Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 390
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (Knopf, 2018) by John Carreyrou is an exposé about the secrets, subterfuge, and pressure to perform that attends so many startups in Silicon Valley, particularly Theranos, which promoted a medical device that could test blood. Wall Street Journal writer John...
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Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (Knopf, 2018) by John Carreyrou is an exposé about the secrets, subterfuge, and pressure to perform that attends so many startups in Silicon Valley, particularly Theranos, which promoted a medical device that could test blood. Wall Street Journal writer John Carreyrou (author of the book) was assigned to investigate and report on the too-good-to-be-true startup. He wrote this book to answer the public's questions as to how such a fiscal catastrophe could take place. Carreyrou at times dramatizes these events and individuals, but nevertheless boldly and unreservedly introduces the public to the individuals who engineered the smokescreen.
Essentially, the novel is a demonstration both of the power of individuals to garner support for groundless ideas, as well as a portrayal of the credulity of the public. Carreyrou reinforces that what drew so many investors to Theranos: a bulwark of impressive names serving on its board (including Donald Lucas, venture capitalist who backed Oracle's Larry Ellison and Channing Robertson, who represented Stanford's Engineering Department). Theranos successfully attracted the attention of Walgreen, which partnered with the company at the prospect of offering blood tests in to customers in its store.
Concerning the public's credulity, Carreyrou also explains how Elizabeth Holmes, the nineteen-year-old Stanford drop-out who founded Theranos, inspired confidence almost akin to a personality cult. Carreyrou describes Holmes as exuding no small amount of confidence in her business. She touted the inspiration for the company in her childhood fear of needles (a problem which her device, "the Edison" would solve). She even styled herself like her personal icon Steve Jobs by wearing his trademark black turtleneck.
When an article in Fortune featured Holmes in an article that was later picked up by The New Yorker, Holmes became something of a celebrity. However, as Carreyrou demonstrates, with this fame came the risk of exposure. When a casual reader of The New Yorker's article published his suspicions, the Wall Street Journal (represented by Carreyrou himself) chose to investigate.
By the time the proverbial whistle was blown, however, the company was worth $10 billion. Many high-powered investors and Federal officials had been deceived. Carreyrou's close-up and riveting account of Theranos's genesis, rise, and fall highlights the unfortunate fact (surely illustrated by corporations other than Theranos) that a lie, properly packaged, can convince the public of nearly anything.