Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
I remember the name Elizabeth Holmes gaining notoriety around 2014 as she began to appear in magazines like Fortune and Glamour.
Holmes was a Stanford dropout who was set to change the face of healthcare with a small device that could run multiple lab tests with just a couple drops of blood from a finger stick.
Her company Theranos (a combination of the word therapy and diagnosis) was valued at nine billion dollars and had an impressive list of loyal supporters funding her invention, including highly respected engineers, venture capitalists, CEOs, and lawyers. Theranos even had major deals with Walgreens and Safeway to put the device in their stores.
Nine billion dollars, wealthy and influential supporters, and multi-million dollars deals … for a technology that simply did not exist.
Elizabeth Holmes was seen as a reclusive and passionate genius who cared about changing the world and the way medical testing was performed in order to deliver results more quickly to physicians who relied on test results and to provide a painless collection method for the patient.
In reality, Holmes had a dream but not a product. There was little progress made on turning her dream into a reality, even as she sold the dream to investors. Her vision was enticing to the wealthy and well connected investors who knew little about the medical field and with the hype created by Holmes and her influential supporters, Theranos became a multibillion dollar corporation veiled in absolute secrecy.
I was shocked not by the deception itself but by the fact that so many influential people bought her pitch with zero proof that her invention existed. Though Theranos was never able to offer services across the entire country, tests were performed on actual patients leading to nearly one million false test results, many which put lives in jeopardy.
Bad Blood is a well written and researched look into the inner workings of Theranos from its meteoric beginning to its startling fall by the journalist who originally broke the story in The Wall Street Journal.
“I’m fairly certain she didn’t initially set out to defraud investors and put patients in harm’s way when she dropped out of Stanford fifteen years ago. By all accounts, she had a vision that she genuinely believed in and threw herself into realizing. But in her all-consuming quest to be the second coming of Steve Jobs amid the gold rush of the ‘unicorn’ boom, there came a point when she stopped listening to sound advice and began to cut corners. Her ambition was voracious and it brooked no interference. If there was collateral damage on her way to riches and fame, so be it.”