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Book Rec: Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

“The way Theranos is operating is like trying to build a bus while you’re driving the bus. Someone is going to get killed.”

I could not put this down! Bad Blood reads like fiction, but it’s all true. This is the unbelievable story of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. When this company first started making waves, I was so excited to hear about the technology – blood test with only a drop of blood!? Wow! The company took off with valuations as high as $10 billion. But Carreyrou reveals elaborate scams, corporate intrigue and scandalous fraud.

book jacket of bad blood in black and red font

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 tests 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 $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn't work. For years, Holmes had been misleading investors, FDA officials, and her own employees. When Carreyrou, working at The Wall Street Journal, got a tip from a former Theranos employee and started asking questions, both Carreyrou and the Journal were threatened with lawsuits. Undaunted, the newspaper ran the first of dozens of Theranos articles in late 2015. By early 2017, the company's value was zero and Holmes faced potential legal action from the government and her investors. Here is the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a disturbing cautionary tale set amid the bold promises and gold-rush frenzy of Silicon Valley. An afterword has been added since the trials concluded and Carreyrou also produced a podcast series detailing the trial.

Discussion Guide

  1. What did you already know of Theranos and the fall of Elizabeth Holmes prior to reading the book?

  2. Have you watched the documentary or “The Dropout” starting Amanda Seyfried?

  3. What do you make of Elizabeth Holmes obsession with Steve Jobs, her black turtlenecks and deep voice?

  4. How do you think she got so many celebrities and investing elite to buy into her lies? In spite of dropping out of college and providing very little evidence, how did she get so many to believe in her vision?

  5. Carreyrou details the toxic workplace environment at Theranos. Do you think this is unique to Theranos? Or are other companies similar?

  6. Since we are post-trial, what do you think of Elizabeth Holmes defense that Sunny manipulated her?

  7. Do you think Elizabeth and Sunny got what they deserved?

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Sep 30, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

So good!

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