Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
by John Carreyrou
Entrepreneurs used to dream about taking their company public. These days, the booming private-equity markets mean firms can become billion-dollar “unicorns” and stay private. This helps firms take a more long-term approach and dodge red tape, but it also allows them to avoid awkward questions. This book is a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when that scrutiny is lacking.
Theranos was set up by Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes to commercialise her miniature blood diagnostic device. Her enthusiasm and charm convinced Safeway and Wallgreens to trial her technology, and persuaded Henry Kissinger and General James Mattis to join her board. She was acclaimed as a visionary, feted as the next Bill Gates.
Tipped off by a business rival, Carreyrou, an investigative journalist with The Wall Street Journal, decided to investigate. He found evidence that the firm was not only misrepresenting progress, but also putting lives at risk by knowingly giving patients and doctors inaccurate test results. Theranos launched an aggressive (but ultimately unsuccessful) legal campaign to try to get him to drop the investigation, which only ended after the firm imploded.
Books on corporate scandals can be very dull, but Bad Blood is a real-life thriller. Striking the perfect balance between the wider picture and the human drama, Carreyrou has created a gripping tale of deceit, delusion and megalomania.