Failure Can Slow You Down, But Passion Will Create a Multi Billion Dollar Business


Risks can lead to mistakes. Mistakes can lead to failure. So said Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos, who spoke at the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s “View from the Top” speaker series back in January. She believes in taking risks, and she believes that embracing your failure can lead to something like a multi-billion dollar technology and laboratory services company.

Holmes talked about her experience with dropping out of Stanford in her sophomore year of college in order to start this company.

“You don’t do something like this without embracing failure constantly,” she said.

She discussed the country’s current health care policies and the issues associated with it.

“You cannot get a test done and paid for by insurance unless you’re symptomatic for disease,” she said.

Her company, like many successful businesses, began as a startup. It aims “to make it possible for every person to be able to afford the ability to do these tests.” Theranos is intentionally designed to be physician-centric, which gives physicians the power to access their patient’s test results. Eighty percent of clinical decisions are made because of data from these test laboratories. However, Holmes says that 40% to 60% of patients decide not to get these tests done, possibly due to the fact that insurance won’t pay for it.

Theranos only takes a small amount of blood for testing, which makes the test quick, painless, and affordable. Although the company was met by critics and opposition, Holmes said that she and her team focused on the possibility of affordable tests.

In terms of how she managed to create this company, Holmes said that you not only have to accept the idea of failure, but also with the understanding that you would fail often. She admits that her company had its share of failures, but without taking risks, they would never have achieved their success.

Her advice for budding entrepreneurs who dream of creating a billion dollar business: she encourages them to ask themselves, “Why do you want to do it?”

She believes that if you are passionate about something enough, you can make it in the business. Challenges will not be challenges, because you love what you do and will keep doing it over and over again. Holmes spent a lot of time thinking about what she wanted to do with her life and realized that it was giving people affordable care and access to their own health data. That’s what inspired her to make the choice to drop out of college and designed her life to her business.

“Are you at a point in time in where you want to do the greatest work of your life and commit yourself deeply to something that you’re gonna be with for the long term?” she asked. “Find what you love so deeply that if you were to get fired from the job, you’ll start it over and over again.”

She has a lot more advice and experience to impart in the video.

About the author: Caithlin Pena

Caithlin is a recent graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism.  At  Stony Brook, she wrote for the Stony Brook Press as well as the Statesman.


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