Bad Blood Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
Well, sh*t. That’s how I feel after just finishing this book. To be honest, I had never heard of the Theranos scam until my book club chose this book to read. And boy am I so glad this book was chosen. John Carreyrou does an amazing job of presenting different employees’ accounts and slowly piecing together every lie that added to the fraud of this company. I was hooked from the beginning and constantly shaking my head. How, just HOW did it take so many years for someone to call out Elizabeth Holmes on her crap? Well, Carreyrou points out facts in the last chapter that make it very clear why no one was brave enough to speak out.
In each chapter, Carreyrou shares another detail or conversation within the company that is just insane and will make you gasp out loud at times. The smoke screens, the fake computer messages, the excuses and “delays”, the way the employees were treated; all of this seemed like a theatrical performance and unrealistic, and yet it was completely true. There were a few times that I felt a new employee’s account was not fully needed as it became a bit repetitive but then I also understand showing how many times the red flags were noticed or brought to higher ups and they were still shut didn’t help that there was so much turnover it was often a new VP or department head hearing about these red flags and they may soon be gone as well. The organization of each interview was great and flowed very easily.
At the end, Carreyrou brings up the idea of a sociopath, and it does seem to fit this situation. Holmes was so charismatic and was able to get big names and influential people to believe in her so much that even when presented with red flags, even when the company is shut down and has to pay everything back, she still has some that believe in what she said. Many of the smartest people in health care and even government were deceived by her at times And sure, her idea was wonderful, and could have made a huge difference, but once she couldn’t make it a reality, that should have been the end of it. But Elizabeth believed in herself and didn’t care about others and just kept digging herself into a deeper hole that brought many others down with her. It made me so happy that an ex-employee finally spoke up and Carreyrou kept digging so that Holmes and her lover “Sunny” Balwani were found out and taken down.
Synopsis: 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 tests 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 $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn't work.
For years, Holmes had been misleading investors, FDA officials, and her own employees. When Carreyrou, working at The Wall Street Journal, got a tip from a former Theranos employee and started asking questions, both Carreyrou and the Journal were threatened with lawsuits. Undaunted, the newspaper ran the first of dozens of Theranos articles in late 2015. By early 2017, the company's value was zero and Holmes faced potential legal action from the government and her investors.