In this 3-part series, Gisele Waters dives into the amazing world of Elizabeth Holmes, and the paradigm shift that her company, Theranos, is beginning to make around the consumerization of healthcare.
Well-known modern examples of stealth capability in the United States include the F-117 Nighthawk, the B-2 Spirit, and in my opinion the personification of stealth and control, Elizabeth Holmes (EH), CEO of Theranos. Stealth aircraft are designed to avoid detection using a variety of advanced technologies that reduce reflection/emission of radar, infrared, visible light, radio-frequency, spectrum, and audio.
“The company’s culture is such that confidentiality is the essence of its existence.”
- Elizabeth Holmes
For about ten years Elizabeth avoided all kinds of detection while developing the world’s first consumer health technology company valued at 9 Billion dollars. Theranos is set to develop not only new applications in lab diagnostics, but also new vertical AND horizontal markets in healthcare, essentially a new healthcare category.
Together, with the help of some of the most authoritative policy makers in the world, her Board of Directors: former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Senators Sam Nunn and Bill Frist (a heart-transplant surgeon), retired U.S. Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, retired U.S. Marine Corp Gen. James Mattis, former Wells Fargo CEO and chairman Dick Kovacevich, and former Bechtel Group CEO Riley Bechtel….Elizabeth is ready to empower individuals as informed consumers in the new “democratization of medicine.”
As David Culter stated in MIT Technology Review, the “single most unused person in healthcare” is the patient. Eric Topol highlighted Cutler’s statement in his own book, The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine Is in Your Hands. Both Supermen, plus J Craig Venter, would agree they heard the call for democratization already as a distant thunder roll.
“What we’re about is the belief that access to affordable and real-time health information is a basic human right, and it’s a civil right.”
- Elizabeth Holmes
Elizabeth Holmes has stealthily and steadily set up an operations infrastructure to make one of the biggest impacts on healthcare and medicine than any other person in one generation, I would argue. Her ‘crawl, walk, run’ phased rollout of Theranos Wellness Centers across 8200 Walgreens has placed individual empowerment over our own health data within 5 miles of our homes. This will in and of itself begin to fundamentally change the relationship between patient and doctor.
Elizabeth Holmes, courtesy of Theranos
“One of the things that is so amazing about this country is that you can build companies that leverage creativity and innovation to make a change and that can be done in our healthcare system by outside the system in terms of engaging the individual and the consumer to facilitate that change.” - Elizabeth Holmes
In this series, behavioral observation and content analyses were used to develop insights from a different perspective—a consumer and researcher’s perspective as opposed to that of a professional journalist. Observation and content analyses are two of many qualitative ways to gain some understanding about people and enterprise that can strengthen and augment a profile.
I have not met or spent any time with Elizabeth to test my insights and observations (although that would be a welcome honor). So I cannot provide the whole picture, as humans are always complex and elusive, without experiencing their character across time and context.
Thus my observations are limited and partially biased. However, in contrast to the usual articles, I believe she has something a great deal more intriguing and impacting to offer the world than just what she has already accomplished. So I share a different interpretation of Elizabeth’s profile. I theorize she is only getting started and I suspect she has much bigger plans for healthcare than most journalists can even begin to imagine.
Some of her titles awarded thus far:
- “The LifeSaver” by Jasmine D. Adkins, INC.com, 06/22/06
- “Change agents: Elizabeth Holmes wants your blood” by Marco della Cava, USA Today 07/08/14
- “Meet Elizabeth Holmes: Silicon Valley’s latest Phenom” by Michelle Quinn, Mercury News, 07/15/14
- “Queen Elizabeth: Mystique of Theranos founder grows with Forbes’ richest ranking” by Ron Leuty, SF Business Times, 09/30/14
- “Most inspiring youngest woman billionaire” by Amarendra Bhushan, CEOWorld Magazine, 10/01/14
- “America’s youngest female billionaire and a dropout” by Rachel Crane, CNNTech 10/16/14 (she is by no means the typical college dropout)
- “Most powerful millennials in tech under 35” by Alyson Shontell, Business Insider, 11/03/14
- Businessperson of the Year 2014: Reader’s Choice | Tech Edition by JP Mangalindan, 11/06/14
- Golden Plate Recipient 2014 for Health Technology Revolution by Academy of Achievement
- Youngest Recipient of the 2015 Horatio Alger Award by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc, PR Newswire, 12/04/2014 (my personal favorite because it is well deserved!)
I have watched Elizabeth in over 17 videos/interviews (a few educational) and I have analyzed over 17 recent articles on her rise to success, fortune and power. I add the word “power” deliberately here to describe what she harnesses. I think she is veritably one of the most powerful women in the world today for a number of reasons; but firstly because she created the world’s first consumer health technology company which IS already building a new industry around individualized and personalized healthcare.
But more importantly, because she has managed to maintain such control over the delivery of her vision and operations, I believe she personifies the alignment of multiple planetary forces—that of human need, social problem, innovation, creativity, and a strong, patient and amenable character.
I don’t think those stars align very often in one person. Of course I agree with Fortune adding her to their Most Powerful Women 2014 Summit and to adding her as the only female to Businessperson of the Year 2014. Of course I voted for her.
Part I of this series aimed to introduce a new form of analyses for profiling extraordinary people doing even more extraordinary things with their lives. Stay tuned for the next part of this series on Elizabeth Holmes, where I’ll delve into one of the most important insights I’d like to share about her talents and abilities: how they generate a successful Transdisciplinarity. More of that in Part II…
Gisele Waters holds various degrees across disciplines but is not your typical academician. Her writing reflects only some of the curves of her diverse skillset as they engage the intersections between science, technology, and business; her real passions. She reports being stricken with the ailment of curiosity for which there is no cure and her resume reflects her many travels through public and private sectors. You can find more on her at: www.linkedin.com/in/watersapproach
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.