The fall of scandal-plagued Theranos appears to be nearing its nadir with another round of layoffs from a company fighting to prolong its existence.
In a staff announcement by once-celebrated founder Elizabeth Holmes — reported in detail by her good friends at the Wall Street Journal — Holmes told employees that the company still couldn’t get a blood test to work and needed to save money by taking its headcount from 125 to about 24 or so.
It’s been a dizzying fall from grace for Holmes, once hailed as a self-made billionaire who dropped out of Stanford University to found the blood testing company that was at one time valued at $9 billion. More than 2.5 years after a Journal investigation raised questions about the blood testing system, Holmes has settled civil fraud changes with the Securities and Exchange Commission that cost her voting control over her company, most of her stock, and a $500,000 penalty.
Tough times. But failure is part of entrepreneurship, right? Even if it includes a few fraud allegations here and there. Fortunately, when founders find themselves at the edge of the darkness that heralds final inescapable oblivion, Silicon Valley is chock-full of startup gurus to dispense carefully honed wisdom for the downtrodden.
In the case of Holmes, she doesn’t have to look very far for inspiration. During her 15-year ride with Theranos, she was frequently called upon to share the lessons she had gained on her way to becoming one of Silicon Valley’s most celebrated founders.
So to cheer Holmes up and prepare her for whatever comes next, we offer these 10 nuggets from Holmes herself:
1. “You’ll get knocked down over and over and over again, and you get back up,” Holmes told the Forbes Under 30 Summit in 2015. “I’ve been knocked down a lot, and it became really clear that this was what I wanted to do, and I would start this company over 10,000 times if I had to.”
2. “When people say, ‘I want to start a business,’ my question is always, ‘Why?’ Because there’s got to be a mission — there’s got to be a reason you’re doing it so that no matter how hard it is, you want to keep doing it over and over and over again, because you love it,” Holmes said at Fortune‘s MPW Next Gen conference in 2014. “And if you know what it is you’re trying to do, then it’s a question of being very, very open to failure … We will fail over a thousand times till we get this thing to work, but we will get it on the 1001st time.”
3. Also at the Fortune event, she offered some inspirational thoughts on quitting school: “That moment is when you find what you were born to do. For me, I reached the point where I was spending all my time doing this anyway, and I was wasting my parents’ money on courses I wasn’t going to. So I had that moment where I was very clear: This is what I wanted to do with my life.”
4. Echoing her thoughts on dropping out to Glamour magazine in 2015, she waxed: “When you find what you love, you do it. That’s it.”
5. When speaking to Glamour, she offered some additional soaring rhetoric to inspire young women everywhere : “I would say three things: Find what you love, and don’t let it go no matter what. I would say Winston Churchill really knew what he was talking about when he said, ‘Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never ….’ And I would say that I am living proof that it’s true that if you can imagine it, you can achieve it.” (The other two things are not revealed, alas!)
6. In a 2014 New Yorker profile, Holmes said she grew up empowered to do daring things: “The wonderful thing about the way I was raised is that no one ever told me that I couldn’t do those things.”
7. Also to the New Yorker, she explained her singular focus on work above her personal life: “I have done something, and we have done something, that has changed people’s lives. I would much rather live a life of purpose than one in which I might have other things but not that.”
8. Speaking at a Stanford University thought leaders program in 2009, Holmes explained the importance of team building: “And in my mind the most important thing in starting a new company is to be able to find people who can stand by you to achieve the ultimate goal with building the business. There’s a lot of companies that are set up to be acquired or to fill a short-term need in the market. Our company is set up to define a new industry. And if there’s anything, in terms of the messages that I could bring to this meeting, it’s the people that you choose to work with absolutely determine the success or failure of the companies that you may start.”
9. “I think the minute you have a backup plan, you’ve admitted you’re not going to succeed,” Holmes told the Stanford Business School in 2015.
— Stanford Business (@StanfordGSB) January 22, 2015
10. And if you do fail, she said at Stanford, keep at it: “You don’t do something like this without embracing failure constantly … Our approach is to take the most swings at the bat. We’ll get the most home runs, we’ll also get the most strikeouts, and we’re just not going to make the same mistake twice.”
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