Meet the 31 Year Old Revolutionizing Health Care One Blood Test at a Time

"If you have passion, you'll get back up when you get knocked down — and you win when you get back up."

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, speaking at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia. (Glen Davis/ Forbes)

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, speaking at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia. (Glen Davis/ Forbes)

Elizabeth Holmes is on a mission to change blood tests forever. Why should it cost $5,000 and take days when test results are extremely critical and time sensitive?

That was Holmes’ drive behind creating Theranos, a laboratory-services company that uses a cheap, painless prick to test blood for a number of diseases. Valued at $9 billion, its made Holmes not only the nation’s richest self-made woman, but also its youngest female billionaire.

Holmes spoke in Philadelphia at the Forbes Under 30 Summit at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Monday. Holmes said that lab data drives 80 percent of clinical decisions, but the information isn’t quickly accessible to patients. Quicker, cheaper results allow patients to get tested much more often — which can “empower and enfranchise people to play a role in their own health care,” said Holmes.

But Theranos isn’t just about fast lab tests. The company helped make Arizona the first state where people can order their own medical information (without asking a physician) and it launched MD connect, a service that pairs patients with doctors.

“We want to engage individuals into demanding lower-cost, higher-quality care,” said Holmes. “We don’t want lab testing to be horrible and traumatic, but something that leaves people feeling empowered.”

Theranos caught the eye of Independence Blue Cross and some other insurers who invested in the companyDan Hilferty, president and CEO of IBX, told me recently about his high hopes for Theranos.

“With the amount of blood that could fill a half inch or inch capsule, they can do 70 tests and get the results back in no time,” he said. “Think about how that revolutionizes health care.” (Read my entire interview with Hilferty here.)

With so many company founders at the Under 30 Summit, who better than Holmes to offer some advice about starting your own business. Here are few things she said:

  • Too many startups grow too fast when what really matters is quality and integrity.
  • Ask yourself: What’s the reason you’re building the company? What is your role?
  • Make sure you’re doing something you love. If you got fired, would you still want to do it? If you weren’t CEO, would you still be doing what you’re doing?
  • If you have passion, you will get back up when you get knocked down, you win when you get back up.
  • I’m a big believer in the 10,000 hour rule. If you love something that much, don’t let it go.
  • Sometimes you hire the wrong people. The damage they can do to your company is significant.