- The Dropout -Are Tyler Shultz & Erika Cheung Still Friends After Theranos?
On Hulu's The Dropout, Tyler Shultz and Erika Cheung are two lab workers at Theranos who learn of the company's less-than-ethical practices — like, say, pretending that their allegedly innovative blood testing device actually works. On the show, the two work together to share the truth about Theranos, which comes at a great cost for both of them before the company is eventually revealed to be the fraud we know it was today. Yet in real life, Cheung and Shultz used their time at Theranos to find a new mission in life.
Cheung's experience of blowing the whistle on Theranos led her to found a nonprofit called Ethics in Entrepreneurship — a response to the fact that Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes lacked ethics when she created at company on a totally false premise of being able to test blood using a single drop.
Cheung, who worked at a lab assistant at Theranos, told KQED in 2019, "We’re focused on three different stakeholders: providing resources and tools for entrepreneurs, so that at every stage of development they understand the ethical considerations in building a business and in running a business, from hiring to the culture you implement to building your product. We’re working with ethics departments and seasoned lawyers and compliance officers to basically build out the tools to help entrepreneurs."
Cheung isn't working on the non-profit alone. Shultz, who is still a good friend, is also in on the mission. Cheung explained to KQED that Shultz "helps with introductions and the strategy of the organization."
Today, Shultz is listed as an advisor on the Ethics in Entrepreneurship website, which says the nonprofit "rose from the ashes" of Theranos. Currently, Shultz is the CEO of Flux Biosciences, which works in in-vitro diagnostics.
In a 2019 LinkedIn post about the nonprofit, Cheung wrote, "There are some big problems going on in Silicon Valley and the tech companies all over the world. Being a strong believer in the power of technology to make a positive impact on humanity, I know that even just this belief doesn't prevent or stop people from being driven by greed, ego, selfishness and narcissism. I, nor the non-profit we're launching, will have all the answers on how to fix the problems we've been seeing in the tech industry; but I think being an ally to fellow David's facing their own Goliath's is a journey that is I find important to stand up and fight for."
While Theranos may never have delivered on its promises to make blood testing easier and more efficient, it did bring Shultz and Cheung together — and may, in a roundabout way, have helped future companies work more ethically.