Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
Genres: Non-fiction, True Crime (?)
Maturity Level: 5-
View on Goodreads
The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and threats by her lawyers.
In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.
A riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.
Honestly, this book wasn’t quite as shocking as I was expecting it to be. Maybe it’s because I don’t know much about business or medicine, so I couldn’t appreciate just how bad the things Tharanos was doing were, but it was all pretty much exactly what I was expecting to read. It wasn’t until the author got involved with the story and Theranos tried to keep things under wraps that I started to get really into it and excited.
That being said, this is a fantastic book. So well reported and written! It’s very detailed, but doesn’t get boring or heavy. There are lots of characters, definitely too many to keep track of, but Carreyrou does a great job of making sure you can follow along. I know next to nothing about blood pathology, but I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with the science described and understanding exactly why things didn’t work.
And y’all, this story is just FASCINATING! How this woman tricked so many brilliant people into believing this technology is even possible is beyond me. I mean, we’re talking about well respected members of the business and medical communities that she hoodwinked through sheer personality!
I also felt that Carreyrou did a very good job speculating and extrapolating the why behind the whole thing without making assumptions. He really did his homework and it showed. Despite never getting an interview with Elizabeth Holmes, he did a really good job of making me feel like I was getting to know her and understanding her personality. But he never put words in her mouth or made guesses. If he didn’t know, he left it to the reader to make decisions for themselves. At the end he does put forth his own opinion of what he thinks is going on in her brain, but he very clearly let it be known that it was his opinion and not a factual statement.
My biggest takeaway from this novel is that I’m thankful that former employees were willing to speak out to make things right, and thankful Carreyrou had the interest, integrity, and skill to take this story on when he did. Holmes was, without a doubt, poised to take over the blood testing world, and if things had continued uncontested the way they did there is very little doubt that lives could have been lost. We owe a great debt to the key players in this story.
I highly recommend this book, especially people interested in true crime or hard-hitting journalism. Utterly fascinating.