Friday, July 25, 2014

Why Are So Many Political Heavyweights On the Board of Theranos?

First up, some background from the Seattle Times:

Stanford dropout Silicon Valley’s latest phenom
The latest tech phenom is a 30-year-old Stanford dropout whose hatred of needles helped lead her to start a company aimed to help people better understand their bodies.

Silicon Valley, much like baseball, has its share of phenoms, those up-and-comers who demonstrate extraordinary promise.

Meet the latest: Elizabeth Holmes.
Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos
The 30-year-old Stanford dropout turned paper multibillionaire has worked for 11 years on her startup, which aims to give all of us better information about our bodies in a quest to revolutionize how we manage our health.

“If people can really begin to understand their bodies, that can help them change their lives,” she said during a recent interview at the Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters of Theranos, a mix of the words “therapy” and “diagnosis.”

Over the past year, Holmes has embraced a more public profile, recently snagging the cover of Fortune magazine in what bore all the hallmarks of a carefully orchestrated media push. Her board includes former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Defense Secretary Bill Perry, a couple of former U.S. senators, a Marine general. Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison is one of her investors.
Holmes’ drive to change the world has a familiar ring here. She may actually do it — or not. It’s always hard to know in Silicon Valley whether the hype matches the reality.

The tech industry has seen phenoms before. They are typically young, bold and single-minded with boundless ambition. Think Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg.

What often distinguishes great leaders are qualities like determination and persistence, but something else too, said Bob Sutton, a Stanford engineering-school professor and co-author of “Scaling Up Excellence.”
“They believe they are destined to do something special,” he said.

In that respect, Holmes is cast from the same mold as Jobs et al. She launched the company, she told me, after “thinking about what is the greatest change I could make in the world.”

Holmes, who hates needles, zeroed in on blood tests as a starting point. If blood tests were easier, cheaper and more convenient — Theranos aims to put a lab within a mile of any city dweller — people could take multiple tests over time and see signs of a disease or condition before it’s too late, Holmes argues....MORE

And from USA Today:

Change Agents: Elizabeth Holmes wants your blood
Elizabeth Holmes is tall, smart and single. Well, maybe not truly single. "I guess you should say I'm married to Theranos," Holmes says with a laugh. Only she's not kidding.
For the past 11 years, Holmes, 30, has been laboring incessantly to build a company whose mission is to overhaul the nation's $60 billion blood taking and analysis business, literally one drop at a time.

The diagnostic-lab industry has long been dominated by names such as Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, whose satellites many of us visit when our doctors want to run standard tests that typically require three or four vials of blood. But Theranos – a blend of "therapy" and "diagnosis" – has developed hardware and software that allows for many such tests to be completed with just a pinprick's worth of blood stored in a minute vial called a nanotainer.

The benefits of this breakthrough to Theranos could be riches; Holmes, who owns more than 50% of the stock in her company, has raised $400 million for a current valuation of $9 billion. But while Holmes is a billionaire on paper, nothing seems to interest her less....MORE
HT on both links, Economic Policy Journal:
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What is Henry Kissinger and Gang Up To Now?

Here's the Fortune story that started the media blitz.