Former tech billionaire Elizabeth Holmes was able to dupe wealthy backers, the media and others because “we’re all invested in dreams.”
So says prolific filmmaker Alex Gibney, whose latest documentary — “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” — examines how Holmes’ promise to revolutionize blood testing was too good to be true.
“We all like people who over promise and overachieve,” told journalists Friday at the Television Critics Association press tour. “So the grandeur of these visions is compelling to us, which is why I think we’re all in invested in them. … But we’re also interested in when people take us in, and then lie to us, and fail. I think we’re happy that they fail.”
A Stanford dropout, Holmes was the founder and CEO of Theranos, a now-defunct company known for making false claims about a device that could provide quick, low-cost early detection of diseases and infection with a simple drop of blood.
Big-name investors such Sam Walton and Rupert Murdoch bought into the idea. Holmes became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire and was heralded as the next Steve Jobs. But within a few months, her $9-billion-dollar company was worthless.
What drew Gibney to the story was just how easily Holmes sold a lie to the world.
“I discovered that the people who invested money in Theranos never even looked at an audited financial statement,” he said. “That was jaw-dropping to me. … “The power of the story — and I think Elizabeth was a very compelling storyteller — was so immense that everybody just went along.”
Gibney was joined on a panel by Tyler Shultz and Erika Cheung, two Theranos employees who became whistleblowers.
In explaining Holmes’ persuasive powers, Schultz described his former boss as “extremely engaging — someone who made you feel like you were the most important person to her and that you were critical to achieving the vision she had.”
It was as if she had “a reality distortion field that she walked around with,” he added.
Cheung became suspicious while running quality control tests on the product that clearly were failing. But when she brought the results to the attention of her superiors, she was told it was “something you’re doing wrong” and then went on to “generate a fake result.”
“It went downhill from there,” she said.
Gibney is amazed — but not completely surprised —t hat so many people were pulled into Holmes orbit without asking basic questions.
Source:: East Bay – Entertainment