Beyond blood: Theranos’ billionaire founder talks growth

Sam Waksal is no stranger to biopharma controversy.
Photograph by Stuart Isett — Fortune Most Powerful Women

Men tend to start business to make a lot of money. Women start businesses to create the companies that they want to work for—and typically don’t dream about building Fortune 500-sized giants that will make them billionaires.

Elizabeth Holmes is not your typical woman entrepreneur. And even though her habitual style of dress—black turtleneck and black suit—is Steve Jobs-ian, this self-made multi-billionaire is unlike anyone Silicon Valley has seen before.

Holmes founded Theranos, a blood diagnostics business, 11 years ago when she was a student at Stanford. She dropped out of college during her second year, relentlessly altered her vision and business plans, went on to raise more than $400 million in funding, and today runs a company that investors value at $9 billion. Holmes, now 30, owns more than half of this fast-growing health-care startup.

Last June, my colleague Roger Parloff did a fascinating Fortune cover profile of Holmes, who was then a little known entrepreneur. Holmes is quickly becoming famous, and in this week’s New Yorker, Ken Auletta has a fascinating story about Holmes, shedding more light on her business as well as her uniquely austere approach to life. (“She no longer devotes time to novels or friends, doesn’t date, doesn’t own a television, and hasn’t taken a vacation in ten years. Her refrigerator is all but empty, as she eats most of her meals at the office,” Auletta writes.)

I met Holmes in October when we had her on stage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, and last week, I interviewed her at Fortune‘s MPW Next Gen Summit, where she talked about her driving purpose and goal to get Theranos’ wellness centers—to draw your blood with a quick, cheap, pain-free pin prick—in Walgreens (WAG) across the U.S. and within five miles of where you live. For sure, Elizabeth Holmes is worth watching.

In the video, I tell the Fortune MPW Next Gen audience that this is Holmes’ second public on-stage interview, and her appearance at the Fortune MPW Summit in October was her first. In fact. She did an on-stage interview at a Wired event in November 2013. We regret the error.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

LeadershipBroadsheetDiversity and InclusionCareersVenture Capital