print-icon

"Holy F*ck This Person Is A Sociopath": A Former Theranos Interviewee Tells His Story Of Meeting Elizabeth Holmes

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Sunday, Sep 05, 2021 - 02:11 PM

With Elizabeth Holmes set to be on trial for the massive sprawling fraud she ran at Theranos in the coming days, discourse about the now-defunct company online is picking up.

Among the interesting banter that has made its way out of the woodwork over the past week was one former interviewee, who took to Twitter to describe his experience interviewing with Holmes for a job after John Carreyrou's WSJ expose had been published. "When I heard Elizabeth was on trial I couldn't help but recall that moment," Jon Wu wrote on his Twitter

He describes in May 2017 how a professor of his urged that Theranos wasn't a fraud and that how he should meet with Holmes: 

"It was May, 2017. I'd just finished classes at Harvard Business School and I'm in Florida for some pre-graduation beach time. I get a call in the car from my finance professor."

"I've been helping out an amazing entrepreneur, and you have to meet her," his professor said, before revealing the "entrepreneur" was Holmes. 

"It had been over a year since John Carreyrou's investigative report in the Wall Street Journal," Wu wrote.

"It was a known fact that the product didn't work. It was as good as a cardboard box. And not only that--they were being sued by everyone."

But he wound up getting a second call asking him for help, he said:

"Then I get another call. It's a senior professor at HBS. Someone who sat on the boards of major healthcare companies. 'I've been personally coaching Elizabeth through this difficult time. You should join,'" Wu recalls.

At the urging of "multiple highly credible men" he makes his way to Theranos' headquarters eventually, which looks empty.

Then, the big reveal: "The HR manager shows me the Edison device. He clicks it on, the screen flickers to life, some gears and widgets whirr inside."

Wu says the HR manager told him: "This is for demonstration only. The machines that draw blood are in the laboratory."

Then, he describes meeting Holmes: "She's calm, collected, self-assured. She wore her signature look: black turtle neck, hair pulled in a bun, unblinking, laser-blue eyes. And that deafening baritone of a voice: 'Hi Jon, I've heard so much about you.'"

But then Wu starts to notice something is off. He writes:

"As the interview drones on, I become increasingly aware of one fact: Nothing about her indicates she was born on Earth."

He claims that Holmes said to him: "I know I've made some mistakes as CEO. In fact, I haven't been a good one, and it's gotten us in trouble. We shipped the product too early, and despite having hundreds of patents, we didn't execute correctly. Theranos is my life. I've been living this company since I was 19 years old. I don't have friends, I hardly see my family--I don't have 'a life.' I was put on this planet to do one thing, and that's to make blood testing as easy to get as buying a Coca Cola."

And then came the most stunning reveal of all: Holmes wanted this brand new interviewee to help her save her burning ship. He says Holmes told him:

"I was stunned," he writes. 

"If you think of personality falling on a spectrum, one side being fully authentic - the other being fully manufactured, the spectrum curves around like a horseshoe, such that the ends look remarkably similar. For the life of me I could not tell which end she fell on," he wrote of Holmes. 

Wu concludes by stating he didn't take the job, and then lists what he learned from the experience:

"People need to feel needed. We all crave affirmation, attention, and love from authority. We project our desire for parental affection on people all around us. Utter dedication is terrifying and seductive. I am convinced Elizabeth didn't profit to the level of an Adam Neumann or Jeff Skilling or Bernie Madoff. If she was a fraud, then she was her own victim. Stories can raise armies. Who knows in the end what was ultimately fact or fiction? Elizabeth was able to be a black hole for talent and capital, all because of an elaborate and *compelling* story."

The lessons for Wu were more valuable than any textbook, he wrote. "I'm convinced I learned more in those 45 minutes than I did in 10 years of school and work," Wu said of the saga. 

 

0