Book Review - Bad Blood

I recently read Bad Blood, an incredible book that chronicles the meteoric rise and subsequent fall of the biomedical device startup Theranos. Elizabeth Holmes, the blue eyed blond haired founder of Theranos basically lied herself into a 9 billion valuation, and therefore an approximate net worth of 4.5 billion. Eventually the smoke dispersed and the mirrors cracked and fraud was exposed. The first most obvious take away from Bad Blood is how far one can go with great salesmanship. Despite having little to no tangible advancement in blood testing technology Holmes was able to deploy a “fake it till you make it” strategy very successfully. I think it is very common in silicon valley today to sell things that you haven’t quite built yet. But in most cases these things are software products that when not delivered as promised might simply result in some disappointment from the customer or a non-renewal. In the case of a medical device, an inaccurate reading could lead to misdiagnosis, costly medical bills, or death. When applied to the medical device industry silicon valley’s “fake it till you make it” culture can quickly become deadly. Additionally, when employing a “fake it till you make it” strategy, as soon as your technology fails to live up to what’s promised it’s time to pump the breaks and be honest with your customers and investors. My belief is that Holmes was unable to do this because she was disillusioned by her vision, and she succumbed to an ends justify the means mentality. The most devastating reflection of all in my opinion is the simple fact that the first female tech founder billionaire ever[1], ended up being a complete fraud. She could have been a great role model for young ambitious women. Instead, it’s quite possible that she has made the path for these young female would be founders even harder. That to me is the most devastating aspect of the Theranos tragedy. Thanks for reading, ZT [1] Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer (although great role models) were both early employees, not founders.