Therano's founder Elizabeth Holmes is in many ways a documentary's dream. There is her carefully choreographed wardrobe of black turtlenecks and black slacks — a not-so-subtle nod to her idol, Steve Jobs; her apparent inability to blink her eyes, ever; And of course, her voice, which is an eerie baritone, is supposedly an influence to give her more gravitational force in a tech world where female CEOs and inventors are few and far between.
Alex Gibney's new film about Holmes and her company Inventor: In addition to blood in Silicon Valley debuting on HBO on Monday, abundant use of Holme's almost cartoon-like physical properties and irresistible self-control following Theranos Dramatic rise and fall from a tech darling valued at $ 9 billion, which promised to make blood tests a simple, affordable process that would save lives, to one of Silicon Valley's most egregious cases of fraud and deception. (Theranos is now worth nothing). Holmes looks like a robot Barbie doll when she goes through Therano's white antiseptic times. Even when she tries to let her hair fall ̵
Men Inventor Inventor is a study of what drives Holmes and what makes an idealistic young woman who fell out of Stanford with the dream of changing the world refuses to back down when the dream turned out to be dangerously flawless. The invention on which Theranos was based was a black printer-like box called The Edison, which promised to run lots of tests on just one drop of blood, never close to doing such things. But the more red flags that went up, the more Holmes dug in, rolled out Therano's test centers in Arizona and made the rounds for more funding. When she was accused of wrongdoing in a protracted Wall Street Journal she revealed only harder.
Gibney has told fraud stories within documents like Enron: The smartest men in space and T he Armstrong Lie about cyclists Lance Armstrong – but he says What interested him in Holmes was the opportunity to study the "psychology of fraud."
"So much about this story speaks to really good intentions," he says. "It's hard to knock on anyone trying to come up with a way for transparent, low-cost, uninvasive blood tests to help people live longer.
" So to look at the good mission and then to see how it was broken and also weird to try to understand how someone might deceive others and whether they deceive themselves for better deceiving others. So it pondered the issues that made me start on this movie. "
Fast Company recently spoke with Gibney and his producing partners, Erin Edeiken and Jessie Deeter, about the depths of Holme's fraud – both for themselves and others – how the gender aspect was included in their thinking as filmmakers; and similarities and differences between Holmes and Steve Jobs.
Fast Company: How did your perception of Holmes change as you worked on the movie? Was she more or less sympathetic to you as a sign?
Alex Gibney: "I think over time that she became less sympathetic. It was interesting, inside our team – three producers on the movie are women – and I think they were initially much more willing to cut her a little lax until we really dug into the details of the story. For example, when we got galleries of John Carreyrou's book ( Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley startup ), and when we began to see and hear some of the audio tapes we had gathered together with her literally putting on tape. Then the perception changed and I think it was darker.
"I think the team all agreed that she started with good intentions, although some of the intent was a kind of personal grandeur. But at the end we all agreed that she was completely destroyed. Because, in her struggle to make the company big and fulfill her dream, she crossed a real, ethical line when she went with patient testing in Arizona, a break that went too far, and her reluctance to hear any criticism internally, and the kind of recklessness she operated to close whistleblowers and go after people or dismiss them in a very ruthless way. "
Gibney points on Ian Gibbons, who was Therano's chief researcher and who committed suicide just before he was to testify as a patent litigator who involved Theranos. Gibbons was aware of the technological errors in Therano's product, but feared to tell the truth under oath.
"The moment his widow talks about Elizabeth not even giving her a phone call (after Gibbon's death), this is one of the founders of Theranos after he had committed suicide. Suddenly you see Elisabeth's charm and Guilty feeling transformed into something much more reckless and calculating. "
FC: Holmes is very open about her adulation of Steve Jobs, one that you spent time thinking and studying through your documentary about him . How do you compare the two as leaders and visionaries, but also as people who are incredibly strong and in various degrees flawed?
Gibney: "She tried a lot to emulate Jobs in many ways. The silo (on Theranos) in some ways was very much like Apple. Attention to design, much like Apple. Drops out of college, much Jobsian. All these things were very self-conscious and conscious. She hired Patrick O & # 39; Neill from Chiat / Day because he had been to the Apple account. She employed all kinds of people from Apple.
"She really believed that she should have a device that should be Apple-like in terms of its reach in every home in America. But it was really interesting in it, maybe if she had stayed at Stanford until graduation, she would have heard the speech Steve Jobs gave where he said some things that might have led her to understand Jobs a little better.
"I did a very critical movie by Steve Jobs, but one thing I would say about Apple 2.0 when he comes back after the debate on NeXT was that he learned a lot from the errors in NeXT and he used them lessons. When Toyota's manager was known to say, "Faults are valuable." Job learned from these mistakes and then ensured that he embraced very talented people who were willing to stand up for him. (who led the iPod team) and chief engineer Avie Tevanian and (chief design officer) Jony Ive, it was people who had some kind of power and talent and talent and skill and experience to take the newly-invented company to the Promised Land. But Elizabeth did not want to hear from anyone with criticism. She did not want to hear of mistakes. Errors were not valuable to her, just the opposite. She learned the wrong lessons from Steve Jobs. "
FC: Did you interact with Holmes while making the movie?
Jessie Deeter: "There was a five-hour dinner I had with her. It was scary, a little. I thought what we did, had a casual dinner with Elizabeth, me self and her new PR person, this is still relatively early in our reporting, I was told "We have a dinner and then we have a glass of wine and it will be very relaxed." Then I am like OK, cool. And then I come up and I go to pull my notebook out and from the exit Elizabeth closes me. Like what are you doing? You can't take notes. You can't register anything. "She then started the questions What makes our team, who has our team talked to? What is Alex doing? Yes, but if I meet her, how can I guarantee her, Elizabeth, Alex's editorial perspective? She went on and on and on and on. And then she said she wanted to make her own movie, because she really saw herself as, wh Is not Steve Jobs, so definitely his equivalent in the healthcare sector. She would disturb and make things completely different. And if we were so lucky, we could follow it, follow Therano's reinvention in her thoughts. So she acted as if she were interviewing us, the editorial staff of the post. "
FC: Do you think Theranos is symbolic of what is happening in Silicon Valley currently in time regarding the deep mistrust of society in technology companies?
Gibney: "I think to some extent it's symbolic. The aspect of false it until you do it and move fast breaks things. There is an upside for them and there is a real drawback. And we see a lot of lies coming out of Silicon Valley now. Facebook would be the key. When we see excuses [made by Facebook execs]they hit you much like the excuse that Elizabeth gives at the end when acting in her black neck, deep red lipstick and mascara for a light blue blouse, no makeup and a small but clearly crucified around her throat. The excuse: "Well, I was shocked! It was very disturbing to me!" It has Claude Rain's vibe in Casablanca and by Mark Zuckerberg's excuses. Not sincere. "
FC: Gender equality is a great as well as sensitive topic in Silicon Valley and other industries right now. How much did you think Holmes is not just a CEO and founder, but a female executive director and founder, and has it influenced the way you thought and presented to her?
Gibney: "It's part of the story. I think both myself and my group are breaking up with these questions, is she being treated unfairly because she is a woman? It was very [perspective] that men have the opportunity to sort out false until they do. You know, Edison did. Why is the woman picked up?
"In pursuing this and struggling with it, you come across the notion that really Elizabeth is not a great writer of women, that is, a symbol of all women. Elizabeth is a woman who had ethical errors, And we have to be able to stand up and say it, maybe one of her flaws had to be so big. Need to be the biggest. Why is it so important? Good work and wisdom Erika Cheung, one of the whistleblowers, is now unable to make a kind of incubator for small startup in Hong Kong, very good things, but it's not supposed to be the world's largest company. It is supposed to do smart, good work. Phyllis Gardner, a very smart woman from Stanford Medical School. For me, it's my role models, not someone who wants to be the biggest billionaire. "
Erin Edeiken: "In my eyes is the question of gender something we might talk about, it's not just because it's part of Elisabeth's meteoric rise. Whether Elizabeth explicitly used it or not, it was part of her life. Because she was a woman, people were interested. And because she was a woman inventor, something that is even more rare than being a woman's CEO in that industry, people were especially interested in her. And rooting for her and wanting her to succeed in ways that I think might be if she were a man maybe she would have been tested and put a little harder.
"On the other hand, when it all began to fall, she turned the table on the question of gender and said it was because she was a woman that she was appointed to do something men in She has a point in that there are people in startups and private companies who are constantly on the move and we address it in our movies, but what she did in relation to her extremes has nothing to do being a woman or not, this story is interesting and deserves special attention because it was something that involves real people and their health, and it is a lie that goes beyond a certain limit that perhaps some of his colleagues in Silicon Valley is used to breaking all the time, there is a difference in identifying an app to an iPhone in a beta version and testing something you know doesn't work on real people. "