Whistleblower Erika Cheung explains how she took the skills she developed at the epicentre of the explosive Theranos scandal in 2015 and sought ways in which she could help others who found themselves in similar situations.
During Erika Cheung’s appearance at Inspirefest 2019, she spent a large portion of her time onstage explaining exactly what happened at Theranos and how it became an international news story that shook Silicon Valley.
In this interview with Ann O’Dea, Erika spent a bit of time discussing what was going on behind the scenes between her and fellow whistleblower Tyler Schultz when they made the courageous decision to share their stories publicly – an action that obliterated Theranos’s estimated value of $9bn and exposed the once-revered founder, Elizabeth Holmes, as a fraud.
Cheung detailed the intimidation she faced after quitting Theranos and disclosing what she had learned to a regulatory body, but also mentioned how the whistleblowing process was far simpler than she had ever expected.
The only complication Cheung encountered while reporting the troubling things she had witnessed at Theranos was the fact that it wasn’t immediately clear who she should get in contact with or how she should go about reporting the company.
Once things began to blow over, Cheung and her former co-worker Schultz decided to set up Ethics in Entrepreneurship. This organisation exists to help any individual who finds themselves in a similar situation to Cheung, Schultz and their colleagues at Theranos.
Launched in February 2019, Ethics in Entrepreneurship is a non-profit that is currently focused on connecting students and entrepreneurial communities with the leaders and experts who can help prepare them for the sorts of ethical challenges they may face in the future.
Cheung and Schultz partnered with another founding member, Luke Finn, a lawyer who grew up in Qatar before working for a United Nations policy watchdog in New York.
Words by Kelly Earley