Thursday, February 07, 2019

Book Review: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup 
image from here

I picked up this book because it looked interesting, and then one of my Instagram friends, whose opinion on books I really trust, raved about it. The premise of the book is all about a tech startup who managed to deceive its investors, its customers, and a lot of really respected people on what their technology could do. And to make it all worse, they were trying to develop a better way of doing blood testing so their deception impacted patients as well.

It was startling to me how the founder of Theranos deceived everyone so easily. Elizabeth Holmes was portrayed as someone who had personality and charm and managed to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. Except her employees. However, they were mistrusted and threatened and it took a long time for them to have the courage to speak out, once they had left the company.

I found this book interesting in terms of how a deception can be pulled off but I have to admit, it kept putting me to sleep which was disappointing. I think it was a little dense and, not being a technological person, it was interesting but not addicting.

HOWEVER, with all that said, the reason I am reviewing it is because Dave wanted to read it. While it took me almost a week to read this book, Dave devoured it in two days. I said, "You actually read a book faster than I did!" and he wanted to get that quote made into a sign and hang it on our wall! Ha!

I asked Dave what he liked about the book and he said, "I liked getting a sense of all the people who were involved beyond the CEO. I liked getting a deeper dive into the whole story, having read some news articles as the scandal was unfolding. It was interesting because there were some similarities to my own work but, thankfully, huge differences in the corporate culture and work-life balance."

He added, "Usually with medical breakthroughs you read about how individuals and teams achieve major successes. With this, it was interesting how the visionary CEO was a con artist and the 'medical breakthroughs' were all basically a scam. It really does make me appreciate all the hard work and rigor and diligence that goes into actual responsible medical technology work."

Dave also had prior knowledge of some of the story too so I think that helped.

So, while you might want to pick this book up, be aware that it may only appeal to a niche audience. However, I think it is important to recognize that not all startups are amazing and you shouldn't always believe what you see. And I have a bigger appreciation, as Dave said above, for all the review that new technology undergoes before it hits the market.


  1. So initially reading this review, I thought this was a purely fiction book, but when you said Dave read the articles, I googled it and realize it's a real event. Is this book a nonfiction account of the event or does it turn into a story based on the events?

  2. I think a lot of nonfiction can be like this - the topic is so fascinating, yet the telling of it can be so dry. That's how I felt about In the Garden of Good and Evil (or whatever it was called) about the US Ambassador to Germany during Hitler's rise to power - a totally fascinating time in history but that book was tough to get through! This synopsis also made me think of The Fyre Festival - a lot of misdirection and lies by a charming and manipulative CEO and a lot of scared employees!


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