What Happened To Theranos? The Theranos Fraud In A Nutshell

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Written By Angelo Sorbello

Tech entrepreneur and passionate about business



In the annals of corporate history, the rise and fall of Theranos stands as a stark reminder of the perils that can befall even the most promising ventures.

Like a shooting star that captivated the business world, Theranos soared to unprecedented heights with its revolutionary blood testing technology.

Yet, behind the captivating facade lay a web of deceit and questionable leadership.

This article unravels the intricate tapestry of fraud that ultimately brought down Theranos, exposing the dark side of innovation and ambition.

Key Takeaways

  • Theranos was a health technology company founded by Elizabeth Holmes that reached a peak valuation of $9 billion in 2015.
  • The company claimed to perform blood tests using proprietary technology but faced scrutiny from medical professionals and investigative journalists.
  • Theranos operated under a culture of secrecy, with Holmes maintaining total control over operations and taking former employees to court for alleged theft of intellectual property.
  • The company secured contracts with Safeway and Walgreens but had to admit that its technology was not ready for release after a surprise inspection.

Rise and Fall of Theranos

The rise and fall of Theranos can be attributed to a series of deceptive practices and the eventual exposure of its fraudulent claims. Founded by Elizabeth Holmes in 2003, Theranos gained attention in the healthcare industry for its purported breakthrough technology that could perform blood tests using a small pinprick on the finger.

However, as investigations unfolded, it became clear that Theranos' claims were baseless and its technology was unproven. The company's downfall was further exacerbated by its authoritarian company culture and Holmes' total control over operations.

The impact of the Theranos scandal on the healthcare industry cannot be understated. It led to increased skepticism towards disruptive healthcare startups and raised concerns about the need for stricter regulations and independent validation of medical innovations.

The ongoing Elizabeth Holmes trial serves as a stark reminder of the repercussions of fraudulent practices in the healthcare sector.

Questionable Technology and Funding

How did Theranos secure funding for its questionable technology?

Theranos, the now-defunct health technology company, managed to secure significant funding for its technology deception through a combination of secrecy and manipulation.

Founder Elizabeth Holmes, often compared to Steve Jobs, convinced investors to pour money into the company without disclosing the inner workings of the technology. This funding secrecy allowed Theranos to reach a peak valuation of $9 billion in 2015.

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However, the company's business model was built on unproven technology that later proved to be unreliable. Despite concerns from medical professionals and investigative journalists, Theranos continued to attract investors until its eventual downfall.

The lack of transparency and misrepresentation of its technology ultimately led to the exposure of the Theranos fraud.

Authoritarian Leadership and Company Culture

Theranos' authoritarian leadership and company culture fostered an environment of secrecy and control, perpetuating the deception surrounding its unproven technology. Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO, maintained absolute control over the company for years, leading to a toxic work environment. Former employees were taken to court for alleged theft of intellectual property, while those who questioned the reliability of the blood-testing technology and the integrity of Theranos were fired. This authoritarian leadership style stifled dissent and discouraged open discussion, contributing to the company's downfall.

Authoritarian Leadership Toxic Work Environment
– Holmes had total control over operations – Fear of repercussions for questioning the technology or company practices
– Dissent was discouraged and punished – Lack of transparency and communication
– Former employees taken to court for alleged theft – High levels of stress and pressure
– Lack of collaboration and teamwork – Culture of secrecy and control

Theranos' authoritarian leadership and toxic work environment created a culture where critical thinking and accountability were suppressed, allowing the deception around its unproven technology to persist.

Safeway and Walgreens Deals

The next significant development in the downfall of Theranos occurred with the Safeway and Walgreens deals. Theranos signed contracts with both Safeway and Walgreens to distribute its blood-testing devices in their stores. This partnership was seen as a major validation of Theranos' technology and a significant opportunity for the company to expand its reach.

However, it soon became apparent that Theranos' devices were not capable of delivering accurate results. After a surprise inspection, Theranos had to admit that its technology was not ready for release, leading to the termination of its deal with Walgreens.

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The impact on Safeway and Walgreens was significant, as they had to deal with legal consequences and reputational damage. Safeway faced legal action from its employees who had received inaccurate test results, while Walgreens settled a lawsuit with Theranos for an undisclosed amount.

These deals proved to be a major setback for both Safeway and Walgreens and further contributed to the downfall of Theranos.

Unethical Practices and Scientific Criticism

Following the termination of its deals with Safeway and Walgreens, Theranos faced mounting criticism from the scientific community and allegations of unethical practices. The scientific community backlash against Theranos was significant, with researchers and experts expressing concerns about the validity of the company's technology. This backlash stemmed from the lack of transparency and scientific evidence supporting Theranos' claims.

Moreover, the integrity concerns surrounding Theranos were exacerbated by the company's false patient results and its failed attempt to conduct HIV tests. These unethical practices raised serious questions about Theranos' commitment to patient safety and the accuracy of their diagnostic tests.

As the scientific community continued to scrutinize Theranos, it became clear that the company's purported breakthrough technology was nothing more than a facade, leading to the eventual downfall of the company.

Media Exposure and Investigation

After facing mounting criticism and allegations of unethical practices, Theranos was thrust into the spotlight as media outlets and investigative journalists delved into the company's operations.

The media coverage surrounding Theranos was extensive, with major news outlets and publications scrutinizing the company's claims and practices. Journalists uncovered inconsistencies in Theranos' technology and raised questions about its validity.

This media exposure played a crucial role in exposing the fraudulent practices of the company and shedding light on the deceptive claims made by its founder, Elizabeth Holmes.

As a result of the media investigation, Theranos faced significant legal consequences. Holmes was charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice, leading to a highly publicized trial that further exposed the extent of the company's deception.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Did Elizabeth Holmes Portray Herself in the Media and What Was Her Impact on the Company's Reputation?

Elizabeth Holmes portrayed herself in the media as a visionary and innovative leader, which initially boosted Theranos' reputation. However, her false claims and unethical practices led to a loss of investor trust, damaged the company's reputation, and had far-reaching consequences in the healthcare industry.

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What Was the Specific Technology That Theranos Claimed to Use for Its Blood Tests?

Theranos claimed to use a specific proprietary technology for blood tests, promising less invasive procedures with just a pinprick on the finger. However, the validity of this technology was widely questioned and ultimately proven to be unproven and unreliable.

How Did Theranos Secure Venture Capital Funding Without Disclosing the Inner Workings of Their Technology?

Theranos secured venture capital funding without disclosing the inner workings of their technology, which was a key factor in their eventual downfall. This lack of transparency allowed the company to attract investments based on unproven claims.

What Were Some of the Concerns Raised by Former Employees and Executives About the Reliability of Theranos' Blood-Testing Technology?

Former employees and executives raised concerns about the reliability of Theranos' blood-testing technology. They questioned the accuracy of test results, the functionality of the devices, and the validity of the company's claims, highlighting potential flaws in the technology's performance.

What Were Some of the Unethical Practices and False Results Generated by Theranos, as Revealed by the Wall Street Journal Investigation?

Theranos, as revealed by the Wall Street Journal investigation, engaged in unethical practices, including operating at limited capacity and generating false patient results. These actions undermined the validity of their technology and raised serious concerns about patient safety and the company's integrity.


In conclusion, the rise and fall of Theranos serves as a cautionary tale in the business world, highlighting the consequences of fraudulent practices and questionable leadership. The company's downfall was a result of its questionable technology, authoritarian leadership, unethical practices, and the scrutiny it faced from the scientific community and investigative journalists.

Ultimately, Theranos' closure in 2018 and the relinquishment of its assets to creditors exemplify the importance of transparency, integrity, and accountability in the corporate realm.


During its peak, Theranos reached a staggering valuation of $9 billion, making Elizabeth Holmes the world's youngest female self-made billionaire.

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