Monday, July 25, 2022

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup - Review

The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of a multibillion-dollar startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end in the face of pressure and threats from the CEO and 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 tests 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 $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn't work.

For years, Holmes had been misleading investors, FDA officials, and her own employees. When Carreyrou, working at The Wall Street Journal, got a tip from a former Theranos employee and started asking questions, both Carreyrou and the Journal were threatened with lawsuits. Undaunted, the newspaper ran the first of dozens of Theranos articles in late 2015. By early 2017, the company's value was zero and Holmes faced potential legal action from the government and her investors. Here is the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a disturbing cautionary tale set amid the bold promises and gold-rush frenzy of Silicon Valley.

Book Breakdown

I confess until around April of this year I had no idea what any of this was about. Then, when I was flipping through Hulu, I saw this new show that Amanda Seyfried was in. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I watched every episode and then had to wait another week for the last one to come out. But during that time I watched YouTube videos, the documentary on HBO and discovered this book.

The very basic story is Holmes started a company after ‘creating’ a device that would do all kinds of blood tests with only a drop of blood from a finger. Only, it was all a colossal fraud. None of it ever worked, yet she raised hundreds of millions of dollars, got her device put in Walgreens and Safeway. She had a huge board of extremely powerful men (George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Rupert Murdoch and Larry Ellison), and still none of it worked. Everything was a lie. 

The story of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes just sucked me in. How was she able to scam all these people for so long? Was it because she was a pretty girl and old white men love pretty girls? Was she just that convincing? Or did people just hope her invention was real and willing to forgo everything for that? 

This is such a wonderfully written book. So easy to read and get sucked in that the pages just kept turning themselves. I couldn’t believe all the details as I kept reading, how the lies just piled higher and higher and still she didn’t stop and would even double down. 

Even at the very end, she never once acted remorseful for the people she hurt. The public used this blood testing device in Arizona and many people got inaccurate results that could’ve cost them their lives. One woman got a result that told her she was having a miscarriage when she wasn’t. Another test told someone they had HIV when they didn’t.

It’s crazy. Honestly. That stuff like this that can still happen in today’s age. Guess some things will never change, scammers will scam. 

When Holmes was younger, she said she wanted to be a billionaire and before her company dissolved; she got her wish. She was worth around 4.5 billion dollars at the peak. But even though she’s responsible for all this terrible mess, she’s still doing pretty well for herself. Her partner is worth 20 million and they live in an enormous estate. 

She is going to be sentenced on 26 September of this year. Hopefully, she will finally pay for her crimes.