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HomeTechElizabeth Holmes Is Now Behind Bars: How We Got Here

Elizabeth Holmes Is Now Behind Bars: How We Got Here


Ten years ago, Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes’ biotech startup, was valued as valuable $10 billion. Five years ago, she was charged with wire fraud. Finally, today, Holmes reported to jail to serve her 11 years and 3 months sentence.

It usually doesn’t take that long after an indictment for a defendant to be found guilty and sent to prison. But the fall of the woman formerly hailed as the next Steve Jobs has been painfully provoked, with Holmes’ legal team playing every card to delay this inevitable day.

The story of Theranos is all too familiar by now: A young Stanford dropout set out to revolutionize healthcare with cutting-edge blood testing technology, scored high-profile investors and fawning press coverage, but it all came crashing down in 2015, when a Wall Street A journalist revealed that Theranos technology didn’t really work. To make matters worse, unsuspecting patients were given blood tests on Theranos machines, putting their health at risk with false positives for conditions such as cancer, HIV and even miscarriage.

Since then, unraveling the now-infamous blood test startup has been a long, messy process. Hopefully this will be the last Theranos-related coverage to come out for a while, with both Holmes and co-conspirator Sunny Balwani behind bars. So if you want to stay up to date with what’s happened since Theranos was exposed for its dangerous medical practices, read on.

Lawsuits, layoffs galore (2016-2017)

Once investors realized that Theranos was all smoke and mirrors, things got really litigious very quickly. The US government began its investigation into Theranos in 2016, and for the next two years, Theranos continued to make headlines, but they were no longer as complimentary.

The Dissolution of Theranos (2018)

Looking back at those two years of headlines, it’s a wonder Theranos even made it to 2018. Eventually, the company was dissolved and Holmes and Balwani were officially charged with fraud by the US government.

The demise of Theranos became not only a major technical story, but also a Hollywood fascination. Within months of the company’s demise, a documentary about Theranos was shown at Sundance, ABC greenlit a documentary and podcast, and Hulu commissioned the miniseries that would become “The Dropout.” Apple was working on a Theranos movie starring Jennifer Lawrence, but after seeing “The Dropout,” Lawrence felt there wasn’t much more to add and left the project.

Sunny Balwani (Naveen Andrews) and Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried). (Photo by: Beth Dubber/Hulu)

Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani on trial (2021-2023)

Holmes and Balwani were due to go on trial for fraud in June 2020, but the trial was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then Holmes became pregnant with her first child, further delaying the process. Although the two executives were to be tried together, Holmes’ legal team successfully moved to separate trials, alleging that Balwani had abused Holmes while they had been secretly dating for several years. Holmes would later testify about how this abuse influenced her actions as CEO of Theranos, but in the end the jury did not rule on the relationship between Holmes and her COO. After much deliberation, Holmes was found guilty of 4 of 11 counts of defrauding and conspiracy to defraud investors, but she was found not guilty of all charges related to patient defrauding. At Balwani’s trial, which took place months later, he was found guilty on all counts.


What else can we learn from one of the most infamous startup implosions of all time? Well, don’t cheat. But we also have other ideas. Here’s our take on what Theranos says about the technology industry in general, and how it plays a role in Silicon Valley history.

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