Forbes’ Billionaires list includes Elizabeth Holmes, the youngest self-made woman ever
Every year, Forbes releases the names of the yearly class of new billionaires, the elite business leaders whose net worth breaks that billion dollar mark. The class of 2015 has a newcomer who’s pretty amazing: Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO and founder of medical technology company Theranos. At 31, she’s the youngest self-made billionaire to ever make the list. We repeat, she’s 31! Her net worth, according to Forbes, is $4.5 billion, and the best part? She’s earned her insane bank account by making a difference in the medical field.
Holmes’ story is totally kickass: Her company, Theranos, is dedicated to making blood analysis quicker, easier, and less expensive. They’ve developed blood tests that can help spot dozens of ailments using just a couple drops of blood, and are working to make their testing available not only in hospital systems, but in pharmacies. For three dollars at Walgreens, you could be able to diagnose and thus treat things like high cholesterol and diabetes with a painless pinprick—as opposed to a giant, nightmare needle. Already, Walgreens in California and Arizona have started implementing the procedure, and Theranos plans to expand to more than 8,200 pharmacies in the future. The goal? To make diagnoses easier and more accessible—ultimately, saving lives.
“We see a world in which no one ever had to say, ‘If only I’d known sooner,’” she told the New Yorker. “A world in which no one ever has to say goodbye too soon.”
By the time Holmes was a teenager, she was already on a mission. She founded the company at 19 after dropping out of Stanford. “I think a lot of young people have incredible ideas and incredible insights, but sometimes they wait before they go give their life to something,” she told CNN. “What I did was just to start a little earlier.”
And Holmes was always a bright, unusual kid. As children, she and her brother learned Mandarin Chinese, intrigued by their father’s business dealings in China. While she was still in high school, she began a company selling software to Chinese universities.
“My father worked in disaster relief and so I grew up in a house that had pictures of all these little children in really tough parts of the world,” she told CNN. “I was absolutely convinced that was what I was going to do. Then when I started realizing that a company could be a vehicle for having very direct impact over a change that you are trying to make, I started thinking about the concept of what could I build that could impact a lot of peoples’ lives?”
As of 2014, Holmes had registered 18 US patents and 66 patents outside the US. She’s 111 on the Forbes 400, a list famously dominated by men. And more than that: She’s an inspiration to any girl interested in math, science, and technology.
She also just sounds like a fascinating person. In a New Yorker profile, Holmes’ unique personal tastes were described in detail. Like Steve Jobs, Holmes has a kind of uniform: Black turtleneck, black jacket, and messy bun. She’s also a vegan, and drinks a mixture of cucumber, parsley, kale, spinach, celery, and romaine lettuce several times a day. She doesn’t own a television, doesn’t take vacations, and can quote Jane Austen by heart. Jane Austen? Our kind of girl.
In fact, she sounds like she was always our kind of girl. According to Holmes, she never fit the mold, even as a kid.
“I was probably, definitely, not normal,” she told the New Yorker. “I was reading ‘Moby-Dick’ from start to finish when I was about nine. I read a ton of books. I still have a notebook with a complete design for a time machine that I designed when I must have been, like, seven. The wonderful thing about the way I was raised is that no one ever told me that I couldn’t do those things.”
Today, she’s proven that she can do pretty much anything. And that time machine? Hey, it could happen. We wouldn’t put it past her.