The story of Theranos, the one-time unicorn with the $9 billion valuation, has already entered the ranks of legendary cautionary tales. In “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” Wall Street Journal writer John Carreyrou puts together all the pieces behind its rise and swift decline.
It’s a fascinating, scary read.
Carreyrou is an investigative journalist, and his take is fact-driven, not character-driven. (Expect more character development in the upcoming movie, starring Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes.) But the facts speak for themselves, and will keep you engrossed.
You’ll learn how Holmes strung lies together for years to dupe investors and partners. You’ll learn how big-name investors and board members (Rupert Murdoch, George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Walgreens and many others) went along for the ride. And you’ll learn a few new definitions of “hostile work environment.”
There are many morals in “Bad Blood.” A fair place to start: “Trust, but verify, especially when hundreds of millions of dollars are in play.” The psychological underpinnings include FOMO, charisma, the blind spots of otherwise intelligent people, and, quite possibly, sociopathy.
It’s all made more shocking by the fact that medical decisions, and thus lives, were at stake. When Theranos voided two years’ worth of its own blood tests, no apology was made to the patients and medical professionals who had acted on the results of those tests.
Holmes and her former partner (in both senses of the word), Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, were indicted in June on nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. (A far cry from Holmes’ one-time status as the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.) And Holmes has apparently been looking for investors for a new company.
This story is not over, but the story in “Bad Blood” is worth your time.
Read It If: You’re as fascinated as I am that this chapter in business history could have even happened, and you want to get the full scoop.
About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win. Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.” His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation. Contact Matthew here. He calls Chicago home.
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