- Elizabeth Holmes has become an increasingly infamous household name since HBO dropped its documentary “The Inventor” about the founder of the failed blood-testing startup Theranos.
- But “Elizabeth Holmes” is actually a pretty common name, which has led to some weird stories and cases of mistaken identity for the others out there with the same first-name-last-name combo.
- Some Elizabeth Holmeses have taken the experience in jest and haven’t felt any negative consequences, but others have had people emailing and texting them thinking they’re the Holmes of the Theranos infamy.
Just a few years ago, the name “Elizabeth Holmes” was instantly recognisable as one of Silicon Valley’s most revered CEOs. Today, the name is associated with scandal and ignominy.
Elizabeth Holmes’ rise and dramatic fall have been well-documented. She was CEO of a blood-testing startup called Theranos, which was worth $US9 billion at its peak, but it all came crashing down when it was revealed the company was using faulty technology that produced inaccurate testing results.
There’s a book from the reporter who broke the story and a podcast from ABC News about the scandal. This month, HBO released a documentary about Theranos, putting the focus back on Holmes, who faces federal charges of wire fraud.
Look up “Elizabeth Holmes” in your favourite search engine and you’ll see pages of results about the Theranos founder.
That’s become a problem for all the other people who bear the same name. According to the name-tracking website HowManyOfMe, there are an estimated 857 Elizabeth Holmeses in the US who are not the founder of Theranos.
For the 54-year-old California resident Elizabeth Holmes, the newfound attention has led to an onslaught of texts and emails from people reaching out thinking she’s the former Theranos CEO. Holmes said she keeps her email and cell number on her Facebook profile so that people are able to contact her and her pastor husband, but it’s resulted in messages from strangers who apparently want something from the Theranos founder.
“I get random emails from ppl asking for money. Mostly from other countries,” Holmes told Business Insider in a Facebook message.
The Theranos fallout has been a bit more damaging for any Elizabeth Holmeses that have an established brand and identity attached to their name. That’s the case for The Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Holmes, who has been a journalist for more than a decade.
(Some perspective: this is still loads better than the time the masseuse at the swanky Silicon Valley spa welcomed me back and complimented me on my new hair)
— Elizabeth Holmes (@EHolmes) March 25, 2019
In a story in Marie Claire about her “name twinning,” Holmes said her Google results have been “ruined.”
“Name confusion online can be a problem [in real life], resulting in misfired emails, inaccurate search results, and social media firestorms,” Holmes wrote. “The 24/7 news cycle fans the flames, speeding up the time from unknown entity to household name.”
Do I have to go by Beth now?
In the case of others named Elizabeth Holmes, the consequences haven’t been as malicious. The name confusion has become an inside joke for some – an easy punchline for friends to use.
Two Elizabeth Holmeses that Business Insider spoke with who are in college each described a deluge of messages whenever a news story about the Theranos CEO emerges.
“Anytime something happens with theElizabeth Holmes, I get about 10 to 15 messages from people, some who I haven’t heard from in years,” the Harvard University sophomore Elizabeth Holmes told Business Insider. “I use it as a fun kind of icebreaker.”
Both college students said they have been forced to consider whether their names could hurt future internship and career prospects. The Elizabeth Holmes from Harvard studies neuroscience and wants to enter the biotech industry, which was once the field of the Theranos CEO.
The other Elizabeth Holmes, a junior at the University of North Carolina, said people seem to have an “immediate reaction” as soon as they hear her name and make the connection.
“It popped the idea into my head – ‘do I have to go by Beth now? Do I have to go by Liz?'” Holmes said.
Theranos’ Holmes is due back in court on April 22 to answer to fraud charges. It’s likely not the last time the hundreds of other Elizabeth Holmeses will have to deal with the fallout of Theranos and its founder.
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