The founder of uBiome, an embattled startup claiming to employ “machine learning, artificial intelligence, and advanced statistical techniques” and probably a few other buzzwords to assess gut health, repeatedly misrepresented her actual age, Business Insider reports, landing her on several minimally-prestigious lists of influential young people.
Launched by Jessica Richman and Zachary Apte in 2012, uBiome was a media darling and managed to secure funding from prestigious accelerator Y Combinator and massive VC group Andreessen Horowitz. Earlier this year, however, the company was raided by the FBI over potentially fraudulent billing practices, and suspended all clinical operations this month. Since then, it has been accused of additional shady practices, such as using stock photos in company testimonials—an accusation the company admitted to.
Additionally, former uBiome employees told Business Insider that Richman and Apte were in a publicly undisclosed relationship—another detail that invites comparisons between uBiome and disgraced medical startup Theranos.
In perhaps the pettiest of uBiome’s dealings though, Richman, for reasons unknown, reportedly claimed her age to be below 30, landing her on Business Insider’s “The 30 Most Important Women Under 30 In Tech” list in 2014. (This discrepancy was reported today by the website itself, though the list remains uncorrected.) She allegedly misrepresented her age on at least one more occasion, and was included on two similar lists, though it’s unclear if that was her specific goal.
There’s no scientific consensus about the validity of uBiome’s tests, and “patients” expecting an inexpensive at-home poop test say they were billed thousands of dollars by the company through their insurance. Richman was recently put on administrative leave owing to the mounting evidence that something is seriously awry with uBiome. In actuality, Richman is 45 years old and, in a best case scenario, that will be the worst thing she lied about in connection with this bizarre, overvalued startup.
Richman has also repeatedly claimed to be a former bodybuilder which, at this point, may also be bullshit. As always, if you have a tip about any of this, don’t hesitate to reach out—we’re available via email, Keybase, or anonymously via our Secure Drop server.