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Bad Blood summary

John Carreyrou

Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

4.2 (123 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou is a non-fiction book that tells the fascinating yet terrifying story of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos. The book takes a deep dive into the massive fraud that was perpetrated by the company and the incredible deceit that kept it going for so long.

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    Bad Blood
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    Elizabeth Holmes had a brilliant idea for a machine that could revolutionize medical diagnoses.

    Like many people, Elizabeth Holmes was scared of needles.

    It was this fear which gave her a great idea: a wearable patch which would test patients’ blood over the course of a day using microneedles.

    Build that, she thought, and you’d not only do away with the need for needles but you’d also have a device which could provide real-time information on bloodwork to assist ongoing diagnoses.

    By 2004, she was ready to start putting her idea into practice. She founded Theranos with Shaunak Roy, one of her peers at Stanford University.

    But there was a snag. The pair soon realized that microneedles wouldn’t be able to draw enough blood. That’s when the original idea started to take on a new shape.

    Their next idea was a credit-card-sized blood-testing machine which would draw a few drops of blood using a pinprick. That device could then be plugged into another, slightly larger gadget which would run diagnostic tests.

    The second, toaster-sized machine would perform chemical and conductivity tests to check for 240 common ailments. These ranged from vitamin D deficiency to herpes and HIV.

    It was a machine that promised to revolutionize healthcare – if it could be built. Medical diagnostic tools would suddenly be at the fingertips of millions of people.

    The duo started imagining a world in which everyone had a Theranos device in his or her home. Thousands of lives would be saved thanks to early diagnoses.

    The machine could monitor hormone levels and forward the information to healthcare professionals on an hourly or daily basis. Doctors could then advise patients to take extra pills or call an ambulance.

    Poor people would suddenly have access to cheap medical care. After all, the device would cut out the need for expensive doctors and nurses!

    A blood test would become something anyone could have done while they were out shopping for no more than ten or twenty dollars.

    The possibilities seemed endless.

    What would happen if, say, you dispatched the machines to war zones or set them up in field hospitals in the wake of natural disasters? You could even have one in the back of an army jeep.

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    What is Bad Blood about?

    Bad Blood (2018) is the harrowing inside story of a how a tech start-up rooted in Silicon Valley’s fake-it-till-you-make-it culture risked the lives of millions with a blood-testing device that proved too good to be true. Written by Pulitzer-winning journalist John Carreyrou, who broke the story and pursued it to its end, this is the account of Theranos and its wunderkind CEO Elizabeth Holmes’ meteoric rise and epic fall from grace.

    Bad Blood Review

    Bad Blood (2018) by John Carreyrou exposes the shocking downfall of Theranos, a biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With meticulous investigative reporting, Carreyrou uncovers the deceit, fraud, and manipulation that took place behind the scenes of this high-profile company.
    • The book offers a gripping narrative that reads like a thriller, keeping readers hooked from start to finish.
    • It sheds light on the ethics and consequences of Silicon Valley's obsession with disruption and the dangers of unchecked ambition.

    Best quote from Bad Blood

    Theranos sold the Edison idea to Walgreens on the understanding that the box could perform 192 different blood tests. Over half of those tests required machinery in Palo Alto labs.

    —John Carreyrou
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    Who should read Bad Blood?

    • Anyone working in a start-up
    • Fans of true stories that you just can’t make up
    • Professionals in the medical industry

    About the Author

    John Carreyrou is an investigative journalist and recipient of two Pulitzer prizes for his articles in the Wall Street Journal. His previous scoops include reports documenting the fall of Vivendi Universal and US–French relations during the Iraq War.

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    Bad Blood FAQs 

    What is the main message of Bad Blood?

    The main message of Bad Blood is the shocking and deceptive rise and fall of Theranos, a once-promising blood testing startup.

    How long does it take to read Bad Blood?

    The reading time for Bad Blood varies, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Bad Blood a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Bad Blood is a gripping and eye-opening read. It exposes the dark side of Silicon Valley and raises important questions about ethics and integrity in entrepreneurship.

    Who is the author of Bad Blood?

    The author of Bad Blood is John Carreyrou.

    What to read after Bad Blood?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Bad Blood, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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