wholesale Bad high quality 2021 Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup online

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NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER •  NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY: NPR, The New York Times Book Review, Time, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post • The McKinsey Business Book of the Year
 
The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the one-time multibillion-dollar biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes—now the subject of the HBO documentary The Inventor—by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end.

“The story is even crazier than I expected, and I found myself unable to put it down once I started. This book has everything: elaborate scams, corporate intrigue, magazine cover stories, ruined family relationships, and the demise of a company once valued at nearly $10 billion.” —Bill Gates


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.

Amazon.com Review

In Bad Blood, the Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyrou takes us through the step-by-step history of Theranos, a Silicon Valley startup that became almost mythical, in no small part due to its young, charismatic founder Elizabeth Holmes. In fact, Theranos was mythical for a different reason, because the technological promise it was founded upon—that vital health information could be gleaned from a small drop of blood using handheld devices—was a lie. Carreyrou tracks the experiences of former employees to craft the fascinating story of a company run under a strict code of secrecy, a place where leadership was constantly throwing up smoke screens and making promises that it could not keep. Meanwhile, investors kept pouring in money, turning Elizabeth Holmes into a temporary billionaire. As companies like Walgreens and Safeway strike deals with Theranos, and as even the army tries to get in on the Theranos promise (there’s a brief cameo by James “Mad Dog” Mattis), the plot thickens and the proverbial noose grows tighter. Although I knew how the story ended, I found myself reading this book compulsively. – Chris Schluep

Review

" Bad Blood is the real be-all end-all of Theranos information…. Bad Blood is wild, and more happens on one page than in many other entire books."  —Margaret Lyons, The New York Times

"You will not want to put this riveting, masterfully reported book down. No matter how bad you think the Theranos story was, you''ll learn that the reality was actually far worse."
—Bethany McLean, bestselling coauthor of The Smartest Guys in the Room and All the Devils Are Here

"Chilling... Carreyrou tells [this story] virtually to perfection… Reads like a West Coast version of  All the President''s Men."
—Roger Lowenstein, The New York Times Book Review

"The definitive account of Theranos’s downfall, detailing its motley crew of executives, legal knife fights, dramatic PR stunts, and skullduggery... Offers a lot for foreign-policy wonks... While Bad Blood is worth reading for its own merits—it’s a stunning feat of journalism that reads like a thriller—it also says a lot about Washington’s facile relationship with Silicon Valley. Most D.C. power brokers know next to nothing about science or technology but increasingly view Silicon Valley tech as a deus ex machina for some of the world’s most complicated challenges. Bad Blood offers a sobering warning of where that type of thinking can lead."
—Robbie Gramer, Foreign Policy

"A great and at times almost unbelievable story of scandalous fraud, surveillance, and legal intimidation at the highest levels of American corporate power. . . . The story of Theranos may be the biggest case of corporate fraud since Enron. But it’s also the story of how a lot of powerful men were fooled by a remarkably brazen liar."
—Yashar Ali, New York Magazine

"Even if you didn’t follow the story of charismatic Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes (and the ensuing trainwreck) in the news, you will find yourself zipping through a book that proves once again that fact is stranger than fiction. A stunning look into a high-tech hoodwinking; like a high-speed car chase in a book."
—The New York Post''s "28 Most Unforgettable Books of 2018"

"In Bad Blood, acclaimed investigative journalist John Carreyrou, who broke the story in 2015, presents comprehensive evidence of the fraud perpetrated by Theranos chief executive Elizabeth Holmes... He unveils many dark secrets of Theranos that have not previously been laid bare…  The combination of these brave whistle-blowers, and a tenacious journalist who interviewed 150 people (including 60 former employees) makes for a veritable page-turner."
—Eric Topol, Nature

"Engrossing… Bad Blood boasts movie-scene detail… Theranos, Carreyrou writes, was a revolving door, as Holmes and Balwani fired anyone who voiced even tentative doubts… What’s frightening is how easy it is to imagine a different outcome, one in which the company’s blood-testing devices continued to proliferate. That the story played out as it did is a testament to the many individuals who spoke up, at great personal risk."
—Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, Science

"In exposing the fudged numbers, boardroom battles and sickening sums of money tossed Theranos’ way,  Bad Blood succeeds in highlighting Silicon Valley’s paradoxical blind spot. Insular corporate culture and benevolent media coverage have allowed a monster to grow in the Valley—one that gambles not just with our smart phones or our democracy, but with people’s lives.  Bad Blood reveals a crucial truth: outside observers must act as the eyes, the ears and, most importantly, the voice of Silicon Valley’s blind spot."
—B. David Zarley, Paste Magazine''s "16 Best Nonfiction Books of 2018"

"Carreyrou blends lucid descriptions of Theranos’s technology and its failures with a vivid portrait of its toxic culture and its supporters’ delusional boosterism. The result is a bracing cautionary tale about visionary entrepreneurship gone very wrong."
Publishers Weekly (Starred)

"Crime thriller authors have nothing on Carreyrou''s exquisite sense of suspenseful pacing and multifaceted character development in this riveting, read-in-one-sitting tour de force.... Carreyrou''s commitment to unraveling Holmes'' crimes was literally of life-saving value."
—Booklist  (Starred Review)

"Eye-opening... A vivid, cinematic portrayal of serpentine Silicon Valley corruption... A deep investigative report on the sensationalistic downfall of multibillion-dollar Silicon Valley biotech startup Theranos. Basing his findings on hundreds of interviews with people inside and outside the company, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning  Wall Street Journal reporter Carreyrou rigorously examines the seamy details behind the demise of Theranos and its creator, Elizabeth Holmes… [Carreyrou] brilliantly captures the interpersonal melodrama, hidden agendas, gross misrepresentations, nepotism, and a host of delusions and lies that further fractured the company’s reputation and halted its rise."
Kirkus

About the Author

JOHN CARREYROU is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal. For his extensive coverage of Theranos, Carreyrou was awarded the George Polk Award for Financial Reporting, the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism in the category of beat reporting, and the Barlett & Steele Silver Award for Investigative Business Journalism. Carreyrou lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue

November 17, 2006


Tim Kemp had good news for his team.

The former IBM executive was in charge of bioinformatics at Theranos, a startup with a cutting-edge blood-testing system. The company had just completed its first big live demonstration for a pharmaceutical company. Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’s twenty-two-year-old founder, had flown to Switzerland and shown off the system’s capabilities to executives at Novartis, the European drug giant.

“Elizabeth called me this morning,” Kemp wrote in an email to his fifteen-person team. “She expressed her thanks and said that, ‘it was perfect!’ She specifically asked me to thank you and let you all know her appreciation. She additionally mentioned that Novartis was so impressed that they have asked for a proposal and have expressed interest in a financial arrangement for a project. We did what we came to do!”

This was a pivotal moment for Theranos. The three-year-old startup had progressed from an ambitious idea Holmes had dreamed up in her Stanford dorm room to an actual product a huge multinational corporation was interested in using.

Word of the demo’s success made its way upstairs to the second floor, where senior executives’ offices were located.

One of those executives was Henry Mosley, Theranos’s chief financial officer. Mosley had joined Theranos eight months earlier, in March 2006. A rumpled dresser with piercing green eyes and a laid-back personality, he was a veteran of Silicon Valley’s technology scene. After growing up in the Washington, D.C. area and getting his MBA at the University of Utah, he’d come out to California in the late 1970s and never left. His first job was at chipmaker Intel, one of the Valley’s pioneers. He’d later gone on to run the finance departments of four different tech companies, taking two of them public. Theranos was far from his first rodeo.

What had drawn Mosley to Theranos was the talent and experience gathered around Elizabeth. She might be young, but she was surrounded by an all-star cast. The chairman of her board was Donald L. Lucas, the venture capitalist who had groomed billionaire software entrepreneur Larry Ellison and helped him take Oracle Corporation public in the mid-1980s. Lucas and Ellison had both put some of their own money into Theranos.

Another board member with a sterling reputation was Channing Robertson, the associate dean of Stanford’s School of Engineering. Robertson was one of the stars of the Stanford faculty. His expert testimony about the addictive properties of cigarettes had forced the tobacco industry to enter into a landmark $6.5 billion settlement with the state of Minnesota in the late 1990s. Based on the few interactions Mosley had had with him, it was clear Robertson thought the world of Elizabeth.

Theranos also had a strong management team. Kemp had spent thirty years at IBM. Diane Parks, Theranos’s chief commercial officer, had twenty-five years of experience at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. John Howard, the senior vice president for products, had overseen Panasonic’s chip-making subsidiary. It wasn’t often that you found executives of that caliber at a small startup.

It wasn’t just the board and the executive team that had sold Mosley on Theranos, though. The market it was going after was huge. Pharmaceutical companies spent tens of billions of dollars on clinical trials to test new drugs each year. If Theranos could make itself indispensable to them and capture a fraction of that spending, it could make a killing.

Elizabeth had asked him to put together some financial projections she could show investors. The first set of numbers he’d come up with hadn’t been to her liking, so he’d revised them upward. He was a little uncomfortable with the revised numbers, but he figured they were in the realm of the plausible if the company executed perfectly. Besides, the venture capitalists startups courted for funding knew that startup founders overstated these forecasts. It was part of the game. VCs even had a term for it: the hockey-stick forecast. It showed revenue stagnating for a few years and then magically shooting up in a straight line.

The one thing Mosley wasn’t sure he completely understood was how the Theranos technology worked. When prospective investors came by, he took them to see Shaunak Roy, Theranos’s cofounder. Shaunak had a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. He and Elizabeth had worked together in Robertson’s research lab at Stanford.

Shaunak would prick his finger and milk a few drops of blood from it. Then he would transfer the blood to a white plastic cartridge the size of a credit card. The cartridge would slot into a rectangular box the size of a toaster. The box was called a reader. It extracted a data signal from the cartridge and beamed it wirelessly to a server that analyzed the data and beamed back a result. That was the gist of it.

When Shaunak demonstrated the system to investors, he pointed them to a computer screen that showed the blood flowing through the cartridge inside the reader. Mosley didn’t really grasp the physics or chemistries at play. But that wasn’t his role. He was the finance guy. As long as the system showed a result, he was happy. And it always did.

***

Elizabeth was back from Switzerland a few days later. She sauntered around with a smile on her face, more evidence that the trip had gone well, Mosley figured. Not that that was unusual. Elizabeth was often upbeat. She had an entrepreneur’s boundless optimism. She liked to use the term “ extra-ordinary,” with “extra” written in italics and a hyphen for emphasis, to describe the Theranos mission in her emails to staff. It was a bit over the top, but she seemed sincere and Mosley knew that evangelizing was what successful startup founders did in Silicon Valley. You didn’t change the world by being cynical.

What was odd, though, was that the handful of colleagues who’d accompanied Elizabeth on the trip didn’t seem to share her enthusiasm. Some of them looked outright downcast.

Did someone’s puppy get run over? Mosley wondered half jokingly. He wandered downstairs, where most of the company’s sixty employees sat in clusters of cubicles, and looked for Shaunak. Surely Shaunak would know if there was any problem he hadn’t been told about.

At first, Shaunak professed not to know anything. But Mosley sensed he was holding back and kept pressing him. Shaunak gradually let down his guard and allowed that the Theranos 1.0, as Elizabeth had christened the blood-testing system, didn’t always work. It was kind of a crapshoot, actually, he said. Sometimes you could coax a result from it and sometimes you couldn’t.

This was news to Mosley. He thought the system was reliable. Didn’t it always seem to work when investors came to view it?

Well, there was a reason it always seemed to work, Shaunak said. The image on the computer screen showing the blood flowing through the cartridge and settling into the little wells was real. But you never knew whether you were going to get a result or not. So they’d recorded a result from one of the times it worked. It was that recorded result that was displayed at the end of each demo.

Mosley was stunned. He thought the results were extracted in real time from the blood inside the cartridge. That was certainly what the investors he brought by were led to believe. What Shaunak had just described sounded like a sham. It was OK to be optimistic and aspirational when you pitched investors, but there was a line not to cross. And this, in Mosley’s view, crossed it.

So, what exactly had happened with Novartis? Mosley couldn’t get a straight answer from anyone, but he now suspected some similar sleight of hand. And he was right. One of the two readers Elizabeth took to Switzerland had malfunctioned when they got there. The employees she brought with her had stayed up all night trying to get it to work. To mask the problem during the demo the next morning, Tim Kemp’s team in California had beamed over a fake result.

***

Mosley had a weekly meeting with Elizabeth scheduled for that afternoon. When he entered her office, he was immediately reminded of her charisma. She had the presence of someone much older than she was. The way she trained her big blue eyes on you without blinking made you feel like the center of the world. It was almost hypnotic. Her voice added to the mesmerizing effect: she spoke in an unusually deep baritone.

Mosley decided to let the meeting run its natural course before bringing up his concerns. Theranos had just closed its third round of funding. By any measure, it was a resounding success: the company had raised another $32 million from investors, on top of the $15 million raised in its first two funding rounds. The most impressive number was its new valuation: one hundred and sixty-five million dollars. There weren’t many three-year-old startups that could say they were worth that much.

One big reason for the rich valuation was the agreements Theranos told investors it had reached with pharmaceutical partners. A slide deck listed six deals with five companies that would generate revenues of $120 million to $300 million over the next eighteen months. It listed another fifteen deals under negotiation. If those came to fruition, revenues could eventually reach $1.5 billion, according to the PowerPoint presentation.

The pharmaceutical companies were going to use Theranos’s blood-testing system to monitor patients’ response to new drugs. The cartridges and readers would be placed in patients’ homes during clinical trials. Patients would prick their fingers several times a day and the readers would beam their blood-test results to the trial’s sponsor. If the results indicated a bad reaction to the drug, the drug’s maker would be able to lower the dosage immediately rather than wait until the end of the trial. This would reduce pharmaceutical companies’ research costs by as much as 30 percent. Or so the slide deck said.

Mosley’s unease with all these claims had grown since that morning’s discovery. For one thing, in his eight months at Theranos, he’d never laid eyes on the pharmaceutical contracts. Every time he inquired about them, he was told they were “under legal review.” More important, he’d agreed to those ambitious revenue forecasts because he thought the Theranos system worked reliably.

If Elizabeth shared any of these misgivings, she showed no signs of it. She was the picture of a relaxed and happy leader. The new valuation, in particular, was a source of great pride. New directors might join the board to reflect the growing roster of investors, she told him.

Mosley saw an opening to broach the trip to Switzerland and the office rumors that something had gone wrong. When he did, Elizabeth admitted that there had been a problem, but she shrugged it off. It would easily be fixed, she said.

Mosley was dubious given what he now knew. He brought up what Shaunak had told him about the investor demos. They should stop doing them if they weren’t completely real, he said. “We’ve been fooling investors. We can’t keep doing that.”

Elizabeth’s expression suddenly changed. Her cheerful demeanor of just moments ago vanished and gave way to a mask of hostility. It was like a switch had been flipped. She leveled a cold stare at her chief financial officer.

“Henry, you’re not a team player,” she said in an icy tone. “I think you should leave right now.”

There was no mistaking what had just happened. Elizabeth wasn’t merely asking him to get out of her office. She was telling him to leave the company—immediately. Mosley had just been fired.

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Top reviews from the United States

DB Cooper
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Impossibly too good to be true
Reviewed in the United States on May 21, 2018
This is an impeccably researched and referenced account of the Theranos saga. As a long-time observer and sometime competitor of Theranos I watched this tale unfold whilst working at a couple of established IVD companies. Everyone I knew who had ever developed an assay or... See more
This is an impeccably researched and referenced account of the Theranos saga. As a long-time observer and sometime competitor of Theranos I watched this tale unfold whilst working at a couple of established IVD companies. Everyone I knew who had ever developed an assay or instrument knew this was smoke and mirrors, impossibly too good to be true. What I never suspected was just how personally dishonest EH had been, and for how long the complex deception was maintained. Whilst I''ve met a few egregious individuals working for big companies, there are enough checks and balances (QA/RA, Med/Sci Affairs, CLSs and other professionals etc) in place to stop harmful devices getting out the door.

The subject matter - developing devices and assays - is a complex dry topic, difficult to write engagingly about. But JC does a workmanlike job and I read this in one go after its midnight Kindle release. My only nit to pick is the poor editing: there are so many uses of ''....named....'' as in ''an engineer named John Smith'' or ''a restaurant named Joe''s Bar'' that it got irritating. Find/replace ''named'' with a comma would have worked fine in most cases. The text was also repetitive - eg ''...an award named after Channing...'' gets at least 2 mentions. But not enough to lose a star.

Kudos to the good people at Theranos who had the courage to get the story out and for JCs persistence into a headwind of legalistic intimidation. I''ve heard Theranos is now a case-study for MBA students: this book should be required reading for anyone thinking about ''disrupting'' the medical devices industry. There are lives at stake.
815 people found this helpful
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Todd Adams
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fascinating, horrifying, and richly detailed account of corporate ambition gone awry.
Reviewed in the United States on May 22, 2018
I started this book and could not put it down. It''s a horrifying true story of a driven entrepreneur whose only overriding goal was to become insanely rich. And she would do anything, any unimagineable thing, to get there. Elizabeth Holmes leveraged her... See more
I started this book and could not put it down. It''s a horrifying true story of a driven entrepreneur whose only overriding goal was to become insanely rich. And she would do anything, any unimagineable thing, to get there.

Elizabeth Holmes leveraged her family''s high profile connections to draw in early investors and supporters, who were not very inquisitive on details, nor very skeptical in nature. Drawing on the good name and reputation of these early supporters, she was able to build an impressive roster of other supporters with stellar reputations in tech and venture capital circles. From there, it was just a matter of stage managing the house of cards she was building.

Holmes crafted a Potemkin village that had fooled investors, customers, and visiting dignitaries. Her product demonstrations were outright theater, staged managed illusions worthy of David Copperfield. Theranos employees in on the ruse were assured it was just temporary, until the actual product could be perfected and the results repeatable. That day would never come. Those on the outside who also worked in this field had well founded and grave doubts about how Theranos could be touting a product that seemingly defied both logic and physics. Their suspicions, proven to be correct, was that it was too good to be true.

Without a trace of guilt or regret, she induced powerful tech workers to leave lucrative careers at other major tech firms, giving up millions in stock options, to come work for Theranos, surely knowing the whole thing would collapse one day. When skeptical board members asked to see data affirming the effectiveness of their product, Holmes would defer, saying those papers were in perpetual legal review. Some employees, when they were no longer useful to her, or deemed disloyal, were immediately and unceremoniously marched out.

This is a real life thriller, the story of someone who is a true diabolical movie villain. Holmes is portrayed vividly as a paranoid sociopath who could also be disarming, charmingly manipulative, utterly ruthless and devoid of conscience. This is a tale of corporate greed and lack of regulatory oversight gone all awry.
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carilynp
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I wish I could give this book 10 stars
Reviewed in the United States on May 27, 2018
It takes a mighty strong person and an incredible investigative journalist to take down a multibillion company lead by a CEO and her partner who are doing nothing but telling lies, mistreating their employees, taking millions of dollars under false pretenses from Fortune... See more
It takes a mighty strong person and an incredible investigative journalist to take down a multibillion company lead by a CEO and her partner who are doing nothing but telling lies, mistreating their employees, taking millions of dollars under false pretenses from Fortune 500 businesses and wealthy investors, betraying their esteemed board members, and worst and most harmful of all, putting the lives of their end customers in serious jeopardy because the technology that they claim to have engineered does not exist nor has it been FDA approved or tested. This is John Carreyrou’s BAD BLOOD: SECRETS AND LIES IN A SILICON VALLEY STARTUP. Carreyrou went to monumental lengths over the course of several years, with the help of named and unnamed sources who worked or were connected to Theranos, the company, which claimed to have created a blood-testing device that with ‘one drop of blood’ could obtain hundreds of test results thus saving lives. Not only were their little machines ineffective but they were doing no such thing. Meaning, they could not provide accurate test results because they were not even obtaining them. Rather, they were using commercial analyzers in their place. At the helm was Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford drop-out who had a brilliant idea, but it was never brought to fruition. She simply leads people to believe it was with her charm. A lot of people.
It is staggering how many people she swayed. We’re not just talking about a co-worker or two but former heads of state, who later joined her board, people who amassed fortunes in the billions who were willing to loan Theranos money, major corporations including Walgreens and Safeway who wanted to get in on the ground floor, and many more. It is equally astonishing how so many smart, successful people were not taken aback by her freakish obsession with imitating Steve Jobs. Perhaps, they chalked this up to her eccentricity.
It took courage for people to come forward. They were threatened with lawsuits that could bankrupt them ten times over, by one of the leading and most intimidating litigators in the country. Carreyrou, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, who has been with The Wall Street Journal for almost 10 years, had the support of his editor, newspaper, and its attorneys. He never thought for a minute to back down. The result – a series of articles in the paper that exposed Theranos and Holmes for the fraud they committed.
It is dumbfounding to read BAD BLOOD and to think that Holmes and her number two in command, Sunny Balwani, also her romantic partner, which was kept secret, got away with so much for so long, and even when finally confronted and their hands were forced, they still would not admit fault. Is Holmes a criminal? Is she delusional?
What I do know is that you will not be able to put this book down.
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Ramesh G
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
For Nature cannot Be Fooled
Reviewed in the United States on February 6, 2019
This was twice as thick as it needed to be, and left out half the story that mattered, instead endlessly repeating the conclusion that was obvious from the outset. Yes, Elizabeth Holmes, a 20-something college drop-out, managed to fool not only investors, but... See more
This was twice as thick as it needed to be, and left out half the story that mattered, instead endlessly repeating the conclusion that was obvious from the outset.

Yes, Elizabeth Holmes, a 20-something college drop-out, managed to fool not only investors, but Secretaries of State and Defense - Kissinger to George Shultz to Jim Mattis - that she, with her ''bright blue eyes'' was another Steve Jobs
- to do for blood tests, what he had done with the iPhone.
wtf?! you mean to say that she fooled all Federal regulators for 10 years (!), thanks to help from a crooked boyfriend, and lawyer thugs like the famed David Boies (Bush v. Gore) to intimidate any competitors or scrutiny!
Didnt you read about the ''blue eyes'' already!?
Sorry, but when we read about why a technology failed, even through the eyes of Wall Street Journalist ( top boss = Rupert Murdoch of the esteemed Fox News), we need dont need just a repetitive listing of how human organizations failed, or were fooled by a charlatan
The idea was supported by a famed Stanford chemistry professor after all, so we need an technical analysis of why the technology did not work.
The Titanic was built to be unsinkable, with a series of flood isolating compartments, but not only an icerberg, but an iceberg striking it at the critical pattern to cause flooding in the front, building up water pressure, to pop sealing rivets, caused water to pour from compartment to compartment, front to back, so that the ships designer, on board, realized that it would sink eventually as ''a mathematical certainty''
this is where Carreyrou is underwhelming, he keeps recounting all the bullying, the thieving, the hiding, the thuggery , while saying nothing of why, for over 10 years, some very smart people, in this age of technology, did not ask for the data that would support ''blue eyes'' extraordinary claim that over 200 blood tests could be done on a few drops of blood.
Company I used to work for, Intel, was famously ''data driven''. You have to be in the modern age - else your customer will find out your product sucks, your revenue will be less than your expenses, and then your investors will know where to find you!
Bad Blood explains nothing of why this never happened, in 10 years, not only with Kissinger, but Stanford chemistry professors. Shultz may be excused - he didnt know the Soviet Union was going to collapse, until it actually did!
As Richard Feynman explained at the review of the Challenger Shuttle disaster ''Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be Fooled''
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Vincent Adultman
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Must read
Reviewed in the United States on June 16, 2018
I was suspicious of the 4.9/5 Amazon reviews--seems way too high for a long-form recount of stories I''ve already read in the WSJ over the past few years. The $14 Kindle price also seemed a tad steep. That said, I stayed up past midnight to finish reading it, and promptly... See more
I was suspicious of the 4.9/5 Amazon reviews--seems way too high for a long-form recount of stories I''ve already read in the WSJ over the past few years. The $14 Kindle price also seemed a tad steep. That said, I stayed up past midnight to finish reading it, and promptly made full recommendations to two friends. This may be the best book I''ve read this year. Incredible story--as in, it''s actually difficult to believe how a scam its scale could be pulled off for so long.

Kudos to the author, kudos to the brave former Theranos employees who came forward, and kudos to Murdoch for not squelching the story at WSJ despite risking $125m of his own investment.

Shame on Holmes, shame on "Sunny", shame on Secretary Shultz for estranging his courageous grandson, and shame on the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner for employing dirty handed tricks to coerce witnesses.
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Leslie Bialler
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The tale of the naked empress
Reviewed in the United States on May 25, 2018
The first time I saw her was in the New York Times monthly “T” magazine. She was a young blonde with big blue eyes clad in black. I poured myself another drink and checked out the article on her. Turned out she was one of those Silicon Valley bright young... See more
The first time I saw her was in the New York Times monthly “T” magazine. She was a young blonde with big blue eyes clad in black. I poured myself another drink and checked out the article on her.

Turned out she was one of those Silicon Valley bright young things--name of Elizabeth Holmes, and she was supposed to be “one of the five visionary tech entrepreneurs who is changing the world.” Her game had something to do with blood tests. Seemed she’d started one of those companies that “disrupt” business. Companies they call Unicorns that start up with over a billion and hope to sucker the average Joe into buying stock in them. I admit this one made sense to me--blood tests are big business, and this Holmes seemed to have found a way to run blood tests for multiple conditions on one device, and simply by taking blood with a finger prick. No more needles in the vein.

I’ll level with you. I didn’t see how it was at all possible, but this was the mid teens, and I was just getting used to putting my credit card in a slot in the machine instead of swiping it through. Always something new, right?

So I mentally tipped my hat to her and went on with my life. And then faster than Aaron Judge can loft one out of the park, the Times issued a correction. There was some question about whether her technology worked at all. And before I could even bundle up the print magazine for recycling she had been disappeared from the web version. So now I repegged her as a grifter and thought no more about her until I read . . .

---

“Bad Blood.” John Carreyrou is the reporter who had written the Wall Street Journal article that took down the Empress of Silicon Valley. He takes you through the story and paces it like a film noir suspense tale. You know the kind--the one where you know who the bad guys are from the starter’s gun and you wait to see how they get caught. He begins in the middle with one of Holmes’s signature firings. She would abruptly fire anyone who began to catch on and/or didn’t show enough adoration. Then he takes you quickly through her early years (she dropped out of Stanford to start working on her invention--a portable blood-testing machine that never did work properly) and on to the founding of her company. He describes her blue eyed unblinking stare, her unusually deep voice (that, too, seems to have been put on), and those black turtlenecks that came from her adoration of Steve Jobs.

This Elizabeth, too, had a Raleigh--but she made the mistake the Virgin Queen never did: this dude was her lover, too. And she made him #2 in her company. Nearly all saw through him, and feared him. Together they made the mistake of not letting employees in the various departments communicate with those in other departments, which made research and development complicated more than somewhat (yes, they did actually try to create this portable blood test machine the big con started only when they realized they couldn’t do it).

With charm, guile, promises, and an impressive board (Secretary of Defense Mattis and Henry Kissinger were once on it) that had no voting power she had secured contracts from Safeway and Walgreens for walk-in wellness clinics, and kept getting investors to hand money over to her. She finally went public. So Holmes had to produce . . . something. But she couldn’t. And with that, the whole thing started to unravel. Some of the people she hired realized the tests weren’t working--healthy patients tested positive for conditions they didn’t have. Or vice versa.

And they ratted her out . . . to Carreyrou, who exposed her in The Wall Street Journal. At that point, at about the two-thirds mark, the author, previously writing in third-person omniscient, takes over the narration in the first person as the con comes crashing down.

Even though you know how it turned out, it’s all very suspenseful, filled with people departing the company escorted by armed guards, lawyers practiced in the arts of intimidation who’ve been given more power than perhaps they deserve, and a few people with the courage to expose fraud--fraud that could have harmed people.

In the epilogue Carreyrou wonders if Holmes “fits the clinical profile” of a sociopath, but states he will “leave it to the psychologists to decide.” Then while conceding that “she had a vision she genuinely believed in,” he adds that “there’s no question that her moral compass was badly askew.” He concludes: “Her ambition was voracious and it brooked no interference. If there was collateral damage on her way to riches and fame, so be it.”

---

NOTES AND ASIDES: Per IMDb: A film version based on this book is “in development.” Adam McKay (“The Big Short”) will direct. I’m sure you will easily guess who will be playing Holmes.
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Elizabeth M. Rogers
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Impossible Revealed
Reviewed in the United States on May 21, 2018
Very interesting read about the fraud that is Elizabeth Holmes. For those of us in the clinical lab industry, we knew that all the tests she claimed could be performed accurately and less expensive from a capillary sample was just simply not true. It was just a matter of... See more
Very interesting read about the fraud that is Elizabeth Holmes. For those of us in the clinical lab industry, we knew that all the tests she claimed could be performed accurately and less expensive from a capillary sample was just simply not true. It was just a matter of time for the truth about her and the impossibility of what she claimed, to finally be revealed. Great investigative reporting John Carryrou!
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bigheadted
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent Read, but It Ain''t Over Yet
Reviewed in the United States on June 28, 2018
A unicorn in the investment world is a startup with a massive valuation, which always felt like an insult to entrepreneurs building very real products and services. A unicorn, in the rest of the world, is a mythical creature that doesn''t existed so I guess they finally got... See more
A unicorn in the investment world is a startup with a massive valuation, which always felt like an insult to entrepreneurs building very real products and services. A unicorn, in the rest of the world, is a mythical creature that doesn''t existed so I guess they finally got it right when Theranos was called a unicorn. Like Ringling Brothers, they strapped a horn on a goat and marketed it as a real thing. And everyone bought it.

Bad Blood was a fast and exciting read, and relatively easy, worth mentioning because there''s a reasonable amount of science in there. As everyone surely knows, this is the story of a company that lied and the idiots who believed them to the tune of billions of dollars. But ultimately, it''s a book about incompetence, and just how many people in this world are completely incompetent and unqualified to do their jobs. At least we can take comfort that investigative journalists are fairly competent and can reveal the incompetence of others. Theranos should never have gotten as far as they did and was only able to do so because of negligence all around.

And while I appreciate that I got to read the details of this insane story at this point in time, we''ll need a sequel in a few years once the dust settles. This case is still ongoing and therefore the ending is still open, which made the end of this book feel somewhat unsatisfactory. I am especially interested to learn how the good people in this story, the ones with sense and ethics, ended up. I want to know if Rochelle sued Holmes'' turtleneck off. I want to know who was behind the surveillance. I want to know what excuses the failed Board members have come up with. I want to know what excuses the VCs came up with. And I want Holmes and Sunny to get what''s coming to them.

Commentary:
Most non-fiction books are actually about incompetence. True crime, history, war, these books are filled with people who should never have been given the jobs they have, and Bad Blood is no exception. Obviously the leadership of Theranos were abject failures. Their Board of Directors were a bunch of doddering, dotty seniors who led a company that has a technology they never understood, and who completely failed in their duty to manage and monitor their CEO on behalf of their shareholders. The Venture Capitalists did not perform sufficient due diligence nor did they properly monitor their portfolio. We know they were too busy drooling over the valuation and pre-counting their investment carry to bother to look into the lies. Have you ever met a finance guy who is a blood science expert? In 20 years in finance, I have never met one, and yet investors believed them when they say a blood testing technology works without a shred of evidence. So the investors failed as well, and continue to fail by giving them a pass on their negligence. The regulators were also a bit incompetent, though I suspect their SOPs prevent them from being as effective as they can be. Nor should regulators be susceptible to pressure from politically connected investors and Board Members, but they are. US military leadership, including Sensible Dog Mattis formerly known as Mad Dog Mattis, also proved themselves to be incompetent and biased to the extent that they''re willing to put our soldiers'' health at risk. Theranos''s corporate partners, who stuck with Theranos after years of continuous failure to deliver on their promises, were hilariously incompetent. I am very grateful that the states, and not the idiot pharmacies, set the standards for patient care in their stores. Anyone still in favor of deregulating the medical field and taking power away from the FDA should exclusively use Theranos testing devices for their family''s health decisions.

The most inspiring characters in this book were the youngsters like Erika and Tyler, who came out of college with a strong sense of personal ethics that they refused to give up, regardless of what the "grownups" told them to do. Tyler stood strong even as his own grandfather, Secretary of State George Schultz, tried to muscle him with lawyers, but Tyler showed grandpa what honor looks like. I''d hire those kids in a NY minute just based on their conviction, and I hope neither this experience nor any other breaks down their will and sense of right and wrong.

Will Silicon Valley and venture capital learn from this mistake? Nope! The fact is that they''re still showing returns to their investors who do not care how the money is earned, as long as there are no legal or tax ramifications. But I am especially interested to how pensioners feel about VCs using CalPERS funds to invest in scams like Theranos, since the risk is much greater for them than your average venture investor. Remember Moral Hazard? Silicon Valley doesn''t.
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Top reviews from other countries

Natalia Rice
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The best read of the season; the author deserves an award.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 2, 2018
Drop everything you''re doing and start reading it. It''s an utterly engaging mix of genres - investigative journalism, psychology (at times psychiatry), organisational behaviour, business & science reporting, and a story of worst and best of the humankind. I''ve cancelled...See more
Drop everything you''re doing and start reading it. It''s an utterly engaging mix of genres - investigative journalism, psychology (at times psychiatry), organisational behaviour, business & science reporting, and a story of worst and best of the humankind. I''ve cancelled meetings and events, delayed going to bed just to keep reading this book - the story is almost surreal, and it''s hard to believe it really happened, and yet it did. I''d like to compliment the author. The depth of the investigation is extraordinary; but most importantly, the narration is done in this perfect documentary style when even the most chilling events are described with high precision but without falling into emotional judgement. I also would like to say a big thank you to all the sources and contributors who made this book possible. You''re very brave people; I applaud your courage and ethics.
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David
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
If something sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 3, 2019
I missed this book when it launched, but Alex Gibney''s excellent 2019 HBO doucmentry ''The Inventor: Out for blood in Silicon Valley'' prompted my purchase. Carryrou''s book covers three and a half years of investigation into Theranos, its founder Elizabeth Holmes and her...See more
I missed this book when it launched, but Alex Gibney''s excellent 2019 HBO doucmentry ''The Inventor: Out for blood in Silicon Valley'' prompted my purchase. Carryrou''s book covers three and a half years of investigation into Theranos, its founder Elizabeth Holmes and her meteoric rise and spectacular fall in the obsessive pursuit of a dream. Its a fascinating read and Carryrou uses his research to tell the story from the beginning. The story of his investigations as a Wall Street Journal reporter follows the cronological order of events and is documented towards the end of the book. Essentially, Elizabeth Holmes developed a start-up in Silicon Valley where she attempted to develop a device which could provide multiple blood test analyses for a range of conditions and diseases in a box not much larger that a large bread-bin. For the user only a small pinprick of blood was required to complete all these tests. This would be a game changer. Some day, every home could have one and for a small charge could carry out blood tests and have them analysed almost immediately, providing early warning of developing conditions. What''s not to like? Nothing it seemed. What makes this book so fascinating, as well as the central characters and story, are the themes it explores such as: Greed and denial The historty of Silicon Valley start-ups is one where investors always try and get in at the beginning of potentially novel ideas and make a killing. Think Google, Facebook and Uber. Two things drive this. The idea and the confidence/ expertise/drive of those taking it forward. In the case of Theranos Elizabeth Holmes force of personality outweighed any doubts about the concept or the execution. However at the time she started Theranos, she was 19 and a Stanford dropout with no experience in blood testing whatsoever, beyond a grand idea and good connections. Holmes exerted an almost Svengali like hold of the people in her orbit. This is partly to do with her physical appearance. Tall; striking blue unblinking eyes; dessed in black turtle necks (a la Steve Jobs) and speaking in a baritone voice. Supremely confident in both her idea and herself she managed to persuade and recruit a Board of former ex- Government Cabinet members; a 4 star General (Jim Mattis of Trump fame) and big name investors, who blinded by either the promise of the idea or the money to be made from it, were sufficiently incurous as to seek the detail of how this invention actually worked. People and organisations such as Walgreens were happy to put hundreds of millions of dollars investment into Theranos without demanding independent expert due diligence of the product. At the time of Theranos''s demise it was valued as a private company at $9bn, with Holmes''s share of that valuation at $4.5. Up to that point no investor in Theranos had seen the inner working of the product or questioned the fabulous claims made for it. Neither had any member of her company Board. Secrecy and lies Holmes and her senior executive partner were secretive to the point of paranoia over their idea. Two reasons for this. First they were genuinely concerned about their ideas being stolen, but as time went on and they could not get their invention to work the secrecy hid a raft of corner cutting, false promises and outright lies as to how the equipment was performing. Only those in Theranos working on the project could see how far from the truth the claimes Holmes made for the product and its readiness to market actually were. Some turned a blind eye while those with professional or ethical concerns were either fired or left, all under rigourous confidentiality clauses. This secrecy coupled with an agressive management style also stifiled the creative initiative of the Theranos team. Knowledge was power and developers were deliberately siloed to ensure they only worked on their own area so the ability to share thinking across the firm was severly limited. Weaponising the law What I found perhaps most shocking of all is the way the agressive use of the threat of litigation is used to force compliance, especially against those who cannot financially afford to fight their corner. The lawyers who command the most fees are the legal pit bulls of the industry. Holmes spares no expense in protecting her secrets and covering her lies with the determined use of agressive legal firms and the threats of legal action to force whistleblowers to keep silent. This extends to Carryrou as well. Of the $900m raised by Holmes in her third funding round, $300m went on lawyers fees! Regulatory incuriousity The FDA and other regulators seemed broadly incurious about the claims for this machine and remained so until things started to go badly wrong when what was essentially an idea at prototype stage went live to the public. The degree to which private companies can avoid such scrutiny is alarming. The debate is still ongoing as to whether Holmes deliberately misled or had sociopathic tendencies. The story is not over. She is now charged with alleged Federal and SEC crimes which carry up to 20 years in prison. I highly recommend this book, which I think will become a textbook on leadership, governance failure and greed.I also recommend Gibney''s HBO documentary which brings to life the people and events in the book, not least Elizabeth Holmes herself. It also adds visual detail on the development of the blood testing device in the way Carryrou''s book can not. Hope this is helpful.
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CPJ
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
One of the best written books I have read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 27, 2018
This has to be one of the best written books I have read, the style of writing is clear and concise, not overly complex or long winded as often happens with such complex business story. The flow of the writing and story telling is also excellent, it’s an extremely...See more
This has to be one of the best written books I have read, the style of writing is clear and concise, not overly complex or long winded as often happens with such complex business story. The flow of the writing and story telling is also excellent, it’s an extremely comfortable and enjoyable read. Given how we’ll this book is written I possibly would have enjoyed it even if it had not covered such a interesting topic. This story is fascinating, having worked in the software and technology industry for many year, this book rings true, its always shocking to see how unwilling people are to ask the hard question and speak up, even when its clear something is clear wrong within a company. It’s a modern day emperor''s new clothes, where even big name software and investment entrepreneur can’t see the woods for the trees.
19 people found this helpful
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Denise
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The author deserves a gazillion awards
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 8, 2018
At a time when trust in media is at an all time low in the US, this book reminds us why investigative journalism is still needed to help ordinary people cut through the bullsh*t and see things for what they actually are. This book, which is not only well written and...See more
At a time when trust in media is at an all time low in the US, this book reminds us why investigative journalism is still needed to help ordinary people cut through the bullsh*t and see things for what they actually are. This book, which is not only well written and gripping from chapter to chapter, does a brilliant job of showing rather than telling. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to avoid being bewitched by shiny things and big promises. What a great read. Now that I''m done, everything else seems to pale in comparison!
20 people found this helpful
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Doalch
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 6, 2018
Read this in three days, couldn''t put it down. If this was a work of fiction it''d be hard to believe, yet it''s fact. The emperor''s new clothes on steroids being funded by some of the biggest players in the US and fueled by a complete web of lies, deceit and some seriously...See more
Read this in three days, couldn''t put it down. If this was a work of fiction it''d be hard to believe, yet it''s fact. The emperor''s new clothes on steroids being funded by some of the biggest players in the US and fueled by a complete web of lies, deceit and some seriously shady business practices. Easily a five star, definitely a must read. Can''t wait to see the film.
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An Amazon Top Ten Book of the Month Pick




Description

Product Description

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER •  NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY: NPR, The New York Times Book Review, Time, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post • The McKinsey Business Book of the Year
 
The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the one-time multibillion-dollar biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes—now the subject of the HBO documentary The Inventor—by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end.

“The story is even crazier than I expected, and I found myself unable to put it down once I started. This book has everything: elaborate scams, corporate intrigue, magazine cover stories, ruined family relationships, and the demise of a company once valued at nearly $10 billion.” —Bill Gates


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.

Amazon.com Review

In Bad Blood, the Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyrou takes us through the step-by-step history of Theranos, a Silicon Valley startup that became almost mythical, in no small part due to its young, charismatic founder Elizabeth Holmes. In fact, Theranos was mythical for a different reason, because the technological promise it was founded upon—that vital health information could be gleaned from a small drop of blood using handheld devices—was a lie. Carreyrou tracks the experiences of former employees to craft the fascinating story of a company run under a strict code of secrecy, a place where leadership was constantly throwing up smoke screens and making promises that it could not keep. Meanwhile, investors kept pouring in money, turning Elizabeth Holmes into a temporary billionaire. As companies like Walgreens and Safeway strike deals with Theranos, and as even the army tries to get in on the Theranos promise (there’s a brief cameo by James “Mad Dog” Mattis), the plot thickens and the proverbial noose grows tighter. Although I knew how the story ended, I found myself reading this book compulsively. – Chris Schluep

Review

" Bad Blood is the real be-all end-all of Theranos information…. Bad Blood is wild, and more happens on one page than in many other entire books."  —Margaret Lyons, The New York Times

"You will not want to put this riveting, masterfully reported book down. No matter how bad you think the Theranos story was, you''ll learn that the reality was actually far worse."
—Bethany McLean, bestselling coauthor of The Smartest Guys in the Room and All the Devils Are Here

"Chilling... Carreyrou tells [this story] virtually to perfection… Reads like a West Coast version of  All the President''s Men."
—Roger Lowenstein, The New York Times Book Review

"The definitive account of Theranos’s downfall, detailing its motley crew of executives, legal knife fights, dramatic PR stunts, and skullduggery... Offers a lot for foreign-policy wonks... While Bad Blood is worth reading for its own merits—it’s a stunning feat of journalism that reads like a thriller—it also says a lot about Washington’s facile relationship with Silicon Valley. Most D.C. power brokers know next to nothing about science or technology but increasingly view Silicon Valley tech as a deus ex machina for some of the world’s most complicated challenges. Bad Blood offers a sobering warning of where that type of thinking can lead."
—Robbie Gramer, Foreign Policy

"A great and at times almost unbelievable story of scandalous fraud, surveillance, and legal intimidation at the highest levels of American corporate power. . . . The story of Theranos may be the biggest case of corporate fraud since Enron. But it’s also the story of how a lot of powerful men were fooled by a remarkably brazen liar."
—Yashar Ali, New York Magazine

"Even if you didn’t follow the story of charismatic Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes (and the ensuing trainwreck) in the news, you will find yourself zipping through a book that proves once again that fact is stranger than fiction. A stunning look into a high-tech hoodwinking; like a high-speed car chase in a book."
—The New York Post''s "28 Most Unforgettable Books of 2018"

"In Bad Blood, acclaimed investigative journalist John Carreyrou, who broke the story in 2015, presents comprehensive evidence of the fraud perpetrated by Theranos chief executive Elizabeth Holmes... He unveils many dark secrets of Theranos that have not previously been laid bare…  The combination of these brave whistle-blowers, and a tenacious journalist who interviewed 150 people (including 60 former employees) makes for a veritable page-turner."
—Eric Topol, Nature

"Engrossing… Bad Blood boasts movie-scene detail… Theranos, Carreyrou writes, was a revolving door, as Holmes and Balwani fired anyone who voiced even tentative doubts… What’s frightening is how easy it is to imagine a different outcome, one in which the company’s blood-testing devices continued to proliferate. That the story played out as it did is a testament to the many individuals who spoke up, at great personal risk."
—Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, Science

"In exposing the fudged numbers, boardroom battles and sickening sums of money tossed Theranos’ way,  Bad Blood succeeds in highlighting Silicon Valley’s paradoxical blind spot. Insular corporate culture and benevolent media coverage have allowed a monster to grow in the Valley—one that gambles not just with our smart phones or our democracy, but with people’s lives.  Bad Blood reveals a crucial truth: outside observers must act as the eyes, the ears and, most importantly, the voice of Silicon Valley’s blind spot."
—B. David Zarley, Paste Magazine''s "16 Best Nonfiction Books of 2018"

"Carreyrou blends lucid descriptions of Theranos’s technology and its failures with a vivid portrait of its toxic culture and its supporters’ delusional boosterism. The result is a bracing cautionary tale about visionary entrepreneurship gone very wrong."
Publishers Weekly (Starred)

"Crime thriller authors have nothing on Carreyrou''s exquisite sense of suspenseful pacing and multifaceted character development in this riveting, read-in-one-sitting tour de force.... Carreyrou''s commitment to unraveling Holmes'' crimes was literally of life-saving value."
—Booklist  (Starred Review)

"Eye-opening... A vivid, cinematic portrayal of serpentine Silicon Valley corruption... A deep investigative report on the sensationalistic downfall of multibillion-dollar Silicon Valley biotech startup Theranos. Basing his findings on hundreds of interviews with people inside and outside the company, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning  Wall Street Journal reporter Carreyrou rigorously examines the seamy details behind the demise of Theranos and its creator, Elizabeth Holmes… [Carreyrou] brilliantly captures the interpersonal melodrama, hidden agendas, gross misrepresentations, nepotism, and a host of delusions and lies that further fractured the company’s reputation and halted its rise."
Kirkus

About the Author

JOHN CARREYROU is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal. For his extensive coverage of Theranos, Carreyrou was awarded the George Polk Award for Financial Reporting, the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism in the category of beat reporting, and the Barlett & Steele Silver Award for Investigative Business Journalism. Carreyrou lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue

November 17, 2006


Tim Kemp had good news for his team.

The former IBM executive was in charge of bioinformatics at Theranos, a startup with a cutting-edge blood-testing system. The company had just completed its first big live demonstration for a pharmaceutical company. Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’s twenty-two-year-old founder, had flown to Switzerland and shown off the system’s capabilities to executives at Novartis, the European drug giant.

“Elizabeth called me this morning,” Kemp wrote in an email to his fifteen-person team. “She expressed her thanks and said that, ‘it was perfect!’ She specifically asked me to thank you and let you all know her appreciation. She additionally mentioned that Novartis was so impressed that they have asked for a proposal and have expressed interest in a financial arrangement for a project. We did what we came to do!”

This was a pivotal moment for Theranos. The three-year-old startup had progressed from an ambitious idea Holmes had dreamed up in her Stanford dorm room to an actual product a huge multinational corporation was interested in using.

Word of the demo’s success made its way upstairs to the second floor, where senior executives’ offices were located.

One of those executives was Henry Mosley, Theranos’s chief financial officer. Mosley had joined Theranos eight months earlier, in March 2006. A rumpled dresser with piercing green eyes and a laid-back personality, he was a veteran of Silicon Valley’s technology scene. After growing up in the Washington, D.C. area and getting his MBA at the University of Utah, he’d come out to California in the late 1970s and never left. His first job was at chipmaker Intel, one of the Valley’s pioneers. He’d later gone on to run the finance departments of four different tech companies, taking two of them public. Theranos was far from his first rodeo.

What had drawn Mosley to Theranos was the talent and experience gathered around Elizabeth. She might be young, but she was surrounded by an all-star cast. The chairman of her board was Donald L. Lucas, the venture capitalist who had groomed billionaire software entrepreneur Larry Ellison and helped him take Oracle Corporation public in the mid-1980s. Lucas and Ellison had both put some of their own money into Theranos.

Another board member with a sterling reputation was Channing Robertson, the associate dean of Stanford’s School of Engineering. Robertson was one of the stars of the Stanford faculty. His expert testimony about the addictive properties of cigarettes had forced the tobacco industry to enter into a landmark $6.5 billion settlement with the state of Minnesota in the late 1990s. Based on the few interactions Mosley had had with him, it was clear Robertson thought the world of Elizabeth.

Theranos also had a strong management team. Kemp had spent thirty years at IBM. Diane Parks, Theranos’s chief commercial officer, had twenty-five years of experience at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. John Howard, the senior vice president for products, had overseen Panasonic’s chip-making subsidiary. It wasn’t often that you found executives of that caliber at a small startup.

It wasn’t just the board and the executive team that had sold Mosley on Theranos, though. The market it was going after was huge. Pharmaceutical companies spent tens of billions of dollars on clinical trials to test new drugs each year. If Theranos could make itself indispensable to them and capture a fraction of that spending, it could make a killing.

Elizabeth had asked him to put together some financial projections she could show investors. The first set of numbers he’d come up with hadn’t been to her liking, so he’d revised them upward. He was a little uncomfortable with the revised numbers, but he figured they were in the realm of the plausible if the company executed perfectly. Besides, the venture capitalists startups courted for funding knew that startup founders overstated these forecasts. It was part of the game. VCs even had a term for it: the hockey-stick forecast. It showed revenue stagnating for a few years and then magically shooting up in a straight line.

The one thing Mosley wasn’t sure he completely understood was how the Theranos technology worked. When prospective investors came by, he took them to see Shaunak Roy, Theranos’s cofounder. Shaunak had a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. He and Elizabeth had worked together in Robertson’s research lab at Stanford.

Shaunak would prick his finger and milk a few drops of blood from it. Then he would transfer the blood to a white plastic cartridge the size of a credit card. The cartridge would slot into a rectangular box the size of a toaster. The box was called a reader. It extracted a data signal from the cartridge and beamed it wirelessly to a server that analyzed the data and beamed back a result. That was the gist of it.

When Shaunak demonstrated the system to investors, he pointed them to a computer screen that showed the blood flowing through the cartridge inside the reader. Mosley didn’t really grasp the physics or chemistries at play. But that wasn’t his role. He was the finance guy. As long as the system showed a result, he was happy. And it always did.

***

Elizabeth was back from Switzerland a few days later. She sauntered around with a smile on her face, more evidence that the trip had gone well, Mosley figured. Not that that was unusual. Elizabeth was often upbeat. She had an entrepreneur’s boundless optimism. She liked to use the term “ extra-ordinary,” with “extra” written in italics and a hyphen for emphasis, to describe the Theranos mission in her emails to staff. It was a bit over the top, but she seemed sincere and Mosley knew that evangelizing was what successful startup founders did in Silicon Valley. You didn’t change the world by being cynical.

What was odd, though, was that the handful of colleagues who’d accompanied Elizabeth on the trip didn’t seem to share her enthusiasm. Some of them looked outright downcast.

Did someone’s puppy get run over? Mosley wondered half jokingly. He wandered downstairs, where most of the company’s sixty employees sat in clusters of cubicles, and looked for Shaunak. Surely Shaunak would know if there was any problem he hadn’t been told about.

At first, Shaunak professed not to know anything. But Mosley sensed he was holding back and kept pressing him. Shaunak gradually let down his guard and allowed that the Theranos 1.0, as Elizabeth had christened the blood-testing system, didn’t always work. It was kind of a crapshoot, actually, he said. Sometimes you could coax a result from it and sometimes you couldn’t.

This was news to Mosley. He thought the system was reliable. Didn’t it always seem to work when investors came to view it?

Well, there was a reason it always seemed to work, Shaunak said. The image on the computer screen showing the blood flowing through the cartridge and settling into the little wells was real. But you never knew whether you were going to get a result or not. So they’d recorded a result from one of the times it worked. It was that recorded result that was displayed at the end of each demo.

Mosley was stunned. He thought the results were extracted in real time from the blood inside the cartridge. That was certainly what the investors he brought by were led to believe. What Shaunak had just described sounded like a sham. It was OK to be optimistic and aspirational when you pitched investors, but there was a line not to cross. And this, in Mosley’s view, crossed it.

So, what exactly had happened with Novartis? Mosley couldn’t get a straight answer from anyone, but he now suspected some similar sleight of hand. And he was right. One of the two readers Elizabeth took to Switzerland had malfunctioned when they got there. The employees she brought with her had stayed up all night trying to get it to work. To mask the problem during the demo the next morning, Tim Kemp’s team in California had beamed over a fake result.

***

Mosley had a weekly meeting with Elizabeth scheduled for that afternoon. When he entered her office, he was immediately reminded of her charisma. She had the presence of someone much older than she was. The way she trained her big blue eyes on you without blinking made you feel like the center of the world. It was almost hypnotic. Her voice added to the mesmerizing effect: she spoke in an unusually deep baritone.

Mosley decided to let the meeting run its natural course before bringing up his concerns. Theranos had just closed its third round of funding. By any measure, it was a resounding success: the company had raised another $32 million from investors, on top of the $15 million raised in its first two funding rounds. The most impressive number was its new valuation: one hundred and sixty-five million dollars. There weren’t many three-year-old startups that could say they were worth that much.

One big reason for the rich valuation was the agreements Theranos told investors it had reached with pharmaceutical partners. A slide deck listed six deals with five companies that would generate revenues of $120 million to $300 million over the next eighteen months. It listed another fifteen deals under negotiation. If those came to fruition, revenues could eventually reach $1.5 billion, according to the PowerPoint presentation.

The pharmaceutical companies were going to use Theranos’s blood-testing system to monitor patients’ response to new drugs. The cartridges and readers would be placed in patients’ homes during clinical trials. Patients would prick their fingers several times a day and the readers would beam their blood-test results to the trial’s sponsor. If the results indicated a bad reaction to the drug, the drug’s maker would be able to lower the dosage immediately rather than wait until the end of the trial. This would reduce pharmaceutical companies’ research costs by as much as 30 percent. Or so the slide deck said.

Mosley’s unease with all these claims had grown since that morning’s discovery. For one thing, in his eight months at Theranos, he’d never laid eyes on the pharmaceutical contracts. Every time he inquired about them, he was told they were “under legal review.” More important, he’d agreed to those ambitious revenue forecasts because he thought the Theranos system worked reliably.

If Elizabeth shared any of these misgivings, she showed no signs of it. She was the picture of a relaxed and happy leader. The new valuation, in particular, was a source of great pride. New directors might join the board to reflect the growing roster of investors, she told him.

Mosley saw an opening to broach the trip to Switzerland and the office rumors that something had gone wrong. When he did, Elizabeth admitted that there had been a problem, but she shrugged it off. It would easily be fixed, she said.

Mosley was dubious given what he now knew. He brought up what Shaunak had told him about the investor demos. They should stop doing them if they weren’t completely real, he said. “We’ve been fooling investors. We can’t keep doing that.”

Elizabeth’s expression suddenly changed. Her cheerful demeanor of just moments ago vanished and gave way to a mask of hostility. It was like a switch had been flipped. She leveled a cold stare at her chief financial officer.

“Henry, you’re not a team player,” she said in an icy tone. “I think you should leave right now.”

There was no mistaking what had just happened. Elizabeth wasn’t merely asking him to get out of her office. She was telling him to leave the company—immediately. Mosley had just been fired.

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