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

Title: Bad Blood: Secrets & Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Author: John Carreyrou

Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group

Publication Date: May 21, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars


Impeccable. So much more than I thought it would be. 

Here is a fascinating recount of Theranos, the Silicon Valley Startup that ended in fraud and indictment charges by its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. Exhaustively reported by prominent Wall Street Journal Reporter. John Carreyrou, Bad Blood is an investigative story that explores the multiple avenues and extremes from which the startup managed to emerge, reach a peak net value of over $9 billion and, in the process, scam multiple corporations, leading, well-known figures, and most important, endanger Americans all across the country who relied on the technology for accurate medical results. 

The Stanford-dropout founded this tech unicorn committing an array of lies, lawsuits, and downright frightening management tactics to blackmail the world into believing in her invention, despite its overwhelming basis in an alternate reality. To the world, the Steve Jobs imitator claims that her technology answers all the hopes and questions of doctors, nurses, and patients. This small device, pointed the Edison defeats scientific findings, and can perform multiple medical tests with the prick of a finger such as HIV, potassium deficiency and plagues in war torn countries like Afghanistan. More often than not, the test results came back with an error or gave a practically opposite result than more credible tests, such as those from Harvard would yield. Unfavorable results were neglected and tests were repeated countless times and in the end, and “average” was calculated and that was the result. Multiple Theranos employees confronted the young blue-eyed woman with the unnaturally deep voice, but this often meant termination of employment and a stack of nondisclosure agreements thereafter. 

Elizabeth’s majestically persuasive personality and clever strategies of rejecting criticism in a way that shone confidence and scientific genius enabled her to take advantage of America’s faith, assuming a powerful position  that allowed her to carry out such an audacious, if not fantastical scheme in the tech and medical industry for so long. Despite many of Theranos’ employees, as well as figures that took part in the Walgreens and Safeway partnerships who had trouble validating Elizabeth’s claims, the probably sociopath’s unconscionable strategies of intimidation and evolution lured in journalists, doctors, investors, and ill patients, more on a matter of faith and hope than on logic and reason. Any show of skepticism and attempts to question the Edison device were ineffective and often did not end well for those challenging Holmes, many of which would be fired, have lawsuits filed against them, or followed by spies pressuring many to sign multiple documents or hand over whatever items they had in their possession that may hold information about Theranos.   

In each chapter the author-journalist, Carreyrou recounts, from the perspective sources whose trust he gained and was able to learn the secrets of the Theranos empire from. We are carried through the operation behind a lens of ill-fated scientific practices, deficient business transactions, human trauma and turmoil. Throughout the course of the report Carreyrou lays out, in vivid detail, the science behind the claimed revolutionary medical device and all the minute pieces of the puzzle that brought Theranos to fame, earning the respect, support and donations of credible, known figures such as Rupert Murdoch, George Schulz, Henry Kissinger, the Clintons, and even the Obama administration. The majority of the information collected came from Theranos employees themselves whose fear of Elizabeth and her partner/boyfriend, Sunny Balwani’s power, left them unnerved and and silent for a long time. It was these blatant forms of intimidation exercised by Holmes and her Ramesh lover that kept the sly workings of the operation and unquestioned “trade secret’ for so long. 

This thrilling, complete and utterly page-turning masterpiece of  nonfiction left me, and I’m sure a great percentage of the American public with a deep set of philosophical questions: To what degree can you trust a person and when should you become skeptical that such trust could go in vein? When is it the time to vote in favor of righteousness, even if it puts your values, and sometimes even your livelihood in danger? What is the responsibility of us, as a collective community to protect those we know to be in trouble? At what point; where is the margin between our fantasies and reality? When should we let go of our fantasies in favor of a more hard-lined truth? 

Yours Truly,

Book image credits go to Goodreads 

2 thoughts on “Review: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

  1. She has to be one of the most unlikable people I’ve read about recently. The book was fascinating. She wanted so badly to buy her press and be the next Steve Jobs she really never seemed to understand or care this wasn’t entertainment but peoples actual lives she was messing with. Sociopath is a good word.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG right? She was such an unlikeable figure and then that whole dynamic between her and Sunny was simple deplorable. I totally agree with you: Elizabeth really is the epitope of a true-to-the-word ‘sociopath.’


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