Book Review

Bad blood – secrets and lies in a Silicon Valley startup by John Carreyrou

My friend Ken McKellar was generous  enough to contribute for the second  time to my blog. I happen to have read this  book. I would definitely not have  been able to review this book as beautifully as Ken did hereunder.  Enjoy reading!

This is a cautionary, true tale for our times – about a brilliant, driven millennial who, like Icarus, flew too close to the sun and is now facing criminal charges. It is about a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who persevered with his intelligence-gathering in the face of threats to those he interviewed and from those he was investigating. Above all, it is about what happens when laudable ambitions to change the world are perverted by lust for money, fame, and power.

Elizabeth Holmes is a brilliant, beautiful Stanford dropout who had a vision for a revolutionary biomedical device that could diagnose a variety of conditions from a single drop of blood. The manufacturing challenges were considerable, not least of which miniaturizing the device to such an extent that it would be portable and easily operable by non-clinicians such as patients in their own homes.  

The shock of this grippingly-told story lies not in Holmes’s ultimate failure to develop or commercialize this device, but in her falsification of the device’s properties and performance when she found that it would not work to her impossible specification. So successful was she in weaving an intricate web of lies and deception that Theranos, the company she built, attained a peak valuation in2014 of USD 9 billion with a glittering board drawn from the elite of the US establishment – not a bad achievement for a 30 year old.

This apparent achievement was short-lived, thanks to the painstaking investigative journalism of John Carreyrou of The Wall Street Journal. Holmes tried unsuccessfully to block his exposé by approaching the newspaper’s owner Rupert Murdoch, himself a Theranos shareholder.

This is a great book, exciting, well-written and well-researched with no scandalous episode spared. After reading it, I took away several important messages. The first is how easy it is to lose one’s moral compass when seduced by money, fame and power. The second is how things might have been different if Holmes had an experienced mentor with a strong moral compass. The third is the importance and power of investigative journalism in a world where fake news so often gets in the way. If you’re a millennial with big dreams – and even if you’re not – go and buy Bad Blood now!

Who should read this book: Anyone who has big dreams

Why you should read this book: To remind yourself of your moral compass, to validate the importance of mentorship in one’s life, to realize that fake news are there and it is up to us to decide what to do with them

Book genre: Storytelling, entrepreneurship

Rating by Stylo à Bille

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