Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
It depends on the genre and the occasion, but when people ask me for my book recommendations, Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, and Educated by Tara Westover were often the first books that came to my mind. Now I’m adding Bad Blood to that list, if not at the top of the list.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley by John Carreyrou details the rise and fall of Theranos, a multibillion-dollar biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes. Holmes was a Stanford dropout with a vision to make lab testing quicker and more accessible by requiring blood samples as small as a single drop. With the ease of the sampling procedure and the proclaimed 4 hours on average test result completion time, Theranos’s revolutionary device would allow lab testing to be done more frequently and for doctors to adjust drug prescriptions sooner if needed. This can lead to the early detection of diseases and save lives. Holmes’s charisma, determination, and relentless drive along with Theranos’s proprietary lab testing device attracted multiple credible investors and vaulted Theranos to a $10 billion peak valuation. There was only one problem. The technology never worked.
Despite Theranos’s high turnover rate and the apparent technology issues known internally, Theranos’s problems never made it to the public. With a culture of secrecy and intimidation, employees are often isolated from other departments. The computer network is closely monitored and confidentiality agreements are often presented when employees leave. In 2014, Holmes started gaining more popularity and appeared on the covers of reputable media companies including Fortune, Forbes, and the New York Times. However, Holmes and Theranos’s fate started to change when John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal received a tip from Adam Clapper, a pathologist who ran an industry blog.
John Carreyrou is a two times Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist best known for his reporting on corporate scandals. Carreyrou started investigating Theranos in late 2015 after he finished “Medicare Unmasked”, a project that forced the American government to release important Medicare data kept secret for decades.
The journey to uncover the truth behind Theranos’s deceptions was challenging to say the least. Barely any employees who’ve worked for Theranos in the past were willing to answer Carreyrou’s calls due to fear of reprimand from Holmes. And many of the few sources who were willing to speak on the condition of anonymity went silent after Holmes discovered their identities. Carreyrou himself was pressured multiple times to drop the story. When that didn’t work Holmes turned to Rupert Murdoch, the founder of The Wall Street Journal’s parent company who also happens to be the biggest investor in Theranos in 2015, to kill the story. Luckily Rupert rejected Holmes’s request citing that he trusted the paper’s editors to handle the matter fairly. The relentlessness that Holmes showed in shutting down this story further speaks to Carreyrou’s amazing investigative efforts.
Even though Bad Blood is a non-fiction but the clarity of facts and people’s accounts are so well encompassing that it feels like Carreyrou was looped in on every email and phone call. However, what I’m most impressed by is how matter of factly Carreyrou was able to tell this story. Carreyrou was able to cast his opinion aside and simply let the readers make their own conclusions with the series of facts presented.
I’ll say this is my most enjoyable read ever. The storyline is so compact and thrilling that it’s hard to put down the book. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do if you decide to learn how Holmes and Theranos were able to fake its way to a $10 billion valuation despite being in one of the most highly regulated industries.
Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts. 🙂