Blood Testing Blunders: How Elizabeth Holmes Lied to the Top

Today’s topic: Theranos and the undisputed lying champion, Elizabeth Holmes — oh yeah we’re going there.


January 18, 2024

Welcome to another edition of the BetterPitch newsletter, where we dive deep into the pitch decks you never knew you needed.

Dancing Lying Queen

Oh Elizabeth: We know her today as a scammer, liar, and convicted felon. But those weren’t always her titles. At one point in time all of Wall Street, Venture Capital, and Pharmaceutical wrote Elizabeth Holmes down as the next great startup CEO and her company Theranos as a can’t miss home run. Jim Cramer even went as far as comparing her to Steve Jobs in their 2015 interview together – that alone should have warned Wall Street about what was coming.

CNBC Interview: “Theranos CEO: Female Billionaire Changing The World”

At just 19 years old Elizabeth Holmes, a then Stanford dropout founded Theranos with a compelling mission — to revolutionize blood testing and make it faster, cheaper, and accessible to all. She claimed Theranos had developed revolutionary technology that could perform hundreds of tests on tiny drops of blood from a finger prick, replacing the large vials traditionally drawn from veins.

Sounds good right? Only one problem, pretty much none of it was true💀

Laugh all you want, but it was good enough to trick investors. Theranos went on to raise over $1.4B in total funding from 15 prominent investors, from an initial seed round in 2004 to a debt financing round in 2017, let’s dive in.

The Pitch Deck

The earliest known Theranos pitch deck that we could get our hands on was from 2006. It laid out an ambitious vision — to say the least. While highlighting the inconvenient and costly blood testing system at the time that required doctor visits and waiting days for results. Theranos aimed to disrupt this process by placing testing facilities in retail stores and homes, allowing rapid results at low prices without doctors.

The pitch was light on specifics - with liberal use of “proprietary” language covering up a lack of details on the actual testing technology (translation: she was lying).

Elizabeth’s second best trait behind lying? Exaggerating.

The pitch deck projected over $2.5 billion in annual revenue by 2010💀

Over the next decade, Theranos raised nearly $700 million from prominent investors who bought into the hype, valuing the company at $9 billion by 2014. Everyone from Walgreens to the Safeway supermarket chain inked deals to install Theranos testing centers.

Raising Timeline

  • Seed Round, 2004: $500K raised

  • Series A, 2005: $5.8M raised

  • Series B, 2006: $9.1M raised

  • Series C, 2006: $28.5M raised

  • Venture Round, 2010: $45M raised

  • Corporate Round, 2013: $50M raised

  • Private Equity Round, 2014: $198.9M raised

  • Private Equity Round, 2015: $348.5M raised

  • Secondary Market, 2017: $582.2M raised

  • Debt Financing, 2017: $100M raised

$1.4B total raised over 10 rounds


The technology was nowhere near ready to put it lightly. In an effort to meet expectations, Theranos performed most tests on third-party devices while claiming to use their proprietary technology. Employees describe chaos at the Walgreens rollout, with inaccurate test results and frequent system failures.

In 2015, whistleblowers started speaking out about problems with Theranos’ technology and misleading claims. That year, a Wall Street Journal investigation uncovered that the company’s blood testing device had serious inaccuracies.

Within weeks the dominos started falling — Walgreens ended its relationship, Safeway canceled a testing site rollout, and Forbes revised Holmes’ billionaire net worth to zero (still higher than mine).

In 2016, federal regulators banned Holmes from owning or operating a blood testing facility for 2 years, essentially shutting down operations and in 2018 Holmes was charged with massive fraud by the SEC for lying to investors and patients about Theranos’ capabilities while raising money and sooner after received charges by the DOJ. In GTA Terms, Holmes had 5 stars and in 2022, Holmes was found guilty on 4 of 11 criminal fraud charges related to misleading investors.

Holmes, 39, reported to a federal prison in Bryan, Texas, on May 30, 2023 to begin serving an 11-year, three-month sentence for her role in wire fraud at the now-defunct company. Her most recent expected release date is Dec. 29, 2032.

The Theranos story serves as a cautionary tale for Silicon Valley’s culture of fake it till you make it.

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