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Bad Blood
Cover of Bad Blood
Bad Blood
Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
Borrow Borrow
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The gripping story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos—one of the biggest corporate frauds in history—a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley, rigorously reported by the prize-winning journalist. With a new Afterword.
“Chilling ... Reads like a thriller ... Carreyrou tells [the Theranos story] virtually to perfection.” —The New York Times Book Review

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the next Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with its breakthrough device, which performed the whole range of laboratory tests from a single drop of blood. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.5 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work. Erroneous results put patients in danger, leading to misdiagnoses and unnecessary treatments. All the while, Holmes and her partner, Sunny Balwani, worked to silence anyone who voiced misgivings—from journalists to their own employees.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The gripping story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos—one of the biggest corporate frauds in history—a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley, rigorously reported by the prize-winning journalist. With a new Afterword.
“Chilling ... Reads like a thriller ... Carreyrou tells [the Theranos story] virtually to perfection.” —The New York Times Book Review

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the next Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with its breakthrough device, which performed the whole range of laboratory tests from a single drop of blood. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.5 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work. Erroneous results put patients in danger, leading to misdiagnoses and unnecessary treatments. All the while, Holmes and her partner, Sunny Balwani, worked to silence anyone who voiced misgivings—from journalists to their own employees.
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  • From the cover Prologue

    November 17, 2006


    Tim Kemp had good news for his team.

    The former IBM executive was in charge of bioinformatics at Theranos, a startup with a cutting-edge blood-testing system. The company had just completed its first big live demonstration for a pharmaceutical company. Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’s twenty-two-year-old founder, had flown to Switzerland and shown off the system’s capabilities to executives at Novartis, the European drug giant.

    “Elizabeth called me this morning,” Kemp wrote in an email to his fifteen-person team. “She expressed her thanks and said that, ‘it was perfect!’ She specifically asked me to thank you and let you all know her appreciation. She additionally mentioned that Novartis was so impressed that they have asked for a proposal and have expressed interest in a financial arrangement for a project. We did what we came to do!”

    This was a pivotal moment for Theranos. The three-year-old startup had progressed from an ambitious idea Holmes had dreamed up in her Stanford dorm room to an actual product a huge multinational corporation was interested in using.

    Word of the demo’s success made its way upstairs to the second floor, where senior executives’ offices were located.

    One of those executives was Henry Mosley, Theranos’s chief financial officer. Mosley had joined Theranos eight months earlier, in March 2006. A rumpled dresser with piercing green eyes and a laid-back personality, he was a veteran of Silicon Valley’s technology scene. After growing up in the Washington, D.C. area and getting his MBA at the University of Utah, he’d come out to California in the late 1970s and never left. His first job was at chipmaker Intel, one of the Valley’s pioneers. He’d later gone on to run the finance departments of four different tech companies, taking two of them public. Theranos was far from his first rodeo.

    What had drawn Mosley to Theranos was the talent and experience gathered around Elizabeth. She might be young, but she was surrounded by an all-star cast. The chairman of her board was Donald L. Lucas, the venture capitalist who had groomed billionaire software entrepreneur Larry Ellison and helped him take Oracle Corporation public in the mid-1980s. Lucas and Ellison had both put some of their own money into Theranos.

    Another board member with a sterling reputation was Channing Robertson, the associate dean of Stanford’s School of Engineering. Robertson was one of the stars of the Stanford faculty. His expert testimony about the addictive properties of cigarettes had forced the tobacco industry to enter into a landmark $6.5 billion settlement with the state of Minnesota in the late 1990s. Based on the few interactions Mosley had had with him, it was clear Robertson thought the world of Elizabeth.

    Theranos also had a strong management team. Kemp had spent thirty years at IBM. Diane Parks, Theranos’s chief commercial officer, had twenty-five years of experience at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. John Howard, the senior vice president for products, had overseen Panasonic’s chip-making subsidiary. It wasn’t often that you found executives of that caliber at a small startup.

    It wasn’t just the board and the executive team that had sold Mosley on Theranos, though. The market it was going after was huge. Pharmaceutical companies spent tens of billions of dollars on clinical trials to test new drugs each year. If Theranos could make itself indispensable to them and capture a fraction of that spending, it could make a...
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine WALL STREET JOURNAL investigative journalist Carreyrou presents meticulously researched, clearly written evidence of the fraud perpetrated by business wunderkind Elizabeth Holmes. The former CEO of the once-renowned Silicon Valley startup Theranos bilked investors of millions and potentially risked the lives of patients around the world with a groundbreaking diagnostic product that did not work reliably. Will Damron is the perfect choice as narrator. His precisely articulated style makes the entire effort sound as if it is a cloak-and-dagger spy novel. The author used many brave whistle-blowers who were a part of Theranos for his research. This is an eye-opening and chilling portrait of outright lies and duplicitous actions arising from blind ambition. Holmes is now looking at possible prison time. W.A.G. � AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 14, 2018
    An apparent scientific breakthrough rests on a quicksand of deception in this riveting account of the rise and downfall of notorious biotech firm Theranos. Expanding on his award-winning investigative scoops, Pulitzer-winning Wall Street Journal reporter Carreyrou recounts how Elizabeth Holmes, a charismatic Stanford dropout, started Theranos with claims of a revolutionary blood-testing technology that needed just a few drops from a finger-prick rather than tubefulls drawn from veins with needles. Her start-up became the toast of Silicon Valley, with a $9 billion valuation and a board including former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz. The reality, he reports, was less stellar: the company’s flawed tests did not meet regulatory standards and gave dangerously inaccurate results, investors and journalists were snowed with fake demos, and Holmes and her second-in-command (and boyfriend), Sunny Balwani, dismissed employees’ concerns and drove many out with verbal abuse and computer surveillance. The author’s investigation is part of the story: as he pursues the truth, Theranos’s attorneys, led by Bush v. Gore lawyer David Boies, intimidate his sources with lawsuit threats. In the end it is Holmes who is targeted with a lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission for “an elaborate, years-long fraud” and forced to relinquish voting control over the company and pay a six-figure penalty. Carreyrou blends lucid descriptions of Theranos’s technology and its failures with a vivid portrait of its toxic culture and its supporters’ delusional boosterism. The result is a bracing cautionary tale about visionary entrepreneurship gone very wrong. Agent: Eric Lupfer, Fletcher & Company.

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Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
John Carreyrou
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