It is commonly believed, especially in the UK, that a degree is the prerequisite for success. The modern education system implies that the only route to success is spending a small fortune on further education, when some of the most successful, innovative (and lets face it, filthy stinking rich) never completed further education. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are/were all high flying uni dropouts, to name a few.
Have you met?
This is Elizabeth Holmes. In 2003, at only 19 years old, she dropped out of Standford university to pursue her dream of starting her own company. She was by absolutely no means a failure, after being chosen as one of the “President’s Scholars” and given $3,000 to pursue a research project in only her first year, and went on to drop out very much against the wishes of her lecturers. Not long after this research project, she realised that her tuition fees could be used for what she deemed a much greater cause; revolutionizing healthcare.
So, out of this, came her company ‘theranos’; a derivative of the words ‘therapy’ and ‘diagnosis’ and her idea of an alternative to the word ‘cure’, which she felt had stigma attached to it.
What did she do?
Holmes wanted to create a technology that would make blood tests easier. She personally hates needles (we’re glad it’s not just us on this one) and wanted to make blood tests simpler, cheaper and more accessible for absolutely everyone. For a decade, she quietly worked on a technology that would make blood tests nothing more than a painless finger prick.
Along with her research, her company grew gradually, raising $400 million in investments from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Larry Ellison, among others. During this time, Theranos operated in “stealth mode”, remaining highly secretive to avoid potential competitors. In 2007, Theranos took three former employees to court, accusing them of misappropriating trade secrets. That’s how you know this sh*t is getting serious.
So, what was all the secrecy and fuss about? Holmes has created hardware and software that allow for blood tests to be done by pricking someone’s finger and storing the blood in a tiny vial called a nanotainer.
Some people are so afraid of needles and blood, they would rather avoid getting blood tests than obtaining potentially life-saving medical information. Not to mention, traditional blood tests typically involve sending multiple vials of blood to separate labs for evaluation. This takes weeks for the results to come through, and also leaves a lot of room for error.
With the single prick of a finger, the technology Holmes has created can provide a wealth of information with exceptional efficiency. The new tests can be done at a pharmacy without going to a doctor or lab, and the results only take about four hours. Furthermore, the same drop of blood can be used for multiple tests with this technology.
Blood work can also be very expensive, depending on the healthcare provision in your country and how extensive your medical insurance is. This new test, however, is much cheaper, which was always one of Holmes’ goals when she started Theranos, opening up better healthcare to people of all income brackets, and all over the world.
It’s painless, more accurate, cheaper and quicker. Simply put, this technology is revolutionary, and it will save lives. University Schmuniversity.
See it, and Elizabeth, in action here:
Holmes’ company, Theranos, is now worth $9 billion. She owns 50 percent of it and is worth $4.5 billion, making her the youngest female and third-youngest billionaire on the recently released list of the 400 richest Americans from Forbes. She is the youngest woman to become a self-made billionaire.
Her company has also partnered with Walgreens, and it seems that it will only continue to grow. Yet, Holmes did not create her company to get rich, she sincerely wanted to make a change in the world. As she puts it:
We’re successful if person by person we help make a difference in their lives.
Our purpose is to give people access to the basic right of being (blood) tested when they need to or want to. If we can do that, then we will have made a difference.
Elizabeth Holmes is proof that greatness is achieved by combining passion, innovation and the desire to better the lives of those around you , regardless of gender, age or even education.
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