Keith: How to doom a start-up to failure? Ensure no communication! No negative comments allowed, no outside review. Elizabeth was briefed that she would have a 90% chance of success for each of 10 different things and she concluded that overall she has a 90% chance of success. This is a cardinal sin statistically from the viewpoint of standard deviation.
Re the presentation: Too damn long; two many characters; author interviewed 140 people and crammed everyone into the story. Grade: B
Rob E: [pass]
Mike B: I thought Carreyrou handled the material beautifully. He purposely started his book with the 2006 report phoned back from Switzerland as seen through the eyes of Henry Mosley, the current CFO, that pharma giant Novartis loved the product, the trip was a great success! Elizabeth returns elated, but her cadre of travelers have a different story, as Mosley squeezes from Shanuck Roy [the Stanford co-founder of Theranos, whom Wikipedia does not even mention today]. When Carreyrou confronts Elizabeth; you can't present faked evidence to our investors, she turns on him, and he is fired. Great story, well presented by not giving away the ending and the personally frightening threats by Boies. Certainly a cautionary tale. B+
Dick Jensen: I thoroughly enjoyed it -- thanks for choosing this book! My test of a good book is if I forward it to my nephew, and this one will be heading to Utah. A-
Jack F: Fascinating story. It is difficult to believe that she could dupe so many people. Characters were interesting, and I thought he did a good job of telling the story: A-
Kenny G: This was a page scroller (the digital equivalent of a page turner). I was pissed off by the Index. Fascinating story and I really enjoyed it. It made me think of my investments and how the Boards will tell you "next year" will be so much better. A-
Bob W: Probably the most interesting story I've read in decades. His style was journalistic; could have been a newspaper article. Good job of explaining what failure was about. A
Charlie: I found it fascinating. A very good job of explaining why it didn't work. Journalist news was excellent. An A with no reservations.
Bob S: We security lawyers are trained to smell a rat. This story got me more and more depressed - it was just criminals, well written, a page turner. I scooted through the PDF version in 4 to 5 days. The momentum of the plot carried me to the final one third, which exposed his skills. and how he was able to verify that it was a scan. His greatest help was Tyler Schultz. Not as much oversight from government agencies. B because not great literature, but great journalism.
Karl: This was indeed journalism, not literature.
There are actually two well-told stories in this book: the story of Theranos and the story about writing the story of Theranos. Both are fascinating. I read the book twice, and in my first read of the book, I understood the Theranos story to be an important one, one that we’d be unable to avoid once the federal trial begins next summer. Between then and now, I’ve come to realize that this isn’t just an important story, but a phenomenal one.
The evidence for this consists of:
- The two-hour PBS documentary on Elizabeth Holmes done several months ago;
- That there are not one but two movies planned, one to be starring A-lister, Jennifer Lawrence, and being co-screen written by John Carreyrou;
- That a Google search of “Elizabeth Holmes” on December 13th, generated 94.4 MM hits in less than a second; and
- According to an article in the Albuquerque Journal this October, nary a black turtleneck could be found in stores in the greater San Francisco area prior to Halloween because of the number of people who were planning to dress as Elizabeth Holmes for costume parties.
Carreyrou’s accounting of the 15-year saga of Theranos was obviously well-researched, and generally clear and well-written. My one criticism – and it is significant – is that while each of the myriad of characters was introduced extremely well, when appearing later in the book they weren’t reintroduced carefully enough. Too often, I couldn’t remember who they were when the showed up again after being absent for 30 or 40 pages.
The Holmes-Theranos story begs a number of important questions to include:I suspect that Bad Blood is just the first of several books that will be written on this topic and that it will become an excellent business school case study once all the facts are known and the trial (and likely appeals) have been completed. This story will be around for quite a while and later accounts I suspect may try to address some of the currently unanswered questions. A-
- When did Holmes go from being a starry-eyed, idealistic, visionary to a fraudster and why?
- Why was she able to win over so many smart, successful people, with virtually no supporting evidence other than her vision and personality?
- Why didn’t other bloodwork professionals raise concerns over what Theranos was claiming long before the government got involved?
- Why in the world did it take the regulatory agencies so long to investigate Theranos?
- Why did the generally suspicious media glom onto her as a hero so completely before the WSJ articles?
and for further stories online:
7-minute summary video includes 'the hero' Tyler Schultz;
Erika Cheung's story, the whistleblower on Theranos, at InspireFest 2019;
What's next for Elizabeth & Theranos? [interview May 2018, when Carreyrou's book published]