It’s just weird. It’s just a bit surreal. When you see someone have this situation and pretend that everything is normal. It’s so bizarre.–Erika Cheung, former Theranos lab associate, whistleblower
Will health tech learn its lesson? As in Chapter 58, we are now in Full Retrospective on Theranos, with Cautionary Tales abounding. One of the better ones is from one of the two young whistleblowers profiled in John Carreyrou’s ‘Bad Blood’, Erika Cheung. She was the young (23) lab associate who saw patient samples from Walgreens and other patients constantly fail quality controls, finally reported it to regulators when nobody listened, then quit. The interview in STAT is refreshing. Ms. Cheung’s contrast of what she saw on the lab bench and in her encounters with Ms. Holmes versus the wide-eyed hype of Elizabeth Holmes in Fortune and Forbes circa 2014 is worth the read, along with her restart at 28 in Hong Kong founding an accelerator, Betatron, and a non-profit with fellow Theranos whistleblower Tyler Shultz, Ethics in Entrepreneurship, to try to pin the Jello On The (Shady) Wall that embodies Silicon Valley Ethics.
Cautionary Tales continue, with the recent examples of Nurx, an e-prescriber specializing in women’s health, storing returned birth control pills in a closet shoe organizer and illegally remailing them to new customers (NY Times) and uBiome, a company that sells tests that sequence the bacteria of the body’s microbiome, on fraudulent billing that triggered an FBI raid. Both companies raised significant funding of late: Nurx over $41 million and uBiome over $100 million. The Silicon Valley rules–fake it to make it, and move fast, break things–once again blowing back on what may be good companies. The temptation may be too great for these health tech startups, something reflected on in this CNBC article.
TechCrunch, which breathlessly hyped Theranos back in the day, while duly noting and linking to the programs on How Theranos Fell, puts on its hair shirt for Dear Hollywood, here are 5 female founders to showcase instead of Elizabeth Holmes. Interestingly, one is not Anne Wojcicki of 23andme.