‘Bad Blood, ’John Carreyrou, Alfred A. Knopf, 352 pages, $27.95.
In 2015, Vice President Joe Biden visited the Newark, Calif., laboratory of a hot new startup making medical devices: Theranos.
Biden saw rows of impressive-looking equipment — the company’s supposedly game-changing device for testing blood. The lab was a fake. The devices Biden saw had been staged for the visit.
Of course, Biden was not the only one conned. In Theranos’ brief, Icarus-like existence as a Silicon Valley darling, marquee investors shelled out $900 million. Founder, Elizabeth Holmes was feted as a biomedical version of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
The prizewinning Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou tells the story virtually to perfection in “Bad Blood” — first through a chilling, third-person narrative on how Holmes came up with a fantastic idea that made her, for a while, the most successful woman entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.
The heart of the problem: She and her company overpromised, then when they couldn’t deliver, lied.
In the second part of the book, the author compellingly relates how he became involved, following a tip from a suspicious reader.
Even with modern journalism’s issues, his recounting reads like a West Coast version of “All the President’s Men.”
The question of how the scheme got so far — more than 800 employees and a paper valuation of $9 billion — will fascinate business school classes for years.
The first line of defense should have been the board, and its failure was shocking. Yet outsiders could have spotted red flags, but averted their eyes as if they wanted to believe.
NEW YORK TIMES