Bad Blood is the story of Theranos and its founder’s, Elizabeth Holmes, fall from grace following the revelation that the whole company was built on secrets and lies. I was aware of Holmes and Theranos from the countless articles written about her before and after the truth came out but it wasn’t until I saw the HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood that I really grasped how deep her deception went.
By positioning Theranos as a tech company in the heart of the Valley, Holmes channeled this fake-it-until-you-make-it culture, and she went to extreme lengths to hide the fakery.
The Theranos story is fascinating and has captured the attention of millions of people. I actually started watching the documentary by myself on a Sunday morning shortly after it came out when my husband, not a big documentary or non fiction fan, sat down and started to watch it with me because it was such a captivating story. Needless to say I put my name on the waitlist for John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood before the end credits rolled. Scootsa1000 wrote an absolutely amazing review last week and when I commented that I was stuck in a miles long wait-list she loaned me her copy from Audible! I’ve said time and time again that the Cannonball community is one of the best corners of the internet.
Holmes and her company had overpromised and then cut corners when they couldn’t deliver. It was one thing to do that with software or a smartphone app, but doing it with a medical product that people relied on to make important health decisions was unconscionable.
Needle phobic Standford dropout Elizabeth Holmes founded Thernos is 2003 with the plan to develop a technology that could diagnose a myriad of diseases with just a drop of blood. Holmes used her upper-middle class connections to raise millions of dollars in investor capital but unfortunately the “female Steve Jobs” was never able to deliver on any of her promises. This woman fooled everyone from Safeway and Walgreens, to media mogul Rupert Murdoch, former Secretary of State George Shultz and even then President Obama.
Carreyrou, who broke the Theranos story for the Wall Street Journal in 2015, expands on his articles here writing an entertaining and exhaustive account of the scandal that rocked Silicon Valley. He uses numerous on and off the record former employees to flesh out the story of corporate greed and bald-face lies. Carreyrou had dozens of employees to interview because there was a constant turn over at every level. Elizabeth and her partner in both romance and business, Sunny, ran Theranos with a shroud of secrecy and near militant security. It is never established whether or not Holmes set out to intentionally swindle countless investors or if she was simply never able to realize her grand plans and instead of admitting defeat doubled down and made things infinitely worse. Either way Holmes comes off as an unlikable sociopath.
Like her idol Steve Jobs, she emitted a reality distortion field that forced people to momentarily suspend disbelief.
It is impossible to succinctly sum up Bad Blood, Theranos and Holmes; the story is expansive and constantly growing as Elizabeth begins her trial for wire fraud and other crimes. The whole thing is absolutely bonkers and Carreyrou has written a must-read for anyone who enjoys schadenfreude.