How This Entrepreneur Became a Billionaire Without Marketing

billionaire without marketing

When an entrepreneur becomes a household name, that usually means he or she has made it big. But for Elizabeth Holmes, notoriety wasn’t part of her plan. In fact, part of her strategy was to specifically avoid gaining a lot of attention.

Holmes’ company, Theranos, develops technology that allows diagnostic tests with a single drop of blood, drawn by a painless finger prick. This is a far less expensive and more appealing option than the ones currently available. It could have a huge impact on health care around the world.

But in order for Holmes to make the impact she desired, she needed to keep her progress under wraps for as long as possible. She needed to basically create an entirely new market of consumer health technology. So she wanted to have the opportunity to make as much progress as possible before her competitors caught on.

This meant that she and her team had to work on creating the actual technology and building a company structure, while ignoring some other things like marketing. In the age of social media and reality TV, where young people often associate fame and success, it could have been especially tempting to veer away from this path. But only recently has Holmes started courting the media and welcoming public attention.

It’s an unusual strategy, to be sure. But for this particular industry, it seems to not only have worked, but to have been actually necessary.

As a small company with huge competitors like Quest and LabCorp, that secrecy has proven to be a big part of her success. Holmes’ company is now valued at around $9 billion. Holmes has a 50 percent stake in it, making her the youngest female self-made billionaire.

Holmes recently told the San Jose Mercury News:

“If I can show that in this country, a 19-year-old girl can drop out of school and build something like this, then other women should be doing it.”

Image: Theranos


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

13 Reactions
  1. When you feel strongly about the path you have chosen for your business – stay with it. Well done!

  2. Well the idea generated is truly marvelous, as this show that a positive & innovative idea can truly bring a change in business scenario. Also paves way to a successful & sky touching career.

  3. She made a great process/product and in a field like healthcare that is dominated by big, expensive procedures if you can make something less complicated/easier it’s going to be popular. Congrats to Elizabeth on the success. She’s obviously one smart lady doing some great things.

  4. That’s it? That’s the entire article? You didn’t go into any detail, or mention that her parents are high up in American politics and she was able to do a lot of her stuff with their help.

    • I’m sorry that you felt it wasn’t detailed enough. Almost every business has a story that could fill books, but this was just meant to be a short piece about an entrepreneur who took an interesting path to success.

  5. It started with an amazing idea. So I think that that is the reason for her success.

    • I would agree! But in an industry with such huge competition I thought it was interesting how she had to keep it a bit quiet for awhile, since that is so different from the normal path for businesses.

  6. Well, that sounds great. My first question would be… without marketing or advertising (which are definitely not the same thing), how did she get sales? I think I have even a second question in mind: Her product appears to be very specific. Do you believe this experience could be reproduced with other kinds of companies?

    • I think this method is very specific to her business model. She isn’t exactly selling a consumer product and also this industry is one with such huge players – if she made everything public it could potentially lead to others taking her idea and using their resources to develop their own versions. That wouldn’t necessarily be the case in other industries or with other businesses.

  7. Amazing, inspiring story. It must have taken a lot of courage. I applaud her.

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