Bad Blood

Bad Blood

Genre: Biography

Author: John Carreyrou

Imagine investing millions of dollars into a “revolutionary company”, only to discover it was built on lies. Welcome to the world of 'Bad Blood,' a book that feels like watching a thriller unfold in real time with unexpected twists and jaw-dropping revelations!

Before diving deeper into the review, here are my key takeaways from this book:

  1. Don’t be like Elizabeth Holmes or Sunny Balwani.
  2. Being ambitious is one thing, but being so blinded by your ambitions that humanity doesn't matter anymore is a dangerous place to be.
  3. A company cannot run on vision alone. Without effective communication and collaboration, it’s impossible for a vision to come to fruition.
  4. Do your absolute due diligence in researching a company before investing.
  5. Do not attach your worth to your work. If you sense a toxic work environment, get out of there ASAP. Nothing is worth your mental health.

Since this blog post is longer than usual, I am using sub-headings for ease of reading.

The Thrill of Reading Bad Blood

It’s been a few days since I finished this book, and I’m still in awe and fascination with what I recently finished reading/listening to. As I mentioned earlier, it was no less than watching a thriller movie, except it was my imagination playing out everything described in the book. But seriously, this story is a great example of what happens when someone is blinded by money, ambition, and fame. You could also say it's a perfect example of “fake it until you make it!”

The Book’s Back Story

In 2003, a 19-year-old Stanford dropout, Elizabeth Holmes, founded a biotech company called Theranos, claiming to change the face of healthcare. She set out to revolutionize healthcare by developing a technology capable of running hundreds of tests with just a drop of blood from your fingertip. Her goal was to make healthcare affordable and accessible to millions of people. No big needles, no need to draw vials of blood, and the potential to routinely monitor your health with this new and affordable technology sounded like a great idea to many people.

Luckily, she had some family connections to the most influential people in America and was able to raise millions of dollars from them. Her board of directors comprised everyone from venture capitalists to secretaries of state to lawyers, only missing experts from the diagnostic world. Holmes had great connections, investors, and talented people working for her, but the only issue was that her technology was not functional. Her “analyzer,” as she referred to it, never gave any reliable results.

The Rise of Theranos

You would think someone in their right mind would put their resources into fixing the issue first before moving any further. But not Holmes and her business partner/boyfriend Sunny Balwani. Any setbacks reported by the employees did not stop them from introducing their technology to the world, which gave erroneous results most of the time. What blows my mind is that they got away with this whole thing until October 2015, when an investigative journalist from The Wall Street Journal, who is also the author of this book, published an article exposing this fiasco.

What Surprised Me

The fact that people invested millions of dollars blindly into a startup without questioning anything surprised me the most. The board members of Theranos had everyone but the experts. I still find it difficult to wrap my head around how people believed that a 19-year-old college dropout with no degree in science could revolutionize healthcare.

One cannot be a healthcare prodigy without doing their due diligence. Running a biotech company without education, research, and years of experience and claiming to get all kinds of results with a drop of blood is a concept stretched too far. Maybe if the board had relevant experts, they would have recognized this as a red flag sooner than later.

This was one of my eye-opening moments regarding investing. Often, we ask our family or friends where to invest our money, but what I learned after reading this book is to do your due diligence in gathering information about the company before putting your money into it. Do your research!

Confidence vs Manipulation

One thing that was consistent throughout the book was the description of Holmes’ personality. Through her charisma and passion, she impressed any and every individual she met, making them believe she was genuinely changing the world. The energy of a young female entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, who was so passionate about turning her vision into reality, was palpable. In the male-dominated space of Silicon Valley, she rose to a new level of fame and success. Her company was valued at 10 billion dollars around 2013/14. She was announced as the first self-made female billionaire then.

Can you imagine going from that to prison in a few years? Quite tragic…

However, on the other hand, it made me think about how confidence in your own belief is such an important virtue. While Holmes used this in the wrong way, it shows how personality, passion, and confidence can make people believe in you. An important lesson here is: be confident, but don’t be manipulative like Elizabeth Holmes.

Business and Conscience

They say America is a land of opportunity, and Holmes’ story makes that quite clear. Running a company for years with the amount of lies and deception Holmes exhibited makes one wonder about many things.

What happens to people when they are blinded by their ambitions and the desire to hit that revenue goal?

Well, their thinking gets clouded, and they start doing things that put their greed above everything else.

Having a vision and aspiring to run hundreds of tests with a drop of blood is one thing, but risking lives by using dysfunctional technology on real patients is a whole other thing. Despite knowing that their technology produced invalid and unreliable results, the Holmes-Balwani duo launched it in 40 Wellness Clinics across Arizona and California.

Imagine your blood report showing you are on the verge of having a heart attack when you are actually doing just fine.

Even thinking about this gives me chills because healthcare providers' next steps are often determined by lab results. The consequences of wrong lab results? Unnecessary anxiety, increased medical costs, and even endangering a patient’s life. But that didn’t stop Holmes.

That’s why I said, don’t be like Elizabeth Holmes. No one should cross their ethical boundaries when it comes to people’s lives.

Theranos’ Viablity

I am not an expert in biotechnology, so I would never dare to answer this question definitively. However, one thing that still crosses my mind is the caliber of people who were sold on Elizabeth’s idea and were on board to revolutionize healthcare. She hired top-notch talent from all over the country. If only she had listened to them and leveraged their expertise, maybe it could have been something.

A company does not run on vision alone, you need people to bring that vision to reality. If you don’t encourage people to bring forward diverse ideas to the table or foster communication and collaboration, you are bound to fail. And of course, the importance of the work environment cannot be overstated. Expecting people to work in a toxic work environment while trying to innovate is a recipe for failure.

Sometimes, it is good to read about or see someone and realize “that’s something that I don’t want to be like.” I don't need to say who I don't want to be like, do I? 😀

Toxic Workplace and Mental Health

The saddest part of this book was when one of her employees committed suicide, and Holmes had no respect whatsoever to even acknowledge their contribution or pay respect to them. Maybe all employers are not as insensitive as Holmes but still, my key takeaway here is to never get too invested in your work. If you feel that your mental health is at risk, it’s not worth it. Get out of such a toxic workplace ASAP.

Final Thoughts

Holmes' unhealthy obsession with her ambition led to her downfall. The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos perfectly exemplifies how being blinded by money, fame, and ambition while forgetting humanity is the worst thing that can happen to anyone, ultimately leading to destruction!

If you have made it this far, I know you will love this book. As for me, Bad Blood is by far the most interesting book I have read/listened to in 2024. I was hooked and kept listening to it until I was done. I may have even been dreaming about Theranos for a couple of days now. Lol...

I highly recommend this book as it allows you to dive deeper into Elizabeth Holmes and the Theranos fiasco. It's a real-life thriller that won’t disappoint. Grab it and get ready for a wild ride through Silicon Valley's darkest secrets.

Get your copy of Bad Bood on Amazon!

(Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Thank you for swinging by!

See you in the next blog post 😊