New podcast shines light on Theranos and its madcap creator
The Santa Clara
April 11, 2019
Elizabeth Holmes was supposed to be on the path to become the next Steve Jobs. Like any archetypal entrepreneur, she dropped out of college to start a company with high hopes of creating ground-breaking technologies.
Unlike many others, her title as the world’s “youngest female billionaire” would be her downfall. Holmes’s company, Theranos, has been considered the next Bernie Madoff scam and “The Dropout” is here to tell the story 16 years after the company’s founding.
ABC Host Rebecca Jarvis begins the story with Holmes’ childhood and her short time at Stanford, to the early days of her biotech company Theranos. From a young age, Holmes predicted she would change the world and “discover something new, something that mankind didn’t know was possible.”
Holmes wanted to create a small device that could run over a hundred tests from a microscopic drawing of blood in just a few hours. Her machinations began at Stanford, but professors would repeatedly tell her that this idea of hers would not work. After dropping out, Holmes would soon begin to lie to investors, the media and general public about her private struggle to produce a reliable piece of technology which could result in her being sent to prison for over a decade in an upcoming trial.
Jarvis devotes the beginning half of the seven episode podcast to learning how Theranos managed to exist for over 15 years despite the nonexistence of the medical device Holmes promised to deliver. Each episode introduces new victims and employees who were manipulated and disillusioned by their honest intent to become an inspirational company.
“The Dropout,” unfolds its dramatic story through a news reporting approach and refrains from unrealistic voice dramatizations.
Unlike most podcasts that use cheesy reenactments or auto-toned voiceovers, “The Dropout” has one solid narrator who tells the story in a linear form and uses live interviews to add to the story’s authenticity.
Jarvis talks about how she wanted Theranos to be the next Apple and interviews former Theranos and exApple employees. The show talks about how Holmes managed to recruit some of Steve Jobs’ right-hand men and lure them to add credibility to her fraudulent company. Product designer Anna Areola, tells Jarvis that Holmes was “obsessed with Steve Jobs.” Not only did Holmes begin copying signature trademarks from Jobs but many sources tell Jarvis that “Holmes began lowering her voice several octaves, speaking in a distinctive baritone.”
Some of the best moments come in later episodes when Theranos’ failures are exposed and become headlines in the news. Each of these episodes provides witnesses and childhood friends to tell their personal experiences with Holmes. These on-air interviews are chilling as we learn about Holmes’s psychotic struggles and the measures she took out of fear to save her company that was built on a foundation of lies.
The story peaks when Holmes obtained most of her funding through Walgreens and other small medical companies. She managed to keep a tight-knit relationship with Walgreens for over ten years despite not having the medical device she claimed to have. Holmes kept her employee’s mouth shut and threatened to terminate and sue them for defamation if they dared to speak to reporters about their uncertainties.
“The Dropout” is welltimed, with criminal charges arriving in the last episodes with a trial emerging shortly. We hear about new successes and breakthroughs in the tech industry almost every month, but the failures and tragedies are downplayed or limited to exposure. ABC Radio was able to deliver a slim and fascinating story with its new approach to podcasting and deserves to be a guide for future mainstream channels trying to create new headlines for podcasting.
The story is not over yet, and we expect more to come in the future. Director Adam McKay has decided to produce a thriller, with Jennifer Lawrence to play the main part.
We won’t see this film play into action just yet as we await Holmes’s final disposition and criminal charges. Hopefully, they won’t wait too long as Holmes’s is at her peak of fame. “The Dropout” has also turned its podcast into a two hour HBO documentary for those who may need to put a face to the voice. Both series are impeccable and are worth the time to listen.
Contact Azariah Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.