What do we know about Sunny Balwani?
Who is Sunny Balwani, Elizabeth Holmes’ former right-hand man in Theranos and her ex-boyfriend, and where has he been during his cheating trial? On Tuesday, Ms. Holmes brought Mr. Balwani to testify several times.
Mr Balwani’s lawyer, Jeffrey Coopersmith, was in the courtroom last week, taking notes in a large yellow notebook, reading legal documents on his phone and refusing to comment on his client. But there is no trace of Mr. Balwani.
Nor does he seem to be at home on a recent Sunday morning in the Atherton, Calif., Silicon Valley community, the richest of the tech-rich call home. No one answered the gate buzzer outside his 8,800-square-foot home, which he bought in 2018. There were no cars and no lights. The Zillow property is valued at $19 million.
The mystery of Mr. Balwani’s whereabouts was according to what is known about him, which is very little, including why he is called “Sunny”. His given name is Ramesh, called in some stories and news in 1999, when he was a dot-com guy. It was also on the papers of her divorce from a Japanese artist in 2002. He was only SUNY until a decade later when he was co-authoring the patent at Theranos.
Mr. Balwani’s early career was in software. He was the Northern California sales manager for Microsoft, selling the company’s products to executives from other firms. On October 4, 1999, when the dot-com boom was taking place, he joined a start-up called commercebid.com as the chairman.
Commercebid created platforms that enable businesses to pit suppliers against each other to reduce costs. The idea seems to have limitless possibilities, and Commercebid didn’t even make it until its first birthday, before it was bought by another company in the space, called Commerce One, for $225 million. . A few weeks later, Commerce One, whose shares were publicly traded, was valued at $20 billion.
Then came the fall. A recession forced businesses to cut spending, and officials wondered whether perhaps the technology didn’t work well in either case. As of 2004, Commerce One had no value. It was a regular dot-com rags-to-riches-to-rags story, hardly remembered among the big flameouts of that era.
Failure is considered a virtue in Silicon Valley because it teaches valuable lessons. But it can often be beneficial in itself. Mr. Balwani reportedly made it with $40 million.
He later became chief operating officer at Theranos and had a romantic relationship with Ms. Holmes, details of which are given in an email submitted to the court. Mr Balwani is also facing fraud charges, and his case is to be heard next year. Like Ms Holmes, she has pleaded not guilty.