Therano's founder Elizabeth Holmes is in many ways a documentary dream. It's her carefully choreographed wardrobe with black turtlenecks and black slacks not so subtle nod to her idol, Steve Jobs; her apparent inability to blink her eyes ever; And of course her voice, which is a scary baritone that is supposedly an influence, is meant to give her more gravitational force in a technological world where female CEOs and inventors are few and far between.
Alex Gibney's new movie about Holmes and her company, Inventor: Out for blood in Silicon Valley debuting on HBO on Monday, utilizing Holm's almost cartoon-like physical properties and current self-control that follows Theranos Dramatic rise and fall from a tech darling worth $ 9 billion promised to make blood tests a simple, affordable process that would save lives, to one of Silicon Valley's most extreme 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 corridors. Even when she tries to drop her hair down ̵
But in his heart The Inventor is a study of what drives Holmes, and what makes an idealistic young woman who dropped out of Stanford with the dream of changing the world, refused to reversing when the dream turned out to be dangerously wrong. The invention on which Theranos was based, a black printer-like box called The Edison who promised to run a lot of tests on a blood drop, was never close to doing such things. But the more red flags that went up, the more Holmes dug in, rolled out Theranos testing centers in Arizona and made rounds for more funding. When she was charged with injustice in a longer Wall Street Journal she just revealed harder.
Gibney has written about fraud stories before in documents such as Enron: The smartest guys in space and T he Armstrong Lie about the cyclist Lance Armstrong – but he says what interests him in Holmes was the opportunity to study "scam psychology".
"So much about this story speaks to really good intentions," he says. "It's hard to knock anyone trying to come up with a way for transparent, low cost, uninvincing blood test to help people live longer.
" So to look at the good mission and then to see how it was Destroyed, and also weird, to try to understand how anyone could deceive others and whether they were deceiving to better deceive others. So it was about the problems that made me start this movie. Fast Company recently spoke to Gibney and his producers, Erin Edeiken and Jessie Deeter, of the depth of Holme's fraud – both for himself and others; how gender is part of their thinking as filmmakers; and similarities and differences between Holmes and Steve Jobs.
Fast Company: How did your opinion of Holmes change that you worked with in the movie? Was she more or less sympathetic to you as a sign?
Alex Gibney: "I think over time she became less sympathetic. It was interesting, inside our team – three producers on the film are women – and I think they were much more willing to start cut her a little before we really dug into the details of the story, for example, when we got the galleries of John Carreyrou's book ( Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley startup ), and when we started to see and hear some of the tapes we had gathered with She literally are on tape, then the perception changed and I think it was dark.
"I think the team all agreed that she started with good Intentions, although part of the purpose was a kind of personal grandeur. But in the end we agreed that she was completely destroyed. Because, in her struggle to make the company good and fulfill her dream, she crossed a real, ethical line as she went with patient trials in Arizona. It was a break that went way too far. And her reluctance to hear any criticism internally. And the kind of recklessness she operated to knock down whistleblowers and go after people or reject them in a very ruthless way.
Gibney points to Ian Gibbons, who was Therano's chief scientist, who committed suicide just before he was to testify as a plaintiff in a litigation with Theranos. was aware of the technological failures of Therano's product, but feared to tell the truth under oath.
"The moment his widow talks about the fact that Elizabeth did not even give her a phone call (after Gibbon's death). This is one of the founders of Theranos, after he had committed suicide. Suddenly, you see the charming and wicked nature of Elizabeth made into something far more reckless and computational. "
FC: Holmes is very open about her adulation of Steve Jobs, someone you've spent time thinking about and studying through the documentary about him. How do you compare the two as leaders and visionaries, but also as people who are incredibly strong and in varying degrees wrong?
Gibney: "She tried very much to emulate jobs in every possible way. The silo (on Theranos) in some ways was very Apple-like. Attention to design, very Apple-like. Falling out of college, very Jobsian. Everything it was very self-conscious and conscious. She hired Patrick O & # 39; Neill from Chiat / Day because he had been to the Apple account. She staffed all kinds of people from Apple.
"She really thought she was going to get a device that was going to be Apple-like when it came to range in every home in America. But it was very interesting in it, maybe if she had stayed at Stanford for an upgrade, she would have heard the speech Steve Jobs gave where he said some things that could have led her to understand Jobs a little better.
"I made a very critical movie by Steve Jobs, but one thing I want to say about Apple 2.0 when he Coming back after the debate on NeXT, he learned a lot from the errors in NeXT and he used them lessons. As the Toyota leader was known to say, "Mistakes are valuable." Jobs learned from these mistakes and then made sure to surround themselves with talented people who were willing to stand up for him. People like Jon Rubenstein (who led the iPod team) and machine manager Avie Tevanian, and (chief design manager) Jony Ive, were people who had some kind of power and talent and talent and skill and experience to take the newly discovered company to the promised land. But Elizabeth didn't want to hear from anyone with criticism. She didn't want to hear about mistakes. Wrong was not valuable to her, the opposite. She learned the wrong lessons from Steve Jobs. "
FC: Do you have any interaction with Holmes while you made the movie?
Jessie Deeter: " It was a five-hour dinner I had with her. It was elusive, a little. I thought what we were doing was having an informal dinner with Elizabeth, myself and her new PR person. This is still relatively early in our reporting. I had been told, "We have a dinner at so we get a glass of wine, and it will be very casual." So I am like O.K., cool. And then I come up and I go to extract my notebook and from the convention, Elizabeth let go of me. Like, "What are you doing? You can't take notes. You can't register anything." She then began to question me. What does our team do, who has our team talked to? What does Alex do, but if I meet "How can I guarantee her, Elizabeth, of 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 looked like, if not Steve. Jobs, certainly his equivalent in health care, she should disturb and do things completely differently, and if we were so lucky, we could follow it, follow Therano's reinvention in her mind, so she acted as if she were interviewing us, the editorial staff, for the position. "
FC: Do you think Theranos is symbolic of what is happening in Silicon Valley at the moment in time when it comes to society's deep mistrust of technology companies?
Gibney: "To some extent I think it's symbolic. The aspect of fake it until you do it and move fast, breaks things. It's an upside for them, and that's 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 beat you as much as the excuse that Elizabeth gives at the end when she's acting in her black turtleneck, deep, red lipstick and mascara for a pale blue blouse, no make-up and a small but distinct crucifix around her neck, the excuse: "Well, I was shocked! It was very outrageous for me! "It has Claude Rain's taste in Casablanca and Mark Zuckerberg apologies. Not sincere. "
FC: Gender equality is a major, as well as a sensitive topic in Silicon Valley and other industries right now. How much did you think that Holmes is not only CEO and founder, but a female CEO and founder, and has it influenced the way you thought and presented her?
Gibney: "It's part of the story. I believe both myself and my team break with these questions, is she being treated unfairly because she is a woman? It was very much a perspective that men have the opportunity to forge it until they do so. You know, Edison did. Why is the woman picked up?
"When you pursue this and intervene, you come across the idea 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 must be able to stand up Perhaps one of her mistakes had to be so big, need to be the biggest. Why is it so important? Because you see in the film a number of ethical women who do good work and are ready. Erika Cheung, one of the whistleblowers Well done, but it's not supposed to be the world's largest company, it is meant to do smart, good work, Phyllis Gardner, a very smart woman from Stanford Medical School. For me it is my role models, not someone who will be the biggest billionaire. "
Erin Edeiken: " In my mind the question of gender is something we had to talk about. Not just because it's part of Elisabeth's record Eraic Growth 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, which is even more rare than being a women's CEO in that industry, people were especially interested in her. And rooting for her and want her to succeed in ways that I think maybe she was a man maybe, she would have been tested and asked a bit more difficult.
"In the back of it was that when it all started to come tumbling down, she turned the table on the question of gender and said it was because she was a woman she was designated to do something that Men in her business did She has a point because there are people in start-up and private companies who are constantly on the move and we address it in our movie, but what she did in relation to the external lies has nothing to do with being a woman or not This story is interesting and deserves special attention because it was something that involved real people and their health, and it's a lie that goes beyond a certain limit that perhaps some of her Silicon Valley colleagues are used to breaking all the time. There is a difference between rolling out an app for an iPhone in a beta version and testing something you know doesn't work for real people. "