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

I let Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou sit on my To Be Read pile for long. Way too long. But, I finally picked it up in October and was enthralled by it all. 

 

First, by the crimes of Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. And second, John’s narration of the story. He captures your attention and really puts all the scientific analogies in a way that you can understand. 

 

The book reads like a work of fiction. It is about Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, a medical startup. She wanted to make medical tests less painful and scary, especially if you are not a fan of needles. Theranos technology was promising to do a wide array of tests from just a drop of blood drawn from your fingertip compared to that taken from your veins when the doctors need to do a lot of blood tests. 

 

Medically, even as those with medical experience state, it is pretty impossible to do so many tests from just a tiny drop of blood. It is probably why many investors were so keen on seeing this novel technology work. But from the book, there was nothing novel about Elizabeth’s technology. 

 

What makes you wonder, though, is how non of these investors thought of asking for any medical backing of this technology throughout the company’s existence. Like, the company ran for over a decade with no medical experts on the board, and no one batted an eye about it! With a founder who dropped out of college and no medical background, you’d think having a medical expert on the board is necessary. Worse still, no one on the board seems to have ever asked for audited financials! This is a company that had people in powerful political positions. 

 

Away from the scamming on investors, you cannot help but wonder about its management and pity its staff. I think Theranos is the ultimate toxic work environment. Talk about overworking, passive-aggressive management, having no trust from your employer, or access to helpful information that could make your work easier. The place was so bad; even when leaving, you had to sign endless NDAs. How bad was it? It even led an ex-employee to suicide.

 

Another interesting read: Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright & Bradley Hope

 

The media, too, played a role in elevating Elizabeth and Theranos. Once these prominent magazines start to highlight a company, with big valuations and praise of its novel technology, it is probably hard for investors to stay away. But some did, especially those who were keen on the financials. Others were too blind that even when there was evidence the company was fooling them, they did not want to believe it. 

 

Ultimately, the same media that elevated her to her status was her downfall. Hard to think that you would go to the media, promising to help people without having a working device, and expect people not to question. Sooner or later, people notice. For Elizabeth, it was John Careryrou’s interviews with ex-employees and doctors who had come across the Theranos devices. Not surprisingly, there was a team of lawyers bombarding them in a bid to kill the story. They were even followed by PIs! 

 

Want to know what happened after the expose? Elizabeth Holmes is currently on trial, and John is keeping us updated on a podcast. Her second in command and ex-boyfriend, Balwani will begin his trial in 2022. 

 

If you are interested in financial crime books, I would certainly recommend this. 

 

 

My ★ Rating 5

Goodreads ★ Rating 4.38 (as of November 2021)

 

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