A generation of female entrepreneurs — particularly those in life sciences, biotechnology and health care — is still operating in the shadow of Elizabeth Holmes, who has been accused of perpetrating one of the biggest corporate frauds in recent US history.
Elizabeth Holmes started Theranos at 19 and was once lauded as the next Steve Jobs, became the world's youngest billionaire and made numerous magazine covers. But after a 2015 investigation by The Wall Street Journal raised questions about Ms. Holmes’s claims about Theranos, she spectacularly fell from grace.
Her implosion captured the public’s imagination, leading to a documentary, a book, a podcast and an upcoming mini-series starring Amanda Seyfried.
Though Theranos shut down in 2018, Ms. Holmes continues to loom large across the start-up world because of the audacity of her story, which has permeated popular culture and left behind a seemingly indelible image of how female founders can push boundaries.
There are countless examples of female founders struggling to raise capital as they operate in Holmes' dark shadow. When Alice Zhang tried to raise funding for her start up Verge Genomics, she kept getting asked questions about Theranos, even though there was no similarity between the two companies besides the fact that her and Ms. Holmes were both women in the hard-science space.
Short Squeez Takeaway: As Elizabeth Holmes prepares to go to trial on Aug 31, female founders say the ripple effects from the case could be felt anew. It is an unfortunate reality given the scale and Hollywood-ness of the scandal but we hope investors will move past it and look to successful female entrepreneurs such as Rihanna and Tory Burch.