Elizabeth Holmes #TheDropout documentary, with many of the same peeps featured on our podcast, out tomorrow!! ABC 9-11pm. ?? #elizabethholmes #theranos (11/25)

#TheDropout documentary, with many of the same peeps featured on our podcast, out tomorrow!! ABC 9-11pm. ?? #elizabethholmes #theranos

178 Likes, 28 Comments - Victoria Thompson (@thompsonvic) on Instagram: "#TheDropout documentary, with many of the same peeps featured on our podcast, out tomorrow!! ABC..."

HBO’s Elizabeth Holmes documentary tells a bloody good story of a bad con job

What film lacks in hard science, it makes up for with answers to how she pulled it off.

SAM MACHKOVECH – 3/15/2019, 6:30 AM

EnlargeHBO

AUSTIN, Texas—While watching new documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, I constantly marveled at the film’s effort to do the seemingly impossible: to present Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of Theranos, as a likeable person.

For one, that’s an uphill battle for a Silicon Valley burnout whose crash-and-burn reputation precedes her. For another, this documentary comes from famed takedown artist Alex Gibney, who has previously focused his filmmaking lens on the obvious-villain likes of Enron and the Church of Scientology. Shouldn’t we expect the worst?

Things get savage in The Inventor, certainly. Theranos’ worst stories have previously been laid bare, and anybody familiar with the company’s original promises—transparent, affordable bloodwork for all—won’t learn much new in this documentary. (Though, yes, The Inventor is still a fine primer for anyone going into the story blind.) Rather, what Gibney really contributes is a better look at Theranos’ secret sauce: how Holmes got so far with so little.

U can’t touch this?

  • In this interview moment, Elizabeth Holmes is asked by an interviewer to “tell us a secret.” She takes a long pause and answers, “I don’t have many secrets.” The rest of the movie suggests otherwise. HBO
  • Theranos used this image on a regular basis to promote its “nanotainer” concept. HBO
  • A photo used in the film of a younger Holmes in Theranos’ earlier days. HBO
  • Holmes in 2015 at an all-hands company meeting, not long before a WSJ report changed everything. HBO
  • The film explores Holmes’ obsession with Yoda. HBO

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Unsurprisingly, Holmes didn’t agree to any interviews with Gibney or his crew. Yet HBO Films still presents plenty of direct footage of Holmes talking up her former company, usually in a promotional capacity. This footage emerges with a metric ton of context, either from the journalists who profiled her or the half-dozen former Theranos employees who are now free of non-disclosure shackles.

In some cases, this means hearing stories Holmes liked to recite on a regular basis, particularly one about her beloved uncle dying at a young age thanks to undetected cancer. In others, it means getting a front-row seat to “fun” Theranos company events, like one in July 2015 that saw Holmes, fresh off some dodging-and-weaving of prying regulators and investors, dance-walk into a company party to the tune of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”

But by and large, the most common version of Holmes on-screen is one of projected confidence—and selective engagement. In the film, we watch her align with countless politicians and investors while banging the drum of what might sound like a reasonable thesis. Massive blood draws, she said, are insane in a technology world where we’ve transitioned from “giant mainframes to smartphones.” And non-transparent blood-lab firms like Quest and LabCorp control 80 percent of the market using decades-old technologies.

“Change the paradigm”

“It’s time to change the paradigm,” Holmes said in response to that market reality. Her pitch was to let consumers take a much tinier draw of blood, then buy a Theranos box that would fit on a kitchen counter. The device, dubbed the Edison, could run roughly 200 tests on that sample as a solution to “the pain of traditional phlebotomy.” Users would control when and how often they got bloodwork results.

One of Holmes’ university advisers appears early in the film to talk about Holmes’ college-aged engineering idea to take advantage of microfluidics and nanotechnology and make her cutting-edge dream a reality. But that patent didn’t take medical realities into account, this source says. “There’s a reason you have a big IV bag,” Holmes’ adviser points out.

Shortly afterward, Holmes went in search of a new adviser, and she found Channing Robertson. He went on to quit his tenured Stanford job to help her start Theranos. (A 2014 Fortune featureabout Holmes’ rise at Stanford only mentions Robertson, not the other advisor.)

“Blood spilled all over”

<a alt="The Inventor includes this artist’s approximation of what a malfunctioning Edison machine might have looked like in action. It’s… not pretty.” data-height=”1824″ data-width=”2736″ href=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Screenshot-837.png”><img alt="The Inventor includes this artist’s approximation of what a malfunctioning Edison machine might have looked like in action. It’s… not pretty.” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Screenshot-837-980×653.png” width=”980″ height=”653″>
Enlarge / The Inventor includes this artist’s approximation of what a malfunctioning Edison machine might have looked like in action. It’s… not pretty.HBO

Sadly, The Inventor skimps on detailing the scientific and medical questions that fueled early doubts in Holmes’ vision, though it does make clear that Holmes, and Theranos leadership at large, sure liked to skip that part while raising money. As previously reported, Theranos consistently pushed back on any employees who expressed doubts with the vision of the Edison device, including its prohibitively small size, its unrealistic testing time window, and its high number of targeted tests.

“We couldn’t regulate the temperature,” one former employee says of a prototype Edison device late in the company’s lifecycle. “We couldn’t transfer fluids.”

In another story, an ex-Theranos employee described the company’s slapdash approach to getting sample blood: paying $100 for anonymous donors. This largely attracted a homeless population, and the company source indicated that this led to a prevalence of hepatitis in the blood. That became a concern when early Edison machines acted up.

FURTHER READING

Beyond business: Disgraced Theranos bloodied family, friends, neighbors“Blood spilled all over,” the source says. “It got gunky.” This is shown in The Inventor with a CGI illustration of how the machine might look as its automatic blood-sorting systems went awry, complete with blood caked and dried on various parts. That’s when the ex-employee explains how, when the machine would freeze or stop-and-start, “I’d have to reach in with my hand,” thus putting himself at risk to getting pricked by the Edison’s exposed needles. This also meant that blood particles, and those of potentially contagious diseases, “dissolved into the air.”

When the company wasn’t silencing its concerned employees by saying, “you don’t believe in our vision,” it was operating in highly paranoid fashion. Internal email chains may not have included Holmes or CCO (and Holmes’ boyfriend) Sunny Balwani, yet the company’s leaders would regularly reply to them. A keystroke-tracking hack was installed on at least one internal Theranos computer: the receptionist’s. (She appears in the film to ask why, incredulously.) And a “culture of silos” meant various departments were instructed not to communicate with each other.

You can lead a horse to wellness…

Any sign of doubt or disagreement clashed with the Silicon Valley archetype that Holmes obsessed over, particularly Steve Jobs. This manifested both in an it’s-impossible-until-it’s-not mantra and a love of turtlenecks. (One “iconic” photo of Holmes, holding her “nanotainer” device, looks eerily like a classic photo of Jobs holding an early iPod.)

The film takes a roundabout route to giving Holmes some semblance of dignity and integrity—by essentially saying that she ran on sheer will, fueled by a belief in intelligence and hard work being able to surmount any obstacle. In one example of how The Inventor frames her, Holmes’ ability to focus her gaze without blinking could have been used to paint her like a villain. Instead, Gibney attaches this quality to her rise as a bright new star in the health-tech sector in the early ’00s.

At that time, her sales pitch was clear: an established healthcare system had gone wrong and needed saving. She quotes Thomas Edison’s line about thousands of failures before a success, and her harshest critics in the film readily concede that when Holmes was questioned about her comfort-zone topics of engineering and future-tech visions, she was an unflappable debater and persuader.

The most striking of these defenses comes from Tyler Shultz, the lead source for The Wall Street Journal‘s 2015 exposé about Theranos’ deceptions. He admits to going back and forth between looking at hard data and serious problems while working as an engineer, then speaking directly to Holmes concerning her convictions about Edison’s development being on the right track. “You want it to be true so badly,” Shultz says. “She could still convince me.”

Early on, The Inventor reminds viewers of what a questionable and even deceitful inventor the real Thomas Edison could be, including his own overpromises about light-bulb technology before he eventually had his, er, light-bulb moment. (During this time, he bought time in the public eye by giving journalists shares of his company’s stock.) The phrase “fake it until you make it” is echoed by journalists and Theranos employees all the way through the film.

But unlike Edison and Jobs, Holmes’ path to keeping Theranos afloat eventually put real human lives on the line. In order to convince anxious investors that Edison was on the right track, the company refused to show actual footage of how the Edison machines worked. One seemingly convincing PowerPoint presentation, revealed for the first time in this documentary, was presented to Walgreens without any offer to open up an Edison box and prove its details.

Enlarge / This sales pitch turned out to be quite false, as the documentary explains.HBO

FURTHER READING

Theranos reportedly settles $140M Walgreens suit for less than $30MInstead, Theranos worked out a deal with Walgreens to establish “wellness centers” where customers could pay for a la carte blood tests. This immediately infused Theranos with Walgreens’ cash, then attracted an additional $400 million in funding, the film reminds us.

But what was secret at the time was eventually exposed: Walgreens customers’ blood was driven away from these pharmacies, then regularly tested on competitors’ machines, which Theranos had secretly purchased. The remaining blood tests that were conducted on actual Theranos hardware were often alarmingly inaccurate.

One of the film’s most striking interviewees is a phlebotomist whose job it was to train standard Walgreens staffers with doing blood work. (“Nobody at Walgreens had handled blood!” this source points out. “What do you do if someone faints?”) This quirk of the Theranos-Walgreens relationship only got crazier when Theranos began demanding full venipuncture blood draws, which it needed to shift more of its tests to that secret stockpile of third-party blood-testing machines. Walgreens staffers were ordered not to inform customers of this bait-and-switch until moments before blood was drawn.

This phlebotomist confirms that she’d relied on Theranos’ tests for herself and her family. Once the WSJ‘s report came out, she rushed to have her entire family’s tests re-run at established firms, where she discovered she’d been lied to.

“If people are testing themselves for syphilis [using Theranos], there’s going to be a lot of undetected syphilis out there,” one former Theranos employee says in the film. And that’s nothing compared to the story of former Theranos chief scientist, Ian Gibbons, which is told in the film by his widow: “He was distraught over this stupid patent-misappropriation case [filed against Theranos]. That’s why he committed suicide.” (She then explains that she never heard from Holmes or Theranos after her husband’s death, except when they requested his confidential documents and laptop be returned.)

“Does not map to reality”

The Inventor‘s strength as a film, whether the Theranos story is old hat or brand new to viewers, comes from its breadth of sources eager to clear their names. Fortune writer Roger Parloff is the most visceral of these, having profiled Holmes for a major cover story in 2014, and by the film’s end, we watch him swallow his anger and curse Holmes’ name. “What comes out of her mouth does not map to reality as you and I know it,” Parloff says.

We also see at length the crazy, winding road that Theranos went down with that aforementioned WSJ source, Tyler Shultz, whose grandfather happens to be former Secretary of State George Shultz—a major Theranos investor and self-proclaimed adoptive grandfather of Holmes. (Tyler’s work at Theranos began in part because of how often Holmes would attend Shultz family gatherings, where she charmed Tyler into wanting to be a part of Theranos’ future.)

After the WSJ‘s report was published, Theranos figured out that Shultz was one of its sources… by combing staffers’ emails until finding a “42.7 percent” notation, which the WSJ had included in its article. Theranos began sending threatening letters to Shultz, which cost him and his parents roughly $500,000 in legal fees to deal with.

This legal battle ended in a sting operation that took advantage of Holmes’ association with the Shultz family: two Theranos lawyers were waiting for Tyler when he went to his grandfather’s house.

The resulting confrontation is described at length by George Shultz in a hearing that led to charges filed against Holmes and Balwani. His patience with Theranos ran out once he watched its lawyers “assault” his grandson, he testified.

FURTHER READING

Check out this surreal chat with Theranos investor who says he’s “thrilled”Yet in that same hearing, the elder Shultz insisted that he believed and still believes that Holmes acted with the utmost of honesty and integrity as CEO and founder of Theranos. And The Inventor leaves enough breadcrumbs between its stories of blind ambition and dangerous, careless policies to show how Holmes swept everyone up—Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, former US Defense Secretary James Mattis, and scores of excited, budding entrepreneurs, particularly women—with her determination to reinvent medical access.

“She was a good idol to have,” one ex-Theranos employee and Holmes admirer says in the film. “I drank the Kool-Aid too quickly.”

The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley had its final preview screening at SXSW 2019, ahead of its cable television premiere Monday, March 18, on HBO.

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Hello Again and Thanks for reading it is I David "Top40" Ellenberger with an update on the status of my lawsuit against Alphabet inc case # 4:20-CV-04877-SVK  and the website and life in general. By now if you regularly visit InternetTop40.com you may have read this section "author info" or Bio. So I am adding to it with more bio and more info. I originally liked the idea of voting on the internet 20-25 years ago when I first got online with WebTV (does anyone remember that?). The technology at that time was not advanced enough to easily be able to vote online or watch videos or much else for that matter but I was hooked and look at what we can do now with videos, IOT, and everything else, but I digress. I started InternetTop40.com about 5 years ago and the user base has been going up steadily ever since. I wanted to be another Facebook, with music and voting and that is all coming together slowly but surely. BTW if you want to help or have any interest please feel free to email me anytime.  Now in my previous Author Info or bio page I made it clear or at least I thought I made it clear, I am personally suing Alphabet inc. in Federal Court for Fraud. I have evidence to prove they are not counting all the pageviews, among other things and defrauding myself and probably millions of other website owners and content creators out of Billions of dollars. So if I wasn't clear or you didn't know it's true I am suing Alphabet inc. in Federal Court for Fraud the case was recently moved from my state of Kentucky to N. California to make it easier for Alphabet inc. to steam roll me or so they think. Needless to say if you are interested and I hope you are you can look the case up online under my name "David Russell Ellenberger" or the case # which is 4:20-CV-04877-SVK.

Now, I want to make it clear to you and everyone that I am not suing Alphabet inc. aka Google for fraud just because I want a million dollars for nothing. I am suing Google for fraud because I think they are committing  a serious crime with worldwide and societal ramifications, it is a  very serious problem.  I am suing Google for fraud because to put it simply the analytics numbers don't add up at least not in my favor or yours, there is something very fishy going on with the Google analytics numbers. Of course Google has an excuse for every one of them but I have reasons and the actual numbers and they don't add up, more about the numbers later. Companies like Google are making Billions of dollars a year in profits telling us data is the most valuable thing and misleading us and misdirecting the media and the world every chance they can.  Now data is valuable and they are making billions in profits seemingly like magic but there is no magic to it just corruption and lies. One thing Alphabet inc. aka Google is really making their money from and that is advertising dollars and they are putting all of this advertising on the websites other people have created. Websites that I have created and  websites you have created and websites millions of others around the world have created websites or content. For example Just writing a text is creating content and that's where Google puts the billions in advertising they receive and keeping most of it for themselves. Yes content others have created and yet somehow they are keeping almost all of these billions for themselves and not distributing it equitably to the real workers the true content creators who actually deserve the advertising monies. Google has made it's billions on the backs of you and me. Think about that for a minute, how can they continue to justify this? They Can't, it has to change.

For example if I were to prevail in the current lawsuit just half of the monies or $20 billion put into a basic account and compounded at 5% annually we could realistically employ over 800,000 people at $24,000 a year, indefinitely.  Sounds unbelievable but its true and if we only employed 400,000 people we could pay them $48,000 a year indefinitely. Its all true. Its simply a matter of having the money and the will to do it. Now is 400,000 people a lot well yes it would be more employees than almost any other company in the world and more than half the population of the entire city of Louisville, Ky.

I David Russell Ellenberger through my website InternetTop40.com am suing Google to try to help right a wrong. A wrong committed by Google that has simply gotten out of hand. Most people may think they can't do anything about it. Nothing can stop Google, the politicians don't care they use all of Googles data to further their own campaigns and line their own pockets while the rest of us keep on creating the content for Google, nothing can be done, this however is not the case, we can do something. The politicians and Alphabet inc. aka Google have done nothing to help society at large other than organize it so they can keep more money in secret and pay off all their buddies with their fraudulently obtained money. It's gotten so bad that the politicians and others in control won't even talk about it, they ignore it and hope it goes away, they won't even try to stop google because it is helping them too much and maybe they are scared of Google or who knows what they may be thinking. But it looks like fraud and it's coming to an end.

I'm telling you we can do something and I David Russell Ellenberger an average citizen Content Creator am saying to you, I'm not scared of Google because I have nothing left to loose.  I David Russell Ellenberger am telling you there is something you too can do, if nothing else, tell all your friends to come to InternetTop40.com aka IT40, believe these words and Create your Content. Further I promise to you and all who read this if I do prevail in my lawsuit against Alphabet Inc. I will use half of any monies I may receive to pay "content creators" a living wage. I pledge to anyone who is reading this, I will use half of any monies I may receive to help those who really do want to work on the internet and create content and tell us what they think. I will use half of any money so you can Get Paid, I want you to get paid for the content you create and get paid everyday and Get Paid to Vote create data and to be able to do this work online and from your home or anywhere in the world you care to be. Because in the words of an ancient scholar Y-O-U are the business Y-O-U are creating all the data, Y-O-U are the content creators and Y-O-U are all that matters.

Now the main thing I want you to take away form this and to know, Alphabet inc. is and has been committing fraud against you, me and everyone who uses the internet. I don't think Google started out to defraud the world it has just degenerated into this endless morass of corruption and fraud and no one seems to care, Well I care and I know you care too.  Sadly Google has been doing this with impunity for years and it is only getting worse. Please don't let them fool you with their lies and obfuscation. Do some research create some content build a website and research the analytics numbers you will find I am right. Google owes you, me and everyone online thousands if not 10's of thousands of dollars for all the data and advertising dollars they have co-opted from you and the rest of the world. So join with me don't use any Google products or file your own lawsuit in federal court against Alphabet inc. I will be glad to help you any way I can and show you how to do it if need be. It will take a sincere effort on your part but it will definitely help your self esteem, society and the world.

Now that's about all I have to say on this subject for now.  I will tell you this if you want more information or you have questions or comments for me, my email is [email protected] Thank you for reading looking and listening and believing in InternetTop40.com Please tell all your friends about us and don't forget to vote Thumbs up or down and refresh your page when your done. oh yeah and those funny old men running for president vote on one of them too or not. One last Thing, I need all the help I can get I am only 1 person but together and with todays technology we can move mountains and reframe society and our world the way we want it to be. Thank you ttyl

 

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