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Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

4.71  ·  Rating details ·  533 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
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 br
...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 21st 2018 by Knopf Publishing Group
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  • Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
    Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
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    Release date: May 21, 2018
    “Told virtually to perfection…Reads like a West Coast version of All the President’s Men.” —The New York Times Book Review

    Bad Blood is the full inside
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    Format: Print book

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    Availability: 100 copies available, 652 people requesting

    Giveaway dates: May 26 - Jun 15, 2018

    Countries available: US

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    TC Not really. Holmes did not answer requests for an interview. She remains mysterious as a person. The conjecture is she was simply high on herself.…moreNot really. Holmes did not answer requests for an interview. She remains mysterious as a person. The conjecture is she was simply high on herself. Some think her lover and business partner Sunny Balwani manipulated her as a young ingenue, but this book firmly rejects that, pointing out that she was manipulating people all the way back in college. (I thought that was before she'd met him but apparently they'd met while she was still in high school. Still, there's not much evidence she was ever under his influence; clearly at best they were equals, and at worst he was under hers, based on her observed behavior.)

    EDIT: I should also point out that this book says she was mentored by Silicon Valley's "best," including Larry Ellison, who is a textbook example of the amoral, at-all-cost "entrepreneur" the area is so famous for. Maybe she started out genuine but perhaps the culture of the Valley corrupted her, making her believe that the ends justified the means and that the most important thing wasn't to deliver value, but to secure yet more funding, and hire the best lawyers to destroy anyone who came in her way. Her story really isn't that different from a lot of Silicon Valley; hers is just worse because of the size and scope, and because she was in a highly regulated space for once, whereas most operate in free-wheeling tech that has almost no rules.

    It's all conjecture and speculation, tho. Even when/if she writes her own book, I doubt it will give any valuable insight, just more spin. Nothing short of an independent psychiatric eval will give us a glimmer of what might really have happened.(less)

    Community Reviews

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    Michael Perkins
    May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    "The resignations infuriated Elizabeth and Sunny. The following day, they summoned the staff for an all-hands meeting in the cafeteria. Copies of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho had been placed on every chair. Elizabeth told the gathered employees that she was building a religion. If there was anyone not prepared to show complete devotion and unmitigated loyalty to the company they should “get the fuck out.”

    The Steve Jobs Syndrome

    I have covered Silicon Valley as a journalist and author for three d
    ...more
    Andrew Garvin
    May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Early in my career I worked at a next-generation sequencing startup with Theranos-level ambitions. In fact, it went further. The founders’ mission was to cure aging. Literally, the goal was immortality.

    There were other similarities: The company was founded by wunderkinds, they won the attention and support of a prominent professor in the field, they dropped out and raised millions of dollars from non-hard tech investors off the back of a concept, then tens of millions of dollars off the back of
    ...more
    TC
    May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Just when I thought all reporters ever did anymore was see what was trending on social media and write stories with titles like "You'll cheer how this mom clapped-back at her body-shamers on Twitter," this book gives me hope that old-fashioned investigative journalism is alive and well and doing exactly what it's supposed to: shine an unflinching hot light on those who abuse their power and privilege. Here, it's aimed at the bizarre cult of Elizabeth Holmes and her "disruptive" "game changing" c ...more
    Mara
    Simultaneously riveting and immensely frustrating in the way that I imagine watching a trainwreck in slow-motion might be, major props go to John Carreyrou for seeing through and doggedly pursuing a story that undoubtedly could have ended with a fallout far beyond the scope of SV royalty.

    This isn't even a review so much as a reminder that this, yes, this (below) is the face of a willing destroyer of worlds…
    Sherri
    May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Should be mandatory B-School reading

    I read this book in one day. I had read some articles and/or saw TV shows on Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes, but my knowledge was pretty general. Once I started the book, I could not put it down. I canceled lunch with a friend so I could continue reading. I ordered pizza for the family so I could continue reading. The story is interesting and shocking. It is a story that every Board should read because ultimately it failed in its oversight responsibilities - wh
    ...more
    Charles
    May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
    While pretty much everyone in this book who is rich and powerful comes off looking bad, it is less a tale of typical fraud, like a Ponzi scheme, and more a tale of human foibles. These were expertly played on by Elizabeth Holmes, a very young woman of little productive talent and no particular evident intelligence, but with a natural gift for sales and embodying the icy manipulative abilities of the sociopath. Fascinating stuff, all of it, and worth reading just to make sure that you don’t fall ...more
    Wendy
    May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: favorites
    Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou delivers a powerful account of the Theranos scandal. His narrative captures the building cache of Theranos and the almost cult-like attraction of its female founder Elizabeth Holmes. His reporting is amazing in that he is able to weave his meticulous research and a foregone conclusion into a book that is both riveting and explosive. The Silicon Valley mix is combustible: competition, greed, ego, heightened self-worth, gifted but flawed intelligence, a ...more
    Maureen
    May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Eagerly awaiting for this book for well over a year, I ordered immediately on the release date. I have been actively following the Theranos scandal for some time but this book exceeded every expectation I had. The story is shocking and maddening in its own right but Carreyrou’s excellent writing and superb journalism makes this a truly engrossing read. When forced to put this book down, I have been unable to keep myself from sharing details with friends and family, building quite the waiting lis ...more
    Cotter Cunningham
    May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
    This is a crazy book. If he’s right(and I assume he is) then Theranos was a fraud. But not like a garden-variety fraud, scamming old ladies but instead some pretty sharp people...... All in all, a good read! Also Elizabeth and Sunny sound like horrible people / bosses.
    David
    Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
    My favorite line from this book encapsulates much of its madness. When the police are contacted and asked to pursue a just-terminated Theranos employee who's left the building and already signed a confidentiality agreement - the police ask what he's taken, and the response is: "He stole property in his mind."

    The Apple worship here would be comedic if it wasn't true. From imitating meeting dates down to corporate dress. The powerhouse board of directors: Schultz, Mattis, Henry Kissinger, William
    ...more
    Mr. Banks
    May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: entrepreneurship
    Just three days ago I was in a call with a colleague who briefly mentioned this book and its story. Knowing a little bit of the history, the topic personally intrigued. I had worked for another of the Silicon Valley unicorns and, like everything in the valley, we would hear and gossip about other companies. Theranos was a hot topic and I decided to give this read for a better understanding of its unraveling.

    I wasn’t expecting much to be honest. I thought it would be just a long, semi-interesting
    ...more
    Craig
    May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Almost impossible to put down. It read like a movie (and it should be made into one). As someone who believed in Theranos even after the WSJ reporting questioning it legitimacy started, the book is a crushing revelation that is impossible to dispute. The book documents a decade of elaborate and continuous fraud, from faking blood tests for investors and commercial counterparties t0 lying about the capabilities of their product to making up sales numbers and commercial relationships whole-cloth. ...more
    William Krasne
    May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    I've followed the Theranos saga since Carreyrou's first article about the company came out. The story is almost unbelievable until you remember PT Barnum's line about how the bigger a lie is, the more apt people are to believe it. Theranos is epitome of the worst that Silicon Valley culture offers - promise the moon and cut corners when you can't deliver on what you promised. Carreyrou's book is impeccably sourced and incredibly thorough. It deserves all the plaudits it is getting.
    Eric Sbar
    May 28, 2018 rated it liked it
    The story of Theranos is fascinating and reads like a warning to all. My concern about it was that more attention was paid to the trials and tribulations of the author than knowing anything about the 2 people who created this scheme. Was this a Svengali type of leader who steered Holmes or was it pure greed and an expanded sense of self-importance?
    Rita
    May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Great investigative journalism. Great health journalism. Reads like a mystery, thriller, but it's all real, sadly. Throw in some current big wigs in government, too, and it's a chilling tale of how easily otherwise intelligent people can be duped, by their own ego I might add. As the government's case against Theranos goes forward, this is the primer to read on it.
    Torkel
    May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: business, technology
    This was a thrilling and scary account of 1.4 billion scam of Silicon Valley Startup that tried to fake it until you make it but with life critical blood testing. The strange thing is that the company leadership (young CEO who pictured herself as Steven Jobs incarnate) never seemed to care about making her claims true, just fake it and everyone who questioned the science & methods got fired.
    T Scott Saponas
    May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Well done book. This is a crazy story. Stranger than fiction for sure.
    Savindi
    May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    WOW I'll write more about this book later, but if I could recommend any non-fiction book this year, it would be Bad Blood. It's an incredible story which sometimes felt like could not be real for some of the absurdity of Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Bulwani.

    Highly recommend this!
    Angela
    May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: audiobook
    Engrossing.
    Jessi
    May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Is there anything more darkly fascinating than a successful con? I don't morally approve, obviously, but there's something irresistibly engrossing about someone who perfectly exploits the ever-slippery duality between things as they are, and things as they seem. It's like the obverse of cargo cultism: magical thinking that actually works, and creates its own reality. Or even, illuminates elements of reality that our shared social narrative generally ignores or treats as incidental. There is one ...more
    Marcella Wigg
    This account of the massive fraud perpetrated by Elizabeth Holmes and her blood-testing company Theranos reads like a novel of a Silicon Valley nightmare: employees fired and promptly rehired based on whims of Holmes and her secret boyfriend/second-in-command, Sunny Balwani; comprehensive surveillance of employees' hours, online communications, and any other behavior; insanely stringent and menacingly enforced confidentiality agreement; and omnipresent paranoia about the medical establishment st ...more
    John Spiller
    May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    "Bad Blood" is a crackling good read that unfolds almost like fiction. A bright young woman conceives of a medical innovation that could remake the way medicine is practiced. Using her personal charisma and the power of a bewitching narrative, she enlists luminaries in academia, finance, military, law and government to not only join her company, but also rebuff any doubts raised about the efficacy of the product she is developing. To borrow from old episodes of Scooby Doo, she would have gotten ...more
    Ann
    May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: science-medicine
    I had been following the Theranos story since 2015, when John Carreyrou's first article came out in the Wall Street Journal. It fascinated me, because I just couldn't understand what the hoopla was all about. What is the benefit of doing blood tests on a fingerstick's worth of blood vs. a classic blood draw? As far as I am concerned, fingersticks, especially if done repeatedly, are just as painful as a classic blood draw, so why was the idea of miniturizing the technology being positioned as so ...more
    Ary Chest
    May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
    I grew up in Silicon Valley. I did not learn about the Theranos Scandal until December, 2016. It read like a TV drama only Shonda Rhimes could make up. I connected with the tale of an over-inflated ego and first-class fronting. It's Silicon Valley's special talent to win adoration without actually doing anything to deserve it. Everyone wants the glory of changing the word. No one really cares to think if the word is being changed for the better.

    My favorite part of the book was at the beginning,
    ...more
    Serena
    May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    This book absolutely blew my mind. I couldn't put it down because the fraud perpetuated by Theranos was so audacious and so blatant, this felt like a deftly written piece of fiction. In hindsight, the fraud was so evident. Every single page there were people who questioned the science, the bald-faced lies, the improbable revenue projections, the unacceptable variances in test results, etc. And it was all swept under the rug. Scientists, engineers, product designers - anyone who raised a question ...more
    JT Kerper
    May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    This is a very good book.
    The story of Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes is definitely a cautionary tale that not all the glitters in Silicon Valley is gold.
    There are some fantastic characters who populate this book: a visionary but delusional and ultimately fraudulent founder; a mercurial, paranoid, bullying #2; feckless figurehead board members along for the ride; bullying lawyers trying to intimidate whistleblowers; etc. We also get glimpses of serious achievers who, in their dotage, w
    ...more
    Leonard Armstrong
    This book made me angry. Not because it was a bad book (it's not) but because it paints such a vivid picture of an organization full of hubris and lacking ethics that I noticed I was tensing as I read certain passages, envisioning myself on the receiving end of the lies and employee disrespect.

    (SPOILER)
    However, the one point that made me more sad than anything else was that George Shultz never believed his own grandson, even when evidence against Theranos was piling up. Why? Was it greed at the
    ...more
    Victoria Reder
    May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    I guess I’m a slow reader, because it took me to days to finish this page-turner.

    My career included time as a research nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital followed by 10 years as a contract medical writer for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers. I saw first-hand that advances in drugs and devices require interdisciplinary cooperation. I worked on teams that included various combinations of physicians, pharmacologists, statisticians, engineers, nurses, veterinarians, chemists, FDA
    ...more
    Darrell
    May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Mr. Carreyrou was the journalist that initially broke the story on Theranos in 2015. The story reads like a fiction story. It is stunning and shocking the depth and scope of the fraud, deceit, and coverup that occurred beginning in 2003.

    Theranos was started and led by Elizabeth Holmes. She is charming, beautiful, smart and driven. Behind the scenes, she was also ruthless and willing to achieve her goal no matter the cost. This drive led to the open deception of the investors, the board and event
    ...more
    Adam Orford
    May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    A tale of breathtaking fraud. Theranos, fronted by charming sociopath Elizabeth Holmes, overpromised on a medical technology that didn’t actually work and, rather than go bankrupt like any other respectable failure, sought to push faulty blood testing equipment into the nation’s Walgreens until getting smoked out and burned down by plucky journalist hero and author John Carreyrou. During its rise and fall it was abetted by an oily cast of power and money, from Boies Schiller, to a former Secreta ...more
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    “Tax troubles aside, Sunny was proud of his wealth and liked to broadcast it with his cars. He drove a black Lamborghini Gallardo and a black Porsche 911. Both had vanity license plates. The one on the Porsche read “DAZKPTL” in mock reference to Karl Marx’s treatise on capitalism. The Lamborghini’s plate was “VDIVICI,” a play on the phrase “Veni, vidi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”), which Julius Caesar used to describe his quick and decisive victory at the Battle of Zela in a letter to the Roman Senate.” 0 likes
    “We turned to my questions about the Edison. How many blood tests did Theranos perform on the device? That too was a trade secret, they said. I felt like I was watching a live performance of the Theater of the Absurd.” 0 likes
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