American business mogul and the former president and Chief Operating Officer of Theranos, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani was born on June 13th 1965 in Sindh in Pakistan. He was born into an upper-middle class Sindhi Hindu farming family.
Early Life and Education
He studied at the esteemed Lahore residential school Aitchison College. He remained there until 1984, pursuing an education reserved for “youths of good family” by the British colonialists. Balwani is trilingual in English, Hindi, and Urdu. According to Balwani’s personal attorney, his family eventually emigrated to India because “being a Hindu in a largely Muslim country of Pakistan was exceedingly tough.” They later made their way to America. Balwani enrolled in undergraduate studies at the University of Texas in Austin in the spring of 1987 semester as an international student and joined the Pakistani Students Association while there. Balwani started working after he left school and didn’t finish his degree until 1997, when he received his bachelor’s in information systems. It is unclear when or why he adopted the moniker “Sunny,” despite The New York Times’ investigation. He used his given name, Ramesh, in official records from the late 1990s and divorce papers from 2002. He began signing documents at Theranos as Sunny Balwani in 2012.
Balwani worked for Microsoft and Lotus Software in the 1990s. Balwani performed sales-related duties while employed at Microsoft. Despite his claims to have produced tens of thousands of lines of code, independent investigations were unable to confirm them, and several Microsoft managers who were questioned about him were unable to name him. He fell in love with Japanese artist Keiko Fujimoto while working at Microsoft, and they got married. He began working as President for CommerceBid.com in late 1999. It was a software development firm that aided businesses in making purchases and sales through online auctions on the then-emerging Internet. Commerce One, another highly valued business development software company, bought the business in 1999. The entire acquisition was funded by shares, and Balwani joined the board of the new business. Balwani made roughly $40 million from the sale of his Commerce One stock in July 2000, just before the dot com bubble burst and the company went out of business. He eventually returned to school and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2003 with a Master of Business Administration. He continued in Stanford University’s PhD program in computer science for an additional four years before quitting in 2008. Balwani, who was 37 at the time and enrolled at Berkeley, met Elizabeth Holmes, who was 18 and a senior in high school, while they were both students. At Stanford, Holmes pursued an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering but eventually left to concentrate entirely on Theranos.
Career as the Chief Operating Officer of Theranos
2009 saw Balwani join Theranos as president of the corporation. He oversaw daily operations but due to Balwani’s actions and the lack of medical professionals on the company’s board of directors, his lack of knowledge in biological sciences or medical equipment became problematic. Former Theranos employees regarded him as domineering, unyielding, and almost paranoid in his worry about industrial espionage. Balwani was well-known at Theranos for employing technical jargon that appeared to be beyond his comprehension in an effort to come off as more informed. In October 2015, The Wall Street Journal published an article claiming that Theranos’ Edison blood testing system gave erroneous medical diagnoses and results. A report published in March 2016 by the government Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed that Edison devices routinely failed quality-control checks and gave wildly inconsistent findings.
Following a visit to Theranos’ Newark, California, laboratory, the CMS issued a warning letter to the company in January 2016. CMS officials suggested a two-year suspension of Balwani’s ability to own or run a blood lab after the business failed to resolve issues with its California facility in March 2016. Theranos is also accused of falsely claiming that their technology was being used in combat by the U.S. Department of Defense when in reality it had never been put to use. Another exaggeration was the assertion that a revenue stream worth $100,000 in 2014 was worth $100 million. In May 2016, Balwani left his role at Theranos.
About His Ex-wife, Keiko Fujimoto and Personal Life
Balwani was married to the Japanese artist, Keiko Fujimoto and they both resided in San Francisco until they divorced in 2002. While working at Theranos, Balwani had a romantic involvement with Elizabeth Holmes. In 2002, when Holmes was 18 years old and still in school, they met. He was married at the time and 19 years older than Holmes. Investors in Theranos were not made aware of their relationship. Holmes testified at her trial that she had been raped while she was a Stanford student and that, following the assault, she had turned to Balwani for support.