Tech Nation’s host, Moira Gunn, has a master’s degree in computer science and a doctor of philosophy in mechanical engineering, but she was dazzled. “How old are you, Elizabeth?” she asked.
“I’m 21,” Ms. Holmes said.
Her age was brought up not to knock down her claims but to underline how impressive they were. “I’m gonna go tell my two children, they better get off their duffs,” Ms. Gunn exclaimed.
Ms. Holmes said Theranos’s device was in “the production phase.” She added, “We hope to release it, actually, to a pharmaceutical partner around mid-to-late this year.” Thirteen years later, when the company dissolved, it had never successfully released a device.
In 2005, however, even reinventing blood-testing at 21 was not enough, so deep were our expectations of genius. Ms. Holmes was asked about her future, and gave the stock Silicon Valley response: You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Theranos already had the “next generations” of its device in prototype, she said. It was miniaturized to make it even faster, to make it “more high-throughput.” It would be automated: “You don’t even have to touch your finger on the device.”
So in one of the first media interviews Ms. Holmes ever did, she said Theranos had a working device that would be able to analyze your health without actually touching you. No one called her on it. No wonder she and her deputy and boyfriend, Ramesh Balwani, the company’s chief operating officer who was known as “Sunny,” thought they could brazen it out in the Silicon Valley tradition until they had something that actually worked.
This is a credulous age. William Perry, a Theranos board member, was secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, a mathematician, engineer and Stanford professor. Not, in other words, a fool with regard to Silicon Valley. Yet he told The New Yorker in 2014 that Ms. Holmes “has sometimes been called another Steve Jobs, but I think that’s an inadequate comparison. She has a social consciousness that Steve never had. He was a genius; she’s one with a big heart.”