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Bad Blood by John Carreyrou • Silicon Valley Startup • Theranos • fake medicine

Book cover of Bad Blood by John Carreyrou - Theranos

Bad blood. The best business book of 2018 according to Financial Times and McKinsey. The book offers an astonishing, absolutely amazing and deep story of Theranos, a faked company which was famed for its blood testing methodology, and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. The book is very easy to read, written by John Carreyrou, a journalist from Wall Street Journal, who actually uncovered the truth about the company. I’d say the, predominantly, it’s a document, but also a great spy story as the book talks about the company from many different angles.

Holmes, when she was 19, she dropped out of Stanford University and founded the company in order to pursue blood testing. Her concept was making a blood testing device an everyday commodity and placing it at an average Joe’s home so if you had some medical issues, and you needed to test your blood on regular basis, you would be able to test it at your place. It’s worth to say that the goal for the company was making possible to test for hundreds of different diseases or markers based on a few drops of your blood. 

Next, the results of your blood would be sent directly to your doctor who, based on that data, would be able to give you some suggestions, propose you proper treatment and modify your meds to improve your health.  She also wanted to sell her products to pharmaceutical corporations and the health & wellness industry. These companies spend an immense amount of money on trials and monitoring their patients. So if they were able to do all of this on a spot, at their patients’ homes they would save a lot of money and, of course, Theranos would make a lot of money too, by providing its devices to the customers and the companies.

The whole idea, in my opinion, is great, and it really resonates with my dream about the future. Nevertheless, actually, the story in the book is more about how deceptive and how much lies were involved in building this fake company. I’d say that for over a dozen of years Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, convinced a huge amount of people, respectable in their industries, to give her credentials, medial attention and, not surprising, a lot of money. Over these years she failed to build the final product, moreover, until the very end of her career, she had been pretending that the company is ready to go and treat its prospective patients. The book shows that she didn’t buy anything innovative, most of here tests were forged or done on Siemens’ equipment.

The story is not just the failure of building a company, it’s a failure of ethical points where she was making stuff up. She was lying to her investors, regulators and employees. The books details an abundance of stories of workplace harassment and mobbing her workers. It describes how the company operated in a secretive way, not to protect its property but to block any information which might flow outside and reveal the truth. The brutal fact is that many top lawyers played their role in the whole mechanism and terrorised many former employees who might present the true value of the company. These people were working in the labs and they could see that actually none of the rosy pictures about what the company is doing are true.

I would highly recommend this book to everyone who really enjoys kind of investigative journalism and enjoys reading about scandals. It’s a great piece of work for anyone who is in start-up world or in the tech world as it might teach you a lot about how those companies, which grew extremely fast and raised millions of dollars actually, operate. Of course, you could say that this is just a bad apple, not the representative measurement of Silicon Valley, but what I mean by that, is the fact that you could get to know how those smart and highly educated people could do a disservice to investors and to their customers by not willing to ask tough questions.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
by John Carreyrou

Final rating:

Interesting story
Complexity of ideas
Flourish language

Book details:

Size: 299 pages
Published: 2018


Other information and reviews of this book on Goodreads:

Other useful links:
John Carreyrou on Wikipedia:
Elizabeth Holmes on Wikipedia:
Theranos on Wikipedia:
It’s realy hard to find such a great book like this but I would recommend: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight and Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

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