Today we being our journey through Bad Blood, Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2018). The book is 325 pages and is comprised of author’s notes, a prologue, epilogue and 24 chapters.  The book is the story of Theranos, an infamous Silicon Valley start-up. I view this as a cautionary tale reflecting the excesses of a runaway startup culture.  Steven Adam, one of the blog’s active participants, suggested this book. I anticipate that this re-read (a first read for me) will run 20 – 25 weeks. The book is a business novel that leverages real life, but fills some of the cracks.  

Author’s notes

The book is based on 150 interviews including sixty plus former Theranos employee. That said, Elizabeth Holmes, the COE and one of the founders of Theranos did not participate in interviews for the book


The story begins by tracing through the eyes of Henry Mosley, CFO. Mr. Mosley is portrayed as a CFO that has been around the block a few times and not a dewy-eyed sycophant.  I am using these words to give the sense that the book portrays. In the book Mosley does not know how the product actually works but is becoming suspicious.

Theranos, at the time of the story, had an experienced board and a strong management team.  The story in the prologue begins after Theranos had completed a third round of funding that put the startup in an excellent position to move forward.  

The main action in the prologue is the demo of Theranos’s blood testing tool to Novartis.  When the team returns Mosley receives mixed messages about the success. Elizabeth Holmes, CEO, is all smiles, but the rest of the team is less sanguine.

The punchline in the prologue is that the tool only works part of the time. However, for the demonstrations the output is manufactured to present the result Holmes believes Novartis is expecting.  The confrontation between Holmes and Mosley leads to Mosley’s dismissal from Theranos.

The prologue sets the tone by suggesting that Holmes managed perceptions of the product with an iron hand.  

It is my intent to start the re-read with a two chapter a week cadence.  We will adjust if that does not work.

Remember to buy a copy of Bad Blood (buy your copy today and support the blog and the author). Remember that Bad Blood is a new book for me, therefore a “read” rather than a re-read.