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Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  6,189 Ratings  ·  767 Reviews
The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and threats by her lawyers.

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a br
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 21st 2018 by Knopf Publishing Group
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TC Not really. Holmes did not answer requests for an interview. She remains mysterious as a person. The conjecture is she was simply high on herself.…moreNot really. Holmes did not answer requests for an interview. She remains mysterious as a person. The conjecture is she was simply high on herself. Some think her lover and business partner Sunny Balwani manipulated her as a young ingenue, but this book firmly rejects that, pointing out that she was manipulating people all the way back in college. (I thought that was before she'd met him but apparently they'd met while she was still in high school. Still, there's not much evidence she was ever under his influence; clearly at best they were equals, and at worst he was under hers, based on her observed behavior.)

EDIT: I should also point out that this book says she was mentored by Silicon Valley's "best," including Larry Ellison, who is a textbook example of the amoral, at-all-cost "entrepreneur" the area is so famous for. Maybe she started out genuine but perhaps the culture of the Valley corrupted her, making her believe that the ends justified the means and that the most important thing wasn't to deliver value, but to secure yet more funding, and hire the best lawyers to destroy anyone who came in her way. Her story really isn't that different from a lot of Silicon Valley; hers is just worse because of the size and scope, and because she was in a highly regulated space for once, whereas most operate in free-wheeling tech that has almost no rules.

It's all conjecture and speculation, tho. Even when/if she writes her own book, I doubt it will give any valuable insight, just more spin. Nothing short of an independent psychiatric eval will give us a glimmer of what might really have happened.(less)
Bob Goedjen A good question... I am not an expert in marketing books but I am guessing the choice was made on the basis of what would sell more. Not…moreA good question... I am not an expert in marketing books but I am guessing the choice was made on the basis of what would sell more. Not everyone..although maybe a good number recognize the name Theranos. I don't think it was because of legal reasons but who knows?(less)

Community Reviews

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Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating accounting of the Theranos scam and I do mean SCAM. Exhaustively reported. I do wish there had been more analysis of how a scam of this magnitude was made possible and enabled. This girl dropped out of college and convinced Henry Kissinger, George Schulz, Rupert Murdoch and a bunch of other famous and/or incredibly talented people to give her money or work with her even though there was no there, there. WHAT? There are so many incredible WTF moments. Just wow. Privilege is a hell of ...more
Michael Perkins
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The resignations infuriated Elizabeth and Sunny. The following day, they summoned the staff for an all-hands meeting in the cafeteria. Copies of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho had been placed on every chair. Elizabeth told the gathered employees that she was building a religion. If there was anyone not prepared to show complete devotion and unmitigated loyalty to the company they should “get the fuck out.”

The Steve Jobs Syndrome

I have covered Silicon Valley as a journalist and author for three d
Andrew Garvin
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Early in my career I worked at a next-generation sequencing startup with Theranos-level ambitions. In fact, it went further. The founders’ mission was to cure aging. Literally, the goal was immortality.

There were other similarities: The company was founded by wunderkinds, they won the attention and support of a prominent professor in the field, they dropped out and raised millions of dollars from non-hard tech investors off the back of a concept, then tens of millions of dollars off the back of
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bad Blood is a straightforward read about the rise and fall of Theranos, done in chronological order in third-person up until Carreyrou becomes personally involved, at which point things accelerate to the SEC civil settlement. Carreyrou doesn't end too strongly but says that the criminal investigation may well end up charging Holmes & Sunny. This means that it lacks a really conclusive 'ending': Theranos was continuing to limp on, having received funding from a vulture on the strength of its ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Just when I thought all reporters ever did anymore was see what was trending on social media and write stories with titles like "You'll cheer how this mom clapped-back at her body-shamers on Twitter," this book gives me hope that old-fashioned investigative journalism is alive and well and doing exactly what it's supposed to: shine an unflinching hot light on those who abuse their power and privilege. Here, it's aimed at the bizarre cult of Elizabeth Holmes and her "disruptive" "game changing" c ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
HOLY COW. I followed the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos story slightly but this book does such a fantastic job of showing how completely banana pants this situation was.

This was also great on audio, and so addictive that I started making up chores I could do just so I could keep listening.
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Should be mandatory B-School reading

I read this book in one day. I had read some articles and/or saw TV shows on Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes, but my knowledge was pretty general. Once I started the book, I could not put it down. I canceled lunch with a friend so I could continue reading. I ordered pizza for the family so I could continue reading. The story is interesting and shocking. It is a story that every Board should read because ultimately it failed in its oversight responsibilities - wh
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
58th book for 2018.

John Carreyrou the unicorn killer!

Shortly before Carreyrou's expose appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Theranos, a Silicon Valley biotech startup, had a valuation of 10 billion dollars, within a few months it's net worth was close to zero. All hail the power of investigative journalism!

It took me about a third of the book (100 pages) to really get into the Theranos story, but once hooked, I couldn't put the book down and read the final 200 pages in a single afternoon. In Bad
Sirius Scientist
“Grow fast, lose money, go public, get rich. That’s the model.” -- Dan Lyons

Unicorns are rampant in the Boston area, and a slide my previous employer liked to show touted that any given time there were just under 1000 biotech or pharmaceutical based companies in the greater Boston/Cambridge area--a roughly 6 mile radius. While this book is set in Silicon Valley, it isn't the first account I've read about rampantly abusive corporate culture, and idolizing the unicorns that made it big. This part
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Tips on how to make an unicorn:
- Be a sociopath
- Excel at sales&marketing
- Get some cool people on your Board

Tips to how to fake it till you make it?
- Hire a lot of lawyers
- Intimidate all your employees
- Pretend that you are a vocal proponent of a cause that you are actually against

How to make it as a woman in the tech world?
- Baritone
- Intese staring

What can fuck up your amazing future as a tech billionaire?
- Facts and data :(

I love any story that shows how sales&marketing can change
Simultaneously riveting and immensely frustrating in the way that I imagine watching a trainwreck in slow-motion might be, major props go to John Carreyrou for seeing through and doggedly pursuing a story that undoubtedly could have ended with a fallout far beyond the scope of SV royalty.

This isn't even a review so much as a reminder that this, yes, this (below) is the face of a willing destroyer of worlds…
Tomas Bella
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastický skutočný inšpiratívny príbeh o tom, že keď ste brilantný mladý talentovaný 19-ročný podnikateľ, ktorý sa odhodlá vyriešiť problém považovaný ostatnými za nevyriešiteľný, tak dokážete vyzbierať od investorov 700 miliónov dolárov (!!!), dostať podporu od ľudí s menami ako Kissinger alebo Obama alebo Murdoch, všetkých 12 rokov (!!!) klamať, že máte nejaký produkt a riešenie, keď nemáte vôbec nič, získať miliónové kontrakty s najväčšími korporáciami na produkt, ktorý nefunguje, klamať ľu ...more
Peter Tillman
Jun 07, 2018 marked it as to-read
Author Carreyrou gave a book talk at Kepler's in Palo Alto last night that was (as you can imagine) well-attended. I've read his articles at eh WSJ as they developed, but it's always fun to see the author in person (as you know, dear Reader). The biggest stir in the audience was his reveal that Rupert Murdoch, owner of the WSJ and hence Carreyrou's ultimate boss, had made a large, late-stage investment in Theranos, something like $127 million, now worth (approx) zero). Theranos lawyers made mult ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Eagerly awaiting for this book for well over a year, I ordered immediately on the release date. I have been actively following the Theranos scandal for some time but this book exceeded every expectation I had. The story is shocking and maddening in its own right but Carreyrou’s excellent writing and superb journalism makes this a truly engrossing read. When forced to put this book down, I have been unable to keep myself from sharing details with friends and family, building quite the waiting lis ...more
Jessica Woodbury
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I put this book on hold before I heard all the buzz, because I had read a piece or two on Elizabeth Holmes and they never got into the actual science involved and I was very curious about how much of a swindle Theranos actually was and how the science played into it. What I was not expecting, even after seeing raves for this book, was that I would read it in just a few hours in a frenzy and not be able to stop. I could not bring this book to the pool because I would spend the whole time reading ...more
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was skeptical when I first heard about this story getting adapted into a film starring Jennifer Lawrence - is there enough material to justify a Hollywood production? And then I read the book - holy shit. The movie is going to be great.

The degree of lies and manipulation by Theranos leaders is truly insane. It amounted up to $9 billion valuation, and it turns out - almost entirely built on smoke and mirrors.

Because the story is so crazy, it’s easy to get caught up in the 2 people at the cent
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
While pretty much everyone in this book who is rich and powerful comes off looking bad, it is less a tale of typical fraud, like a Ponzi scheme, and more a tale of human foibles. These were expertly played on by Elizabeth Holmes, a very young woman of little productive talent and no particular evident intelligence, but with a natural gift for sales and embodying the icy manipulative abilities of the sociopath. Fascinating stuff, all of it, and worth reading just to make sure that you don’t fall ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
How good is this? So good I read it in two nights, each night until 4am. You think it can't get worse, but then the story turns around and turns more weird and dodgy!

If you're following biotechnology then you'll have heard of Theranos, a fancy startup with tons of funding and a ridiculously star-studded board of directors (Henry Kissinger??), run by the very young and rich Elizabeth Holmes. Theranos promised the world (almost all blood tests with a prick of your finger, at home!) and delivered n
Amar Pai
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A real page turner. Elizabeth Holmes and Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani are such villains! She is a psychopath and he is a moronic asshole who enables and eggs her on. I felt bad for all the employees at Theranos who got roped into this madness. Craziest part is Sunny and Elizabeth are both free as of this writing. They should be in jail!
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who hate needles, tech startup workers, Steve Jobs, Bernie Madoff
I love these kinds of books, which are actually more scary than books about global warming or war or other existential threats, because they point out a singularly terrifying fact: the people at the top, the powers and plenipotentiaries of the world, the masters of the universe who run countries and banking systems and the entire industrial infrastructure.... don't know what the fuck they're doing. There are no adults in charge. They're all just schmucks like the rest of us, except a screw-up by ...more
Marcin Zaremba
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Książka wciągnęła mnie od pierwszego akapitu. Do tego stopnia, że odrzuciłem na bok wszystkie inne książki i szukałem momentów, aby założyć słuchawki i mieć jeszcze chwilę epickiej walki autora i byłych pracowników Theranosa z Elisabeth Holmes i jej popleczników.

Czyta/słucha się to jak dobry kryminalno-prawniczy thiller. Autor ma świetne pióro - w mojej ocenie zachował swoją dziennikarską obiektywność będą przy tym w środku całego zamieszania.

Mimo tego, że wszystkie opisane w książce wydarzenia
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bad Blood takes us through the journey of a Silicon Valley bio tech start up, Theranos . It’s one where a start up after creating tremendous hype about saving lives ended up going up in smokes due to fraud and misrepresentation. I have always been piqued by corporate fraud stories . I read about Enron much after it happened . With Theranos , as I was reading through the book, I remembered many incidents and the different articles I had read on fortune , Forbes and New Yorker and lived through th ...more
Jackaline Rutter
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I’d give this 3.5 stars. Great book and amazing what Elizabeth got away with! Scary in that sense. There were a lot of people in this one so at times I found it a little tough to keep them all straight.
May 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
How overly dramatic and sensationalist. Was Holmes a total fraud? Yup. But did she masterfully dupe everyone with her lies and cunning? I'm not so convinced. All those early investors and her workers and partners had dollar signs in their eyes too. And silicon valley is a place where the business model is to just fake it til you become a unicorn and then deliver your product. Or don't. I mean, if John Carreyrou had done this sort of deep investigative reporting on literally any crypto founder or ...more
Veronica Moss
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Scandalous! A fast and addictive read about how a sociopathic college drop out who thought she was Steve Jobs charmed a bunch of old rich men into making her a billionaire. She’s a complete piece of 💩. Utterly amazing that this went down in our backyard of Silicon Valley. Can’t wait for J-Law to play her in the book-to-film adaptation!
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It reads like a rollercoaster ride that just keeps going up up up, knowing that the fall will be terrifyingly fun
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Exceptionally reported and written. A must read to understand the downsides of Valley ambition and investor optimism gone horribly wrong.
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One one level, there’s the sociopathic, charismatic CEO of Theranos. If you’re reading this review or seeking out the book, you likely know about her. What fascinated me about this book was that so many, many people fell blindly for her sales pitch. I had the benefit of reading this book shortly after reading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, in which he refutes the assumption that people are basically rational. Bad Blood proves that we are far from it.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Who would’ve thought a book about a med tech startup could be so engaging? And this was riveting, rivaling any thriller I’ve ever read. I finished it in a day.

I don’t know how I missed the Theranos scandal in the news, but this is the first time I heard about this. I learned a ton. And it’s strange: even knowing how it was going to end, I still couldn’t help getting sucked in by the promise of the technology and how cool it could’ve been.

Carreyrou is a fantastic storyteller. Sure, the eve
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book, zipped through it in a day and a half. If you like nonfiction, corporate espionage type of books you will def enjoy this one. I remember seeing headlines and articles about Elizabeth Holmes,this big Silicon Valley tech, female wunderkind, billionaire inventor of new medical technology and it was fascinating to hear what was really going down behind the scenes - a total shell game.

It is probably better read than listened to because it has a lot of complicated blood science and
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“When the officer asked what he’d taken, Sunny blurted out in his accented English, “He stole property in his mind.” 4 likes
“Tax troubles aside, Sunny was proud of his wealth and liked to broadcast it with his cars. He drove a black Lamborghini Gallardo and a black Porsche 911. Both had vanity license plates. The one on the Porsche read “DAZKPTL” in mock reference to Karl Marx’s treatise on capitalism. The Lamborghini’s plate was “VDIVICI,” a play on the phrase “Veni, vidi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”), which Julius Caesar used to describe his quick and decisive victory at the Battle of Zela in a letter to the Roman Senate.” 0 likes
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