Bad Blood
March 27, 2019 11:41 AM - by John Carreyrou - Subscribe

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.

A riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.

(previously on metafilter)
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a popcorn book, which is to say you want to have a big bucket of popcorn next to you as you read this book so you can dramatically munch on it. This story is wild and all true, and best off all the author of the book was involved in the disaster that was Theranos as it was unfolding, so he knows all the deets. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, but the stories from the whistle blowers are heartbreaking, and in the case of one grandchild of an investor, it tore his family apart, because gramps didn't want to believe he'd been duped, and supported Holmes til the end. This is the true silicon valley- where people are so desperate for the next best thing to invest in they don't do their homework until it's too late. Chilling.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:45 AM on March 27, 2019 [7 favorites]

I had the misfortune of being in contact with one of the people featured in the book (not Holmes, and unrelated to Theranos) for a couple years. To see the same foolishness and poor judgement I had to deal with exposed in a nationally best-selling book is really a type of high I hope all of you get to experience in life.
posted by sallybrown at 2:09 PM on March 27, 2019 [25 favorites]

I... sooooo want details but I have have a few suspicions as to who you are referring to, and if it is any of them I would COMPLETELY understand that no details should ever come.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:21 PM on March 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love this book and recommend it to everyone, even people who don't tend to like non-fiction because it reads so much like a novel. The audiobook is also great!

The book is full of stories of how Theranos used extremely aggressive legal tactics to try to ruin people's reputations and silence them, but I always came away feeling particularly bad about Tyler and his grandfather's relationship, which at the end of Bad Blood is has seemed to be at an end. I was happy to see that in the HBO documentary The Inventor that Tyler does report that they've reconciled - and he seems like a generally happy, centered person after all this has happened, which was a relief.
posted by odd ghost at 4:29 AM on March 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

There are so many movie-worthy bits in this book, like when Tyler was being dogged by lawyers and just wanted to talk to his grandfather and then THERE WERE LAWYERS IN THE HOUSE THE WHOLE TIME! Oh my god, it just kept getting more and more intense throughout, with people tailing whistleblowers, faked demonstrations, seemingly every person in our government just taken in by hand-wavy tactics of con artists....I can't recommend this book enough.
posted by xingcat at 5:56 AM on March 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

I read this last summer - each chapter was like a horror movie or a gothic novel - protagonist meets Holmes, starts working at the company, realizes that it's all a lie and tries to escape, with varying degrees of success.
posted by mogget at 11:37 AM on March 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

What’s astonishing about the whole affair is that as the book unfolds you can see at each point where someone could have stopped this- it’s like a horror film where you’re shouting at the screen for the soon to be dead protagonist to just do the logical thing- but none of them do, and the con went on and on...
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:52 PM on March 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

I read this last summer - each chapter was like a horror movie or a gothic novel - protagonist meets Holmes, starts working at the company, realizes that it's all a lie and tries to escape, with varying degrees of success.

I found the unfolding events absolutely infuriating because of a different set of repetitions. Seems every chapter features a freshly disillusioned employee doing their utmost to warn superiors of the nefarious things he or she has discovered. Only to be stopped in their tracks because once again the old, white, rich man on top is inexplicably smitten with Elizabeth Holmes. This must have happened something like 10 times. The military guy, all the investors, Walgreens, other business partners, the advertising agency was comical how often every potential denouement ended in the word „...smitten“.

They just...brushed off anything their employees - people whom they pay for their expertise - had to say, in favour of what I assume they see as their „instincts“. Or something.

I started reading this book to get a good hate on for Elizabeth Holmes. Now I‘m just looking in disbelief at a system that was completely turned on its head because E.H. managed to exploit its biggest weakness - the egos of the rich old men on top, that are allowed to overrule any and every safety precaution.

And they never have to feel the consequences, they never apologize to the employees they hurt, fired, demoted or the end consumers whose lives they endangered.

I‘m just spluttering with rage, here, that Theranos may be gone but the rich old men persist with impunity.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:18 PM on March 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

I am just about halfway through and it's absolutely compelling, even knowing how it ends. I'm not even minding doing a ton of laundry tonight, because it gives me more time to read.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:02 PM on March 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

What strikes me as absolutely insane is the fact that the main whistleblower has to spend $400,000 in legal fees for the public to learn the truth.

I don’t want to think about the abuses that are happening because whistleblowers can’t afford to stand up against David Boies or whatever lawyers the rich can throw at them.
posted by Monochrome at 3:43 PM on May 8, 2020

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