes was selling — a minimally-invasive blood test that could perform a variety of tests with minor amounts of blood on a machine she called The Edison — did not work and the company was using outside technology and other subterfuge to fake positive test results.
Carreyrou’s 2015 article started a windfall of exposés and investigations into Holmes and the company, which led to the speedy downfall of the “inventor’s” $9 billion-dollar baby. The company’s bloated value was later estimated to be closer to $800 million, according to Forbes.
In March 2018, Holmes and her former company president Sunny Balwani were charged with massive fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Holmes and Balwani are charged with “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,” read the release from the SEC.
The pair were charged with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in June 2018. Holmes could have faced 20 years in prison, but she and Theranos settled with the SEC, while Balwani is awaiting trial in San Jose. Holmes will pay a $500,000 fine as part of the settlement arrangement and be barred from serving as a director or officer of a public company for 10 years. She has not admitted or denied wrongdoing in settling.
A movie adaptation of Holmes’s story is currently in the works with Adam McKay (Vice, The Big Short) attached to direct and Jennifer Lawrence to star.
While Holmes has kept her relationship with her new fiancé relatively quiet, after Vanity Fair first reported on her engagment last month, reporter Nick Bilton went on to share screenshots of the happy couple from their private social media pages.
“For everyone asking about Holmes’s social media. It’s private. But here are a few screenshots of her and her fiancé we found online. (I personally find it crazy that she’s being charged with 11 felony counts, thousands of people’s lives were harmed, and she’s as happy as can be.)” he wrote, alongside 4 photos of the couple.
In one of the shots, a selfie which showed the pair kissing, Evans wrote, “Happy bday to my best friend. The last year has been the best I’ve ever had.”
According to the Daily Mail, the pair also attended Burning Man last year and enjoy spending time with Holmes’ dog, Balto.
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley is currently streaming on HBO.