What drives Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth Holmes founded a company that has shaken up the laboratory testing market, and she recently shared what motivates her to succeed in a speech at Pepperdine University.

Ms. Holmes left Stanford University's School of Engineering at the age of 19 to found Palo Alto, Calif.-based Theranos — a diagnostic testing company that produces blood tests that require only a few drops of blood, instead of numerous tubes. She founded the company in 2003, and Theranos is now valued at approximately $9 billion.

Ms. Holmes is the youngest person to be awarded the Horatio Alger Award — an annual award bestowed upon accomplished leaders who have overcome significant challenges to achieve success — and she was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2015. She also has an honorary doctorate from Pepperdine University, where she gave a commencement speech May 2.

In her speech, Ms. Holmes discussed the drive she has to make her ideas a reality. She discussed how she worked in a tiny basement in the early days and then expanded to a small office that was also a lab. Eventually, others came on board to help her in her quest, and they worked tirelessly to develop the technology they needed to solve the problems they had set out to answer. "There is no shortcut to really hard work," said Ms. Holmes. "You have to work smarter and work harder than everyone else."

Although Ms. Holmes had the drive to succeed, those who told her she would fail strengthened that drive. "I think that rejection, when you're doing something you love, is an omen that you're on the right path," she said.

Ms. Holmes also discussed how the importance of not losing sight of your goals even when everyone doubts you. "When it's hardest is when it matters most to stay the course," said Ms. Holmes.

A video of Ms. Holmes' full speech can be found here.

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