Bad Blood by John Carreyrou: Summary & Notes

Rating: 8/10

Available at: Amazon

Related: Billion Dollar Loser


Bad Blood tells the story of biotechnology startup Theranos, with a focus on founder Elizabeth Holmes. Theranos raised over $900M, at one point making Holmes the youngest self-made billionaire in the world (on paper at least). Much of it turned out to be fake, and she was recently convicted of fraud.

The story of Theranos is one of caution: what happens when a founder takes the “fake-it-til-you-make-it” approach too far, and a reminder to always think for yourself when evaluating people and hype.


  • Holmes was obsessed with appearances, her idol Steve Jobs, and “becoming successful” to the point of ignoring how well the product functioned
  • A large part of what allowed the fraud to perpetuate was the social proof that someone else provided: first a professor at Stanford, then leaders at key partners like Walgreens, and world leaders in fields other than biotech or startups (James Mattis, Rupert Murdoch, etc.)
  • Theranos culture seemed to be terrible throughout; this should be a warning sign for those joining other startups
  • Opacity was a key attribute at Theranos, and should be another warning sign at startups; those with nothing to hide don’t go to such great lengths to do so
  • Don’t believe everything you read in the news; Holmes and Theranos were media darlings for a long time
  • Beware those who are too concerned about appearances, rather than results

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