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Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup Paperback – 21 Mar. 2019
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The shocking true story behind The Dropout, starring Amanda Seyfried, Naveen Andrews and Stephen Fry.
'I couldn’t put down this thriller . . . a book so compelling that I couldn’t turn away' – Bill Gates
Winner of the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award 2018
The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes, 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 brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup "unicorn" promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing 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 more than $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn't work.
In Bad Blood, John Carreyrou tells the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.
'Chilling . . . Reads like a West Coast version of All the President’s Men.' – New York Times Book Review
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A dazzling story of deception in Silicon Valley . . . You will not be able to put this book down. ― Washington Post
Carreyrou tells the story virtually to perfection . . . Bad Blood reads like a West Coast version of All the President’s Men. ― New York Times Book Review
Riveting . . . a blistering critique of Silicon Valley . . . The real heroes, though, are his sources: the young scientists who worked at the company and risked their reputations and careers by voicing their concerns. Were it not for their courage, Theranos might still be testing blood today -- David Crow ― Financial Times
If you’re looking for an engaging non-fiction read, look no further than Bad Blood . . . a pacy, compelling narrative about white-collar crime that’s as incredible as any work of fiction. ― Irish Times
In this Silicon Valley drama, he opens his reporter’s notebook to deliver a tale of corporate fraud and legal browbeating that reads like a crime thriller. -- The 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2018 ― TIME
Gripping . . . Carreyrou presents the scientific, human, legal and social sides of the story in full . . . He unveils many dark secrets of Theranos that have not previously been laid bare. ― Nature
A parable, with all the usual, delicious ingredients of human folly: greed, pride, vanity, lust, anger. Above all, it is an analysis of the phenomenon of hype. ― Daily Telegraph
Simply one of the best books about a startup ever. ― Forbes
Bad Blood reveals a crucial truth: outside observers must act as the eyes, the ears and, most importantly, the voice of Silicon Valley’s blind spot . . . It gambled not with our smart phones, our attention or our democracy, but with people’s lives. ― Paste
Engaging ― The Economist
A beautifully controlled narrative that challenges the gold-rush mentality of Silicon Valley. -- Lionel Barber, Editor of the FT, 'Books of the Year 2018' ― Financial Times
[Holmes') story is a parable about Silicon Valley delusion, but the gossipy fun comes from seeing which high-profile man (James Mattis, Joe Biden) gets drawn into Holmes’ scammy web next. -- ‘Best Books of 2018’ ― ELLE
Carreyrou tells the full, gripping tale of how he slayed the “unicorn” in a fascinating look at how buzz and billions can blind people to facts. -- ‘Best Books of 2018’ ― Marie Claire
You will not be able to put this down. -- Top tech book releases in 2018 ― Evening Standard
From the Back Cover
‘Riveting . . . Compelling . . . A blistering critique of Silicon Valley’ Financial Times
‘It’s no wonder Hollywood is turning this book into a movie. I couldn’t put it down.’ Bill Gates
The riveting true story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar Silicon Valley biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who uncovered the biggest corporate fraud since Enron.
‘John Carreyrou’s comprehensive take-down of the blood-testing startup Theranos may read like the ultimate dystopian novel for the Silicon Valley age, but unfortunately, it’s all true. You will not be able to put this down.’ Evening Standard ‘Best Tech Books 2018’
‘Gripping . . . Just as Theranos was not just a tech company, its story is not just a tech story. It is a parable, with all the usual, delicious ingredients of human folly: greed, pride, vanity, lust, anger’ Daily Telegraph
‘A tale of corporate fraud and legal browbeating that reads like a crime thriller’ Time, ‘Non-fiction Book of the Year’
‘One of the most gripping reads in years . . . John Carreyrou’s book is a testimony to the power of investigative journalism, a beautifully controlled narrative that challenges the gold-rush mentality of Silicon Valley’ Lionel Barber, ‘Books of the Year’, Financial Times
- Publisher : Picador; Main Market edition (21 Mar. 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1509868089
- ISBN-13 : 978-1509868087
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.6 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 3,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 June 2019
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I'd like to compliment the author. The depth of the investigation is extraordinary; but most importantly, the narration is done in this perfect documentary style when even the most chilling events are described with high precision but without falling into emotional judgement.
I also would like to say a big thank you to all the sources and contributors who made this book possible. You're very brave people; I applaud your courage and ethics.
Carryrou's book covers three and a half years of investigation into Theranos, its founder Elizabeth Holmes and her meteoric rise and spectacular fall in the obsessive pursuit of a dream. Its a fascinating read and Carryrou uses his research to tell the story from the beginning. The story of his investigations as a Wall Street Journal reporter follows the cronological order of events and is documented towards the end of the book.
Essentially, Elizabeth Holmes developed a start-up in Silicon Valley where she attempted to develop a device which could provide multiple blood test analyses for a range of conditions and diseases in a box not much larger that a large bread-bin. For the user only a small pinprick of blood was required to complete all these tests.
This would be a game changer. Some day, every home could have one and for a small charge could carry out blood tests and have them analysed almost immediately, providing early warning of developing conditions. What's not to like? Nothing it seemed.
What makes this book so fascinating, as well as the central characters and story, are the themes it explores such as:
Greed and denial
The historty of Silicon Valley start-ups is one where investors always try and get in at the beginning of potentially novel ideas and make a killing. Think Google, Facebook and Uber. Two things drive this. The idea and the confidence/ expertise/drive of those taking it forward. In the case of Theranos Elizabeth Holmes force of personality outweighed any doubts about the concept or the execution. However at the time she started Theranos, she was 19 and a Stanford dropout with no experience in blood testing whatsoever, beyond a grand idea and good connections.
Holmes exerted an almost Svengali like hold of the people in her orbit. This is partly to do with her physical appearance. Tall; striking blue unblinking eyes; dessed in black turtle necks (a la Steve Jobs) and speaking in a baritone voice. Supremely confident in both her idea and herself she managed to persuade and recruit a Board of former ex- Government Cabinet members; a 4 star General (Jim Mattis of Trump fame) and big name investors, who blinded by either the promise of the idea or the money to be made from it, were sufficiently incurous as to seek the detail of how this invention actually worked. People and organisations such as Walgreens were happy to put hundreds of millions of dollars investment into Theranos without demanding independent expert due diligence of the product.
At the time of Theranos's demise it was valued as a private company at $9bn, with Holmes's share of that valuation at $4.5. Up to that point no investor in Theranos had seen the inner working of the product or questioned the fabulous claims made for it. Neither had any member of her company Board.
Secrecy and lies
Holmes and her senior executive partner were secretive to the point of paranoia over their idea. Two reasons for this. First they were genuinely concerned about their ideas being stolen, but as time went on and they could not get their invention to work the secrecy hid a raft of corner cutting, false promises and outright lies as to how the equipment was performing. Only those in Theranos working on the project could see how far from the truth the claimes Holmes made for the product and its readiness to market actually were. Some turned a blind eye while those with professional or ethical concerns were either fired or left, all under rigourous confidentiality clauses.
This secrecy coupled with an agressive management style also stifiled the creative initiative of the Theranos team. Knowledge was power and developers were deliberately siloed to ensure they only worked on their own area so the ability to share thinking across the firm was severly limited.
Weaponising the law
What I found perhaps most shocking of all is the way the agressive use of the threat of litigation is used to force compliance, especially against those who cannot financially afford to fight their corner. The lawyers who command the most fees are the legal pit bulls of the industry. Holmes spares no expense in protecting her secrets and covering her lies with the determined use of agressive legal firms and the threats of legal action to force whistleblowers to keep silent. This extends to Carryrou as well. Of the $900m raised by Holmes in her third funding round, $300m went on lawyers fees!
The FDA and other regulators seemed broadly incurious about the claims for this machine and remained so until things started to go badly wrong when what was essentially an idea at prototype stage went live to the public. The degree to which private companies can avoid such scrutiny is alarming.
The debate is still ongoing as to whether Holmes deliberately misled or had sociopathic tendencies. The story is not over. She is now charged with alleged Federal and SEC crimes which carry up to 20 years in prison.
I highly recommend this book, which I think will become a textbook on leadership, governance failure and greed.I also recommend Gibney's HBO documentary which brings to life the people and events in the book, not least Elizabeth Holmes herself. It also adds visual detail on the development of the blood testing device in the way Carryrou's book can not.
Hope this is helpful.
This story is fascinating, having worked in the software and technology industry for many year, this book rings true, its always shocking to see how unwilling people are to ask the hard question and speak up, even when its clear something is clear wrong within a company.
It’s a modern day emperor's new clothes, where even big name software and investment entrepreneur can’t see the woods for the trees.