Just a few years ago, the name “Elizabeth Holmes” was instantly recognizable as one of Silicon Valley’s most revered CEOs. Today, the name is associated with scandal and ignominy.
Elizabeth Holmes’ rise and dramatic fall has been well-documented. She was CEO of a blood-testing startup called Theranos, which was worth $9 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. This month, HBO released a documentary about Theranos, putting the focus back on Holmes, who currently faces federal charges of wire fraud.
Look up “Elizabeth Holmes” in your favorite search engine and you’ll see pages of results about the Theranos founder.
That’s become a problem all the other people who bear the same name. According to name tracking website HowManyOfMe, there are an estimated 857 Elizabeth Holmeses in the U.S. who are not the founder of Theranos.
For 54-year-old California resident Elizabeth Holmes, the newfound fame has led to an onslaught of texts and emails from people reaching out thinking she’s the Theranos CEO. Holmes says 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 CEO.
“I get random emails from ppl (sic) 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 Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Holmes, who has been a journalist for more than a decade.
In a story in Marie Claire about her “name twinning,” Holmes says 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 to who are currently in college each described a deluge of messages whenever a news story about the Theranos CEO emerges.
“Anytime something happens with the Elizabeth Holmes, I get about 10 to 15 messages from people, some who I haven’t heard from in years,” Harvard University sophomore Elizabeth Holmes told Business Insider. “I use it as a fun kind of icebreaker.”
Both college students say 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 that was once the province of the Theranos CEO.
The other Elizabeth Holmes, a junior at the University of North Carolina, says 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 wondered.
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.