Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
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Published: 5/21/2018
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.

Quick-Read Synopsis | Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Overview

Elizabeth Holmes, the charismatic college dropout who patterned her life after Steve Jobs, founded the biotech company Theranos. At a $9 billion valuation, Theranos was set to revolutionize the blood diagnostics realm of medical technology with a machine capable of performing a battery of tests with only one drop of blood. The only problem: the technology was a fraud, leading to one of the most sensational corporate scandals of the century...rife with secrecy and coverups, threats, company mismanagement and the ultimate crash of a Silicon Valley giant.

About the Author

A journalist with the Wall Street Journal since the late 90s, Carreyrou was the investigator that broke the story of the Theranos fraud. Born in Paris, France to a French journalist, his interest in the field was inspired from a young age. Carreyrou earned a B.A. from Duke University and worked for Dow Jones Newswires prior to his claim-to-fame career at The Wall Street Journal. He is the recipient of multiple awards; most notably the 2003 and 2015 Pulitzer Prizes, the 2003 and 2004 Peter R. Weitz Junior Prize and the 2015 Gerald Loeb Award.

Key Takeaways

-In 2003, a 19-year old Stanford dropout named Elizabeth Holmes established the company Theranos, a blood testing company boasting of its ability to conduct hundreds of diagnostic tests using only droplets of blood. Holmes became a seemingly overnight sensation, labeled the youngest self-made billionaire.

-The interest in Theranos was widespread beyond Silicon Valley. The company attracted heavy hitters like Henry Kissinger to its board. Theranos raked in more than $700 million in investments. The pharmaceutical mogul Walgreens put Theranos on its radar, seemingly ready to close a deal putting the Theranos technology in its centers.

-Things looked great for Theranos on its face, but behind the scenes was a different story. Fake demos, running tests on competitor equipment in order to impress investors and threatening the employment and reputations of staff who questioned Elizabeth’s authority became the standard of practice keeping the company’s big lie afloat.

-What was this big lie? The technology didn’t work.

-Tyler Schultz, a grandson of Elizabeth’s mentor and backer George Shultz, became one of the few brave employees who stood up to the lawsuit and smear campaign threats made by Sunny Balwani and Holmes. Balwani was the behind-the-scenes lover of Holmes and operational face of Theranos.

-John Carreyrou, a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, was tipped off to the fraud of Theranos and pursued the story. He investigated the company and its claims, obtained key information from inside sources like Tyler Schultz and ultimately broke the story to The Wall Street Journal.

How did Theranos get so big based on a lie? Deception created the image and the story. Investors bought into Elizabeth’s charisma, not the product. Psychological biases led even the most shrewd business leaders to buy into that story, and maintain it even when reality demonstrated otherwise.

-The Carreyrou story led to the downfall of Theranos, but where is the company now? What came of Elizabeth, Sunny and the brand? The story continues playing out in the courts, with both of the company’s leaders facing fraud charges. Court cases are still pending so the fates of the largely-defunct Theranos and it’s embattled leadership have yet to be determined.

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