Where is the real Sunny Balwani now? The true story of “The Dropout”


Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani first met future Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes in Beijing in 2002. Holmes was 19 at the time and was attending Stanford University’s Mandarin program, which took place on summer before the start of the school year. Balwani was 37 years old.

A sin The stall, Hulu’s new series dramatizing the rise and fall of Theranos, Holmes and Balwani immediately came close. They developed a friendship, which later turned into a romantic relationship, and then into a dysfunctional partnership with Balwani investing between $12 million and $14 million in Holmes’ business before leaving in 2016.

At the time, Theranos was being investigated for fraud, after being exposed for touting questionable technology – a machine that was supposed to revolutionize healthcare by delivering test results with just a drop of blood.

Balwani had become president and chief operating officer of the company, despite having little experience in biochemistry. In a deposition, a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) attorney questioned Holmes about hiring Balwani.

“Did he have any qualifications in lab testing?” asked the lawyer.

“He didn’t,” Holmes replied.

“Or in pathology or something like that?” asked the lawyer.

“Not to my knowledge,” replied Holmes.

Alongside Holmes, Balwani was charged with defrauding investors in 2018. Theranos disbanded the same year.

Here’s how Holmes’ seemingly unskilled partner became one of Theranos’ top dogs.

Who is Sunny Balwani?

justin sullivan

Little is known or has been reported of Balwani’s pre-Theranos life. The New York Times reported that Balwani worked as a sales manager for Microsoft. In 1999, he became president of the startup CommerceBid.com. The company was purchased within a year for $225 million. Although he would later collapse, Balwani reportedly walked away with $40 million.

According to the report of The Wall Street Journal‘s John Carryrou, who first exposed Thernos’ fraudulent allegations to investors in a series of articles, the relationship between Balwani and Holmes began as a friendship in the summer of 2002. They met in Beijing before the Holmes’ first year in college. Divorce papers from earlier that year show Balwani was then recently separated.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

By 2004, after Holmes launched Theranos, Balwani had become something of a confidant. He bought a condo in Palo Alto, and in 2005 Holmes moved in with him. By 2009, Holmes had exhausted most of the company’s early investors’ capital and needed a loan to reach the next stage of fundraising. Balwani says he gave her a loan of $12-14 million. He then came to Theranos to run the company alongside Holmes. No one at the time – investors, board members, partners, employees – knew about their romantic relationship.

According to Carryrou’s report in Bad blood, Balwani then began to assume an immediate leadership role to the confusion and discomfort of many in the company; he is portrayed as something of a paranoid bully.

At that time, Theranos hoped to market directly to consumers through retail partners, although their blood testing device was still not ready; it could not consistently or accurately give results for the number of tests it claimed to be able to run.

Although Holmes’ defense at the recent trial would claim that Balwani was the one who actively supervised lab testing and inflated the company’s financial models, texts obtained by Carryrou show that he and Holmes were actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the company.

Holmes also testified that Balwani abused her and forced her to have sex with him during the time the fraud charges arose.

In 2015, the company came under intense scrutiny. Walgreens severed its partnership and filed a lawsuit against Theranos. In 2017, the company was investigated by the SEC. And in 2018, Holmes and Balwani were charged with fraud.

Where is Sunny Balwani now?

san jose, ca july 17 former theranos coo ramesh balwani appears in federal court for a status hearing on July 17, 2019 in san jose, california former theranos founder elizabeth homes and balwani face conspiracy charges and wire fraud for allegedly participating in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud investors with theranos blood testing laboratory services photo by kimberly whitegetty images

Kimberly White

Although Holmes was recently convicted of fraud charges (and awaits sentencing later this year; she could face up to 20 years), Balwani’s trial has yet to begin. It is expected to start on March 15 and last 13 weeks. (Balwani will face the same charges and potential sentence as Holmes.)

Like Holmes, Balawani does not appear to be in jail awaiting trial. His whereabouts were not reported.

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