Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
If you want to remain happily mesmerized by the inner workings of Silicon Valley and what you imagine to be cutting edge discoveries made by great young minds working all hours of the day and night in open spaces full of inspirational toys, then don’t read John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood.
If you want to stay comfortably attached to the myth of tech startups and all the good they want to contribute to society, then don’t read John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood.
If you ever believed that the best education, most money and much sought after networks produced the greatest minds, incredible results, and world- and life changing products and you want to keep believing that, then don’t read John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood.
If, however, you are up for some myth busting of the extensively researched, well written, fascinating, frightening and exciting kind, then I suggest you run down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood.
The book follows a young ambitious Stanford dropout, Elisabeth Holmes, and her quest to change healthcare in America and fulfill a goal she sets at age 8 to become a billionaire (maybe that right there should have been a red flag) with a new blood taking technique where you can test blood with a single finger prick system and merely one drop of blood. A technique - and device - that turn out to not actually exist. Yes, there is a good deal of science and scientific explanations in the book, but don’t let that scare you off as it is necessary, very well written and not at all difficult to understand.
The system Holmes, and her company Theranos, are selling is surprisingly (to some) difficult to implement, but Holmes, not one to give up easily, decides to forge ahead, not as one would imagine - or hope - by pulling the product, slowing down, focusing on more research and development, but rather by trying to find a way to continue selling the faulty product by the help of her boyfriend and partner Sunny Balwani, and an intricate web of lies and deception involving participants and investors (all named) that include some of the savviest minds and deepest pockets in America - not to mention an employee burn rate of astronomical and diabolical proportions. The method is simple: as soon as an employee discovers inconsistencies or technical problems and solutions that they find ethically and morally questionable, they are asked to leave, often after being bullied and threatened into signing extensive (additional) non-disclosure agreements.
The book is full of twists and turns, many of them so unbelievable that you couldn’t have made it up. Bad Blood will rival any thriller out there with it’s sociopathic characters, spies in nondescript vehicles, outlandish harassment techniques and overall deplorable and shocking behaviour.
It would be a ‘merely’ fascinating, intriguing and fun rollercoaster of a read, if it weren’t for the lives that were ruined and the potential frightening consequences to the health of hundreds of thousands of patients had Elisabeth Holmes and Theranos been allowed to continue. Finally, Bad Blood is an indictment of a world infatuated with ‘the new’, with scientific discoveries we dream of but don’t really understand and the danger of a ‘no questions asked’ love affair with tech and the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of the world. But it is also an important story of the gratitude we all owe to the courageous people who are willing to come forward to reveal difficult truths at their own, very real peril.