Summary: (5/5 stars) I think I heard about Bad Blood via an interview with the author, John Carryrou, on a podcast. He’s the journalist who scooped this story for The Wall Street Journal. I decided to pick it up for two reasons. First of all, I’m fascinated by stories of such audacious frauds and that’s what Theranos is. Second, I wasn’t an investor, but as an observer, I was totally taken in by Elizabeth Holmes’ story and what Theranos claimed it was able to do and I wanted to understand it better. The real story was worse than I thought!
SPOILER WARNING: From this point forward, I’m going to discuss this book without any concern about spoilers. So, if you don’t like spoilers you should stop reading now.
OHHHHHHH MYYYYYYY GOD.
This is a really great, straight-forward telling of the story of Theranos. If you’re not familiar, Theranos is a company founded by one Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford drop-out who modeled herself after Steve Jobs and promised to revolutionize medicine with fast blood tests that could be run off of just a few drops a blood. In spite of telling everyone the Theranos systems worked, they didn’t. And they covered up their fraud by lying, separating departments within the company so that few people really knew what was going on, and aggressively suing anyone who threatened to reveal the truth. They deceived investors, customers, employees, the media, and even government inspectors.
It’s easy to point the finger at Elizabeth Holmes. She was, in this telling, clearly the mastermind of this elaborate fraud. But she could have done it alone. Members of her Board of Directors participated in bullying people — sometimes their own families — into keeping quiet about problems and concerns. Employees did things that they knew were wrong to deceive customers during sales pitches and health inspectors. And the only way the story came out was through a little bit of luck and because a couple of people risked a lot to talk to Carryrou about the problems.
It’s not a long read and it’s told in a very direct way. You could tear through this book in a weekend by the pool. And it’s frustrating and mesmerizing.
Highly recommended if you’re into this kind of story.