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Bad Blood

Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
Written by: John Carreyrou
Narrated by: Will Damron
Length: 11 hrs and 37 mins
5 out of 5 stars (270 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

A national best seller

"Chilling... Reads like a West Coast version of All the President's Men." (The New York Times Book Review)

The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and threats by her lawyers.

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup "unicorn" promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. 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' worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn't work.

A riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.

©2018 John Carreyrou (P)2018 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"You will not want to put this riveting, masterfully reported book down. No matter how bad you think the Theranos story was, you'll learn that the reality was actually far worse." (Bethany McLean, best-selling coauthor of The Smartest Guys in the Room and All the Devils Are Here)

"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." (Publishers Weekly)

"Eye-opening... The author brilliantly captures the interpersonal melodrama, hidden agendas, gross misrepresentations, nepotism, and a host of delusions and lies that further fractured the company’s reputation and halted its rise... Already slated for feature film treatment, Carreyrou’s exposé is a vivid, cinematic portrayal of serpentine Silicon Valley corruption." (Kirkus)

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Gripping, listened right through

Remarkable that this actually happened. Perhaps it was innocent enough, with Elizabeth Holmes naively pushing ahead when a prototype wasn't ready, but it was so quickly out of control it's unforgivable. The degree of the fraud at Theranos is stunning, and quite the yarn to untie, given the powerful investors who wanted to turn a blind eye. The fact that it was a woman does make it more interesting, though it shouldn't. The book read like a novel, so it was rather strange to Google and find the real covers of Inc. and Fortune. It was also ironic to learn how much Elizabeth Holmes tried to emulate Steve Jobs... but she was a tyrant and treated employees like dirt. A FASCINATING listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent

This is a fantastic story. I'm amazed at the quantity of research that went into writing this book. This is a story about hubris, paranoia and bad leadership. A must read.

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Gripping

Excellent narration of a shocking story of greed, ambition, and hubris. By the time the author writes himself into the story after he got a tip from the doctor I was so ready to hear about the CEOs downfall. Very satisfying.

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Very interesting

This book comes off as more of a list of problems with Theranos than a story but it's still very engaging.

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Made my blood boil!

A horrifying true story of the breakdown of a Silicon Valley darling that kept me captivated to the end. While this isn't a traditional "true crime" book with unsolved murders and missing corpses, I would highly recommend it to all the "murderinos" out there. The fact that no one died is a miracle! To push out a phone or app before it is ready is ill-advised; to do the same with a device that people are intended to use to make life-altering medical decisions is unethical and criminal! I hope that Holmes and Balwani are both held to account for their actions. Fantastic writing and investigating on the part of Carreyrou; his role in the unmasking of Theranos goes to show why long-form reporting is still so important. Narrator Damron handled the salacious story well.

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Great read and performance

Really found this book fascinating the narrator really brought this book to life. The stories by Carreyrou were fascinating

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  • Jie
  • 2018-09-18

Great reading

#Audible1 The story and analysis goes much deeper than I thought. The most important lesson for me is how to tell whether an idea is an innovation or a science fiction.

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What a scam!

A mind boggling read about a company (Theranos) that lied and cheated its way to the top of Silicon Valley. Shows how charisma can blind investors by selling an albeit good idea that had no actual basis in science/medicine. The lack of oversight and regulation was astonishing and combined with loopholes, Theranos was so close to negatively impacting millions of lives.

The lengths Theranos went to avoid discovery is crazy, kudos to those who were brave enough to speak out. It also makes me think about the interaction between physicians and medical companies as well. #audible1

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Do yourself a favor and listen to this book

An amazing project by the author. Once I started listening I could not stop until I finished the book. #Audible1

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Good read

It doesnt seem real!! A really great read, chalk full of horrifying and dramatic accounts of a sociopathic tech "genius" and her billion dollar company. #audible1

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  • Jaccred
  • 2018-05-29

Extreme retaliation against former employees

Theranos lab employees were under continuous observation - camera surveillance, email scrutiny, the works. Fake baritone voiced Elizabeth Holmes and her cruel boyfriend Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani held them tightly in mortal fear, pursuing the few who thought they could resign and rebuild their lives. No lab employee could be allowed to expose the fraud.

The multi-billion dollar secret at the time: Theranos was phony baloney; it had no device that could run all types of blood tests with just a drop of blood and then provide instant accurate test results. It didn't have anything to change the world. All those Theranos devices being used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan - pure fabrication. But nobody could prove it wasn't being done and besides, the board of directors included: George Shultz; James Mattis; Henry Kissinger; and many other famous heavy hitters.

The suspense built and built. Author and narrator were the perfect match, building strength as the book progressed. They made me feel the fear a Theranos lab technician who had to pretend miracles happened. One former lab director was driven to suicide, a mere pawn in this game. Former lab employees discovered the hard way they could run but not hide (those who tried to hide were found by Theranos investigators).

George Shultz's grandson was caught more than once trying flip his grandfather, and his family was made to spend an obscene amount (I think it was $400K) trying to defend against Theranos lawsuits. Legal bills were only part of the harassment. Holmes and her crew ruined people's reputations and careers.

Elizabeth Holmes remains a mystery. Carreyrou says she was an outstanding sales person. She relieved big money out of sophisticated investors - $150 million from the Walton family, $121 million from Rupurt Murdoch, $100 million from Betsy DeVos (her father-in-law was co-founder of Amway), $120 million from the Cox family that controls Cox Media Group, and so on.

Bad Blood shows how an apex con artist dupes important people by appealing to ego and greed. Jim Cramer said her company was changing healthcare the same way Amazon changed retail. President Clinton publicly asked her for advice on reducing inequality. She made the Time Magazine 100 List. She talked pure nonsense without interviewers being aware of it. Instead they probably saw a female Steve Jobs; we all wanted to see a female Steve Jobs. Although it tries, the book doesn't explain what Holmes said and did behind closed doors that captured sophisticated investors and government leaders. It's still a mystery. I keep thinking about it.

In retrospect, all those employees who lived in fear were never the target. Holmes targeted billionaires, and to a lesser extent, famous people with big egos. Holmes dealt with these people directly. She made them wait; she made sure her security detail was more numerous than theirs; she decided when the meeting was over; she put the pants on them and dipped them. How on earth did she pull it all off?

True crime is an exciting genre, and this book succeeds for two reasons: 1. The author was part of the story from the beginning, as he understood a crime was occurring and the villain worked at shutting him up. 2. The story was told from the perspective of lab employees living the nightmare of running from a monster that gives pursuit.

(Separately, I keep thinking about the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) Theranos used on employees, how they weaponized this basic legal contract. One can imagine why lab scientists and technicians signed since this was a condition of employment.)

62 of 68 people found this review helpful

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  • Angela Lauer
  • 2018-06-23

Off the chart expose’!

Having been in and around the tech startup scene for 25 years, I felt like I personally experienced every situation and person that the author portrays in this amazing story of fake-it til you make-it. One of the top books I’ve read in the last 10 years. It’s a must read, true story of control, manipulation, greed, lies, fantasy and recklessness. 5 out of 5 IMO.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • TechnoApp
  • 2018-06-08

What an amazing journalist

This is just an incredible book. I’m so grateful he 1)exposed a sociopath and 2) wrote it all down for us to read. Just fantastic.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Lee
  • 2018-08-06

Holmes is a psychopath

Elizabeth Holmes is portrayed as a singular psychopath without concern for the havoc she was wrecking on others. Publicity from companies like hers as well as that tech bro who bought a pharma company several years ago is the reason that pharma is viewed so cynically. She lacks a conscience to do good science and good work ethically. Shame on her. Do I believe every grain of story in this book? No, but there's at least a little bit of truth in the matter and she put patients at risk. If she were to be evaluated by a psychiatrist, I am certain she would walk away with some Axis II disorder.

I do carry some doubt that every word written by Carreyrou is true. Most of us will never know the whole story. And even every story has two sides. But she certainly didn't make it easy to see her side of the story when all the facts were laid out.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amanda Topping
  • 2018-06-22

whoa baby

I am not a non-fiction reader AT ALL and only chose this book because of my foolish habit of judging books by their covers/names. The name of this book put me in mind of the HBO show Big Little Lies, which I really enjoyed.
This book does not disappoint. It is dripping with juicy drama, secrets and lies. To think it actually happened is unbelievable. In the book it mentiones a few times how surprised people were of Elizabeths Holmes voice. They were not kidding.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous
  • 2018-05-28

Female Psychopath

This is the story of the intricate manipulations of a female psychopath. Older, successful men were a key target. She’d play the granddaughter role or any other role to fulfill their psychological needs. A true but almost unbelievable story of a successful psychopathic plan.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael J Canning
  • SILVER SPRING, MD, United States
  • 2018-06-30

Excellent listen & definitive account

The definitive account of a massive fraud perpetrated by Theranos and it’s leadership team — as well as the extraordinary lengths to which the company and its bare-knuckled attorneys went to try to prevent the fraud from being discovered - recounted by the journalist who pulled on the strings that unraveled the whole disgusting enterprise. I finished it in 4-5 days and would recommend to anyone who is interested in Silicon Valley, venture capital, the perils of private securities offerings, and the limits of the “fake it till you make it” mantra that is pervasive (but not confined to) Silicon Valley and the startup culture.

Elizabeth Holmes is clearly a sociopath - the book never quite figures her out, but that much is clear - but my impression from the book (and my own anecdotal experiences) is that Holmes is not as unique as we might like to believe. We will see in time. But it is hard to read this book and not come away with the impression that a big part of the reason the Theranos story ends with Holmes under federal indictment for fraud is that she made the mistake of perpetrating that fraud in the highly regulated industry of human laboratory testing, Had she sought to “disrupt” a more mundane industry - anything that wasn’t literally “life and death” - I suspect there is good chance she would have gotten away with it. For his part, the illustrious David Boise also comes across looking at best like a tarnished super-lawyer at worst like a terrible human being who went to (suspiciously) great lengths to abet Holmes and her fraud. Kudos to Carreyrou for telling this story and to the WSJ for publishing it. Well worth the credit.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • amanaplan
  • 2018-06-21

Great read!

After a string of duds by (usually) great authors this book gripped me from beginning to end. I finished this book in 2 sittings and was engrossed the entire time. Wonderfully written and narrated expose' of what can happen when power driven egos, greed and naiveté combine. I'm sure the whistle blowers and the author saved lives.

Get this book, you won't be sorry.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Kenneth
  • 2018-05-30

Outstanding and the definitive words on Theranos.

This is an outstanding story and sits on the shelf entitled, "If It Wasn't True, No One Would Believe It." It is nearly a mandatory reading before investing in any company and it's too good to be true representations. I hope there are appendixes because I strongly suspect that this story is no where near completed.

19 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Suzanne Delzio
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • 2018-09-09

What a cast of rotten characters!

Unbelievable. I hope Holmes and Sunny go jail for a long time. Selfish losers. The biggest heroes are Carreyrou and Tyler Shultz, George Shultz's grandson. I hope George is shamed by his behavior. Tyler showed the most courage of anyone in the story, and he was only in his 20s! Good job, mom and dad, even if it was tough on you for a while. I hate bullies and Elizabeth Holmes certainly is one. Let's see how she fares in jail. Throw away the key.

I binged this in about 3 days, turning down fun invitations to stay home alone listening. The best book I've read in a long time. What a journalist. We need more like him.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Client d'Amazon
  • 2018-09-28

In one go!

Even knowing the end before I started reading, you feel in a real thriller. Reality is often worst than thrillers! That book makes you think on our own behaviour, what we do and what we could have done in such a company.