Erkin Ünlü

Software Engineer

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Date read May 31, 2021

How much I recommend: 8/10, Go to Amazon or Goodreads for other reviews

This book is an epitome for busting the world changing/saving entrepreneur myth, which I am really glad to see it busted to be honest.

Story in a nutshell

The story is about an entrepreneur raising enormous sums of capital for inventing two different blood analyzers that never does everything it's supposed to do nor produces correct and stable results. Embracing the "fake it till you make it" slogan of Silicon Vallay, the company named Theranos starts to fake the safety tests to convince regulators and partners at the same time. It's amazing to see how delusional people can be at times and fooled easily, especially people that had very important roles like the secretary of the State for USA. Eventually disgruntled former employees start talking to the author, who is an investigative journalist at the Wall Street Journal and the bubble bursts with a roar and a lot of pain to everyone involved.

(some) Details

Author creates a very nice narrative by attaching the various stories of the ex-employees of the company. The book reads as if it's a fraud thriller fiction. What we read is how an entrepreneur drops out of university to start a big venture with a good vision, which grows into a hopeful startup with brilliant employees. A bit into the history of the company, CEO Elisabeth Holmes stops listening to her employees and starts to make demands that can not be fulfilled with the current technology available back then. This causes such drop in morale, accompanying with a complete change in management philosophy makes it impossible for the company to invent what it is set out to invent in the first place. Unfortunately rest of the book is a story of deceit, lies and terror: lying to investors about the company's state, lying to regulators about the accuracy and safety of its tests, hacking other companies's machines, terrorising ex-employees and journalists with threats of lawsuits and more importantly, putting thousands of people's lives at stake because of their unreliable tests.


When I told this story to my wife, she asked: "How long did they expect to keep everyone fooled like this?". This is a very good question and the answer was until either they really invent the blood analyzer they claimed to invent already (which was their current strategy) or until some journalist hears about them and exposes their fraud to public, which happened obviously and hence we're reading this book. In the end, it is estimated that Theranos spent 1 billion dollars, mostly on law expenses like attorneys etc. Imagine what could be achieved with this kind of money, had it spent on public terms like, university grants to invent a better blood testing machine! It's a sad waste.