Meet Elizabeth Holmes, The Youngest Female Self-Made Billionaire Changing The World With Medical Technology

WiLab Spotlight: Woman in Innovation


At age 19, Elizabeth Holmes left Stanford University and founded Theranos, a revolutionary blood diagnostics company that aims to proactively detect signs of a medical condition or disease in early stages.

Today at age 30, Elizabeth is youngest female self-made multibillionaire to make the Forbes 400 and is changing the world by providing us with preemptive information about our health in a quest to revolutionize preventative medicine.

Disrupting The MedTech Industry

As a sophomore at Stanford, Elizabeth thought “what is the greatest change I could make in the world.” Using the rest of her college funding, Elizabeth dropped out of Stanford and started Theranos, a mix of the words “therapy” and “diagnosis,” and lead a team to develop a software and hardware.

With just one pinprick of blood, Theranos allows critical medical tests to be run more cheaply and more conveniently to see signs of a disease or condition before it’s too late.

“If people can really begin to understand their bodies, that can help them change their lives,” she said during a recent interview. She kept quiet about her business for almost 11 years “so that the competition wouldn’t get a chance to start.”

Now in 2014, Theranos, headquartered at the former offices of Facebook in Silicon Valley, has over $400 million in funding, a headcount of 500 employees, is valued at $9 billion, and Elizabeth has been titled by Forbes as “the youngest woman to become a self-made billionaire. Elizabeth says her end goal is something bigger. Her ambition is to create a new market called “consumer health technology,” which she describes as engaging and empowering people about their health.

Elizabeth’s Inspiration

fortune holmes

Cover of Fortune Magazine, June 2014 (Europe Edition)

Elizabeth’s inspiration stemmed from the death of her uncle, whose skin cancer progressed rapidly to brain cancer.

“You look at something like that and it doesn’t make sense,” says Holmes. “If it was caught in time, it’s a completely manageable condition.”

Holmes, who ironically hates needles, zeroed in on blood tests as a starting point. If blood tests were easier, cheaper and more convenient, people could take multiple tests over time. Theranos aims to put a lab within a mile of any city dweller and is starting a deal with Walgreens to open “wellness centers” across all 8,200 Walgreens stories nationwide beginning this September.

Advice For Women In Innovation

Elizabeth Holmes has recently been compared to legendary leaders in tech like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg that have disrupted the industry and changed the world. As for her gender, Elizabeth, who wears all black suits and heels, has “never allowed herself to think of being a female in tech as an issue,” she says.

But she knows people are paying attention.

“If I can show that in this country, a 19-year-old girl can drop out of school and build something like this,” she said, “then other women can be doing it.”


SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News, Quinn: Meet Elizabeth Holmes, Silicon Valley’s latest phenom, July 15, 2014