I started reading Bad Blood on a beach and I finished it a few days later on the worst pull-out couch anyone has ever slept on, save Elaine Benes. Carreyrou takes the actions of some awful people doing awful things and weaves a tale that will confound you, infuriate you, and entertain you. And if uplifting books are your thing, you will still get your happy ending. Pinky promise.
Greed Is Not So Good
Bad Blood is the story of the recently indicted Elizabeth Holmes and her blood testing company, Theranos. Setting up shop in Silicon Valley, Holmes was attempting to build tech that could run hundreds of tests from just a few drops of blood extracted via a quick finger stick. No more long blood draws or praying your phlebotomist would find the vein on the first try. Holmes dazzled, collected plenty of venture capital money, and made headlines for being a young boss-lady CEO is a town full of Big Dick Energy (BDE). What she offered was transformative in the truest sense. Trouble was, the tech was almost all bullshit.
Holmes hoodwinked her star-studded board (James Schultz! Henry Kissinger!). She hoodwinked the US Army and General James Mattis. She hoodwinked the CEOs of Walgreen’s and Safeway, and best of all, she hoodwinked the people who throw too much money at the wall of “new shit” in the hopes something sticks and they don’t miss out on the next big thing. FOMO is real.
Crazy From Jump
Carreyrou eventually outed Holmes and her house of cards via his reporting with the Wall Street Journal. The Journal’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, also fell victim to Holmes and her business partner/boyfriend, Ramesh Balwani, but to his credit, he never quashed the stories. To Murdoch, losing $500 million is a rounding error.
Bad Blood hooks you from the first chapter; there is no slow burn because Holmes was pernicious the moment she dropped out of Stanford at age 19 to start the company. From her possibly fake low alto voice to her penchant for dressing in black turtlenecks, fueled by her obsession with Apple and Steve Jobs, Holmes is easy to root against. The whistle blowers and doctors who brought her down understood the stakes: Theranos was no inconsequential tech company. It was playing with human life. There is a very big difference of what we call “tech” when you consider one company is faking someone cancer screening results and one wants to bring you the latest filters for your Insta posts.
Meghan McCain will not like to hear this, but Bad Blood is proof that capitalism unchecked by government is very bad. Holmes would sic David Boies, who was also a board member, and his law firm’s associates on folks in such an aggressive and malicious manner, that it’s a bit shocking this story finally came to light. I’ve grown so accustomed to bad people having zero accountability in the last 20 months or so, that even knowing that Holmes had been indicted in June, I was still incredulous as I read towards the end.
Jesus Finally Took The Wheel
The need to armchair diagnose Elizabeth Holmes is perceptible. Was she delusional? A fabulist who found greed? A climber who got in too deep? A sociopath? As a character, she flies off the page. It’s a battle between good and evil; it’s a battle between smart scientists and a lady who probably couldn’t pass a 400 level biochem class but had been granted enough “white male confidence” to fake it.
The TSA warns us over and over again that is you see something, say something. Good thing Tyler Schultz, who helped bring Homes down, said something. Thank goodness Erika Cheung said something. We need more #TheranosTylers and #JournalistJohns and #CheckYouCheungs.
A few extra comments:
- I’m making my boyfriend read Bad Blood, and every time he picks it up, I blast Twsizzle at him. I think it’s helping him read faster.
- Carreyrou never fails to mention that Holmes’s brother, who came to work at Theranos along with his college friends, went to Duke. It’s great shade. Ugh, Duke.
- Holmes was on my radar for a few years before it all went south, mostly because I cannot understand how rich people can have such bad hair color.
- Seeing Henry Kissinger get conned is a delight. I feel like Anthong Bourdain would approve.