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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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


The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of a multibillion-dollar startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end in the face of pressure and threats from the CEO and 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 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. Here is the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a disturbing cautionary tale set amid the bold promises and gold-rush frenzy of Silicon Valley.



Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley StartupBad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou is a 2018 Knopf Publishing Group publication.

‘Super high turnover rate means you’re never bored at work.
Also good if you’re an introvert because each shift is short-staffed. Especially if you’re swing or graveyard. You essentially don’t exist to the company.
Why be bothered with lab coats and safety goggles? You don’t need to use PPE at all. Who cares if you catch something like HIV or Syphilis? This company sure doesn’t!!
Brown nosing, or having a brown nose, will get you far.
How to make money at Theranos:
1. Lie to venture capitalists
2. Lie to doctors, patients, FDA, CDC, government. While also committing highly unethical and immoral (and possibly illegal) acts.

This is the story of Elizabeth Holmes’ meteoric rise and her swift and spectacular fall from grace-

I didn’t closely follow this case in the same way I do some true crime stories, but I did keep up with it enough to get the gist of what had transpired, who some of the players were, and why the company was sued. So, when I saw this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I had to know all the details, the how, when, where, and why because it was just such a bizarre situation.

However, after I read this book, I sat back in complete shock. Sometimes, I just could not believe what I was reading!! I also couldn’t believe all the names that popped up in this book!! Before anyone starts pointing fingers at one side of the other, people from all political stripes were misled by the charismatic Holmes. These people are supposed to be the best and the brightest, but frankly, every one of them left me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

For those who many not have kept up with the news stories-

Elizabeth Holmes, barely out of her teens, was behind a Silicon Valley startup called Theranos. The company claimed to have invented a device that could take a very small amount a blood, usually from a single finger prick, and perform as many as eight hundred different tests on it, often promising instant results or diagnosis. The demonstrations showed mixed results, so to be sure the results wowed the potential investor, the tests were often rigged. Any unfavorable statistics were simply tossed out or ignored. The device and its potential capabilities were pitched to Safeway, Walgreens, and even the Military. Elizabeth’s magnetic personality was enthralling, and she had a way of convincing people to do what she wanted them to, persuading even the most skeptical to put their faith and trust in her.

However, multitudes of her employees found out the hard way, what might happen if they challenged her, or her Svengali -like lover Ramesh ‘Sunny’ Balwani.

Many people were disturbed by the false claims Elizabeth made and were very concerned about the false positive results the blood tests produced on real patients. Employees at the company dropped like flies. Eventually, one employee, Tyler Shultz, grandson of former secretary of state, George Shultz, became a whistleblower, bringing down a nine -billion -dollar operation in the process.

This story is utterly chilling, and mind boggling. I marveled at the gullibility of people we entrust our lives to, not only at the base level of health care, but at high levels of the government and the military. I’d have thought some of the people were smarter than that. Apparently not.

Look, even someone like me, from Podunk, Texas, would know better than to take a medical claim such as this one at face value. I wouldn’t invest in it, promote it, or test it on patients until the thing had been approved by the FDA or whoever else had to put the seal of approval on it. I damn sure wouldn’t allow our military to be subjected to something so unreliable. Good God! Is common sense dead in the water? It just seemed too far-fetched to me and I really struggled to believe so many wealthy and even powerful people fell under Holmes’ spell so completely.

Which of course brings us to the core issue: At the center of all this is Elizabeth Holmes- a greedy sociopath, a megalomaniac- or whatever word you want to use. This woman’s behavior is unconscionable!! She really should be behind bars!!

This is a crazy story, just nuts!! You will have to read it to believe it.

Now, as far an investigative or true crime book goes- this one is above average, especially give the journalistic background of the author. At times all the medical testing and lab jargon was a bit dry, and sometimes the information or patterns of all the players felt repetitive. The organization of the material was well done, but not as tight as I would have liked. Still, I am thankful the author pursued this story for the WSJ, writing an article which helped to bring down this dangerous company before any truly horrific damage was done!!

Theranos ceased operations in August of 2018- Thank God!

Holmes and Balwani face up to twenty years in prison-





ohn Carreyrou is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and a nonfiction author. His first book, "Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup," chronicles Silicon Valley's biggest fraud.


  1. Wow,this is not my normal type of book but I think I need to read this. Sounds flipping crazy! Great review!

    1. It is such an incredible true story!! Yes, check it out! It will leave you shaking your head. Thanks so much for stopping by The Book Review!!

  2. Excellent review, Julie! I’ve got this on audio and just saw the 20/20 special. She really needs to go to jail. Men really seem to be susceptible to her, though.

    1. Thank you, Jonetta! I thought the same thing. All those men fell under her spell- the women, though, were usually more skeptical. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the audio version!! Thanks for stopping by The Book Review!!


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