Theranos doc's director: Elizabeth Holmes is like Steve Jobs, Scientology, Enron


It would be easy to compare the new HBO documentary, Alex Gibney, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, to recent films on Fyre Festival failed. All of them involve a certain joy of looking at the rich and powerful lie and obtaining salvation. But the lie drawn by Elizabeth Holmes with her company Theranos gives the festival Fyre the appearance of an amateur hour.

Holmes, who was inspired by Steve Jobs, even going so far as to wear a black turtleneck every day, has been striving to revolutionize blood tests. But his start-up in the health sector ended up becoming a multi-billion dollar fraud.

The new movie on Holmes and Theranos, aired on HBO from Monday, March 18, was screened in San Francisco last Monday.

After the screening, Axios' Ina Fried led a discussion with documentary producer Alex Gibney, producer Jesse Deeter, whistleblower Theranos Tyler Shultz and Holmes advisor Stanford University Phyllis Gardner. Gibney, who also directed Enron: The Smarter Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side and Going Clear, says that believing in the betterment of the world has led Holmes to stop at nothing to see his vision come true.

Below are some highlights of the question period. And for more thoughts on The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, see our review.

Director Alex Gibney explains why Theranos' story hits hard

"It's the story of someone who has motivated so many people for a sense of mission, idealism and hope. And also hope, in that it was a young, male-dominated, male-dominated entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, who will succeed on her own – and that was a lot to many people – but who Turned out to be a fraudster. And it was terribly upsetting for people. "

Phyllis Gardner at the hearing of Holmes' idea about the blood test

"I spent years very angry about Elizabeth, she came to see me at the age of 19. She had no realistic idea and she did not want to listen, and that's just not how things are going in. It's a thing to fail if you're in a software or hardware company but in medicine: no, you can not do that. "

Gibney compares Holmes to Steve Jobs

"What she shared with Steve Jobs was an ability to be an incredible storyteller." Steve Jobs was a wonderful storyteller. "Whether or not he's an inventor, it's a topic." But he was a wonderful storyteller, and Elizabeth Holmes too, I would argue.


Elizabeth Holmes took the Steve Jobs model and still wears a black turtleneck every day.


"What Elizabeth did not learn from Steve Jobs's lesson … was Apple 2.0 (Apple's iPhone version) – an apple in which Steve Jobs had learned some very powerful chess lessons. The failure of the He surrounded himself with very powerful and capable people: Jon Rubinstein, Avie Tevanian, Jony Ive and others who wanted to tell him bad news – and he was ready to hear them. she absorbed at all. "

Gardner talks about Holmes' impact on future entrepreneurs

"I think it has been devastating for women, but I think there are good women and smart women and women who can do it, so I'm always behind women."

Producer Jesse Deeter on women's reaction to film making

"I've had several women who were former employees who said we would not talk to you because what you're doing with this report, is to drop the women's cause." I was like, I'm a woman! You can not do it .You can not do bullshit .You can not lie, cheat and steal because you are a woman.This is not an excuse … We must be held to the same standards. "

Gibney on the comparison between Holmes and Scientology

"In terms of Scientology – the subtitle of the movie Going Clear is" The prison of conviction. "I think that Elizabeth was really a prisoner of conviction, that 's one of the things that led her to disregard all of them and those who l? attacked – she would rather attack mercilessly – in fact, some of the people who were interested in her story were prisoners of conviction. "

Tyler Shultz, whistleblower, sued by Theranos

"One of the things my mother always reminded me of is: No matter what, you're still young, you're creative, you're still healthy, you have an education at Stanford, they can not take any it's far from you, so everything will be fine, always remember it. "And that allowed me to go through everything. "

San Francisco premiere of the inventor: Out for Blood in HBO's Silicon Valley

Director Alex Gibney participates in a roundtable at the San Francisco premiere of The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.


Gibney on the comparison of Holmes with Enron

"You think that Enron is a scam." But especially Jeff Skilling (who just came out of jail) was someone who really believed in Enron's mission and in the idea of 39, a free-market company that would revolutionize energy – so much so that when things went wrong for him, instead of admitting it, he kept doubling, claiming that the dream was real instead of l & # 39; To admit, he believed that the end justified the means, [that] they could engage in this hoax by concealing all kinds of debts and pretending that it was an income because they were finally going to change the world.

"So, this idea that the end justifies the means … When you passionately believe in a mission of this type, you are much more effective in dealing with your deception, because you do not believe that you are doing something wrong."

Deeter on Holmes' vision for the film

"I thought we were in a meeting to discuss it and allow us to film an interview. [But] I was interviewed. She presented it as if we were lucky enough to be the team that captures Theranos 2.0, that is, the same bullshit they've had before. "

Gibney on the set behind the scenes

"We found a couple of people who were ready to broadcast a hundred hours of footage in the company. [Theranos] did their own documentary, [like] they analyzed whether there had been a camera in the garage with Steve Jobs and Woz. "

Gardner on what she would ask Holmes now, if the opportunity arose

"I'm just praying for that chance, when she goes to jail: would she like a black turtleneck accent with her orange jumpsuit?"

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