Elizabeth Holmes testified that she was raped while she was studying at Stanford University — and that the experience motivated her to concentrate on developing her blood-testing startup.
The surprise testimony that the entrepreneur was sexually assaulted as a teenager came during her fourth day of testimony defending herself against criminal fraud charges.
“I decided to pour myself into building Theranos,” she told the jury Monday in federal court in San Jose, California.
She said she was encouraged to pursue her business aspirations by Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, whom she had met while studying language in China the summer before she started at Stanford when she was 18 and he was 38. After the assault, she discussed her trauma with Balwani and he said he would protect her, she said.
“He said I was safe now that I met him,” she testified.
She and Balwani went on to have a romantic relationship for more than a decade and he started working at Theranos in 2009.
“I understood that he’d been a really successful business person” who’d worked with Bill Gates and sold a software company, she said of Balwani.
Holmes said Balwani told her she didn’t know what she was doing in business, “that my convictions were wrong.”
“I needed to kill the person I was” to become an entrepreneur, she recalled him saying. “He was very prescriptive. He said that if I wanted to be a good entrepreneur I needed to spend all of my time on the business,” seven days a week.
That included not sleeping very much and “foods that would make me only pure, having a very disciplined and intense lifestyle,” she said.
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