• Bad Blood

  • Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
  • By: John Carreyrou
  • Narrated by: Will Damron
  • Length: 11 hrs and 37 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (38,933 ratings)

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Bad Blood  By  cover art

Bad Blood

By: John Carreyrou
Narrated by: Will Damron
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Publisher's summary

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The gripping story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos—one of the biggest corporate frauds in history—a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley, rigorously reported by the prize-winning journalist. With a new Afterword.

“Chilling ... Reads like a thriller ... Carreyrou tells [the Theranos story] virtually to perfection.” —The New York Times Book Review

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the next Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with its breakthrough device, which performed the whole range of laboratory tests from a single drop of blood. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.5 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work. Erroneous results put patients in danger, leading to misdiagnoses and unnecessary treatments. All the while, Holmes and her partner, Sunny Balwani, worked to silence anyone who voiced misgivings—from journalists to their own employees.

©2018 John Carreyrou (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"Bad Blood is the real be-all end-all of Theranos information…. Bad Blood is wild, and more happens on one page than in many other entire books." —Margaret Lyons, The New York Times

"You will not want to put this riveting, masterfully reported book down. No matter how bad you think the Theranos story was, you'll learn that the reality was actually far worse."—Bethany McLean, bestselling coauthor of The Smartest Guys in the Room and All the Devils Are Here

"Chilling... Carreyrou tells [this story] virtually to perfection… Reads like a West Coast version of All the President's Men."—Roger Lowenstein, The New York Times Book Review

Featured Article: Our Editors Reveal—The Listen that Changed My Life


If you’re an avid listener, chances are you’ve run through more audiobooks than you can count. Whether your favorites are can’t-pause thrillers, eye-opening audio docs, or out-of-this-world sci-fi sagas, you’ve likely built up quite the listening library. But can you recall the listen that changed your life? Did it shape your worldview, offer up a new perspective, or bestow a pivotal life lesson? Read on for some listens that changed the Audible editors' lives.

What listeners say about Bad Blood

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Extreme retaliation against former employees

Theranos lab employees were under continuous observation - camera surveillance, email scrutiny, the works. Fake baritone voiced Elizabeth Holmes and her cruel boyfriend Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani held them tightly in mortal fear, pursuing the few who thought they could resign and rebuild their lives. No lab employee could be allowed to expose the fraud.

The multi-billion dollar secret at the time: Theranos was phony baloney; it had no device that could run all types of blood tests with just a drop of blood and then provide instant accurate test results. It didn't have anything to change the world. All those Theranos devices being used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan - pure fabrication. But nobody could prove it wasn't being done and besides, the board of directors included: George Shultz; James Mattis; Henry Kissinger; and many other famous heavy hitters.

The suspense built and built. Author and narrator matched up nicely, building strength as the book progressed. They made me feel the fear a Theranos lab technician who had to pretend miracles happened. One former lab director was driven to suicide, a mere pawn in this game. Former lab employees discovered the hard way they could run but not hide (those who tried to hide were found by Theranos investigators).

George Shultz's grandson was caught more than once trying flip his grandfather, and his family was made to spend an obscene amount (I think it was $400K) trying to defend against Theranos lawsuits. Legal bills were only part of the harassment. Holmes and her crew ruined people's reputations and careers.

Elizabeth Holmes remains a mystery. Carreyrou says she was an outstanding sales person. She relieved big money out of sophisticated investors - $150 million from the Walton family, $121 million from Rupurt Murdoch, $100 million from Betsy DeVos (her father-in-law was co-founder of Amway), $120 million from the Cox family that controls Cox Media Group, and so on.

Bad Blood shows how an apex con artist dupes important people by appealing to ego and greed. Jim Cramer said her company was changing healthcare the same way Amazon changed retail. President Clinton publicly asked her for advice on reducing inequality. She made the Time Magazine 100 List. She talked pure nonsense without interviewers being aware of it. Instead they probably saw a female Steve Jobs; we all wanted to see a female Steve Jobs. Although it tries, the book doesn't explain what Holmes said and did behind closed doors that captured sophisticated investors and government leaders. It's still a mystery. I keep thinking about it.

In retrospect, all those employees who lived in fear were never the target. Holmes targeted billionaires, and to a lesser extent, famous people with big egos. Holmes dealt with these people directly. She made them wait; she made sure her security detail was more numerous than theirs; she decided when the meeting was over; she put the pants on them and dipped them. How on earth did she pull it all off?

True crime is an exciting genre, and this book succeeds for two reasons: 1. The author was part of the story from the beginning, as he understood a crime was occurring and the villain worked at shutting him up. 2. The story was told from the perspective of lab employees living the nightmare of running from a monster that gives pursuit.

(Separately, I keep thinking about the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) Theranos used on employees, how they weaponized this basic legal contract. One can imagine why lab scientists and technicians signed since this was a condition of employment.)


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171 people found this helpful

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Shocking story of a meteoric rise and fall

Prior to reading Bad Blood, I was vaguely familiar with Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes through articles in the print media and TV news coverage but never really dug deeper than that. I was interested in their core business, blood testing, and thought highly of Elizabeth Holmes and her mission to help those with health problems. She was passionate about her business and the company had a commendable mission statement. Her fame came relatively fast, and was lauded far and wide for being a strong young executives who was trying to change the world. Heck, she was even dubbed “the next Steve Jobs” (and even dressed like him and mimicked a number of Apple's strategies and polcies within Theranos).

WOW. Bad Blood absolutely blew my mind. I had no idea what the was going on with Holmes and Theranos. This book, written by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, gives you the play-by-play of how the Stanford drop-out built a NINE BILLION DOLLAR company and became one of the youngest BILLIONAIRES ($4.7B at her peak) ever without ever really developing a viable product! All this on blue sky! All based on wildly optimistic projections which were total fabrications! The ultimate “fake it until you make it” but Theranos never made it; and, as you now hear if you listen to business news, the house of cards has finally collapsed. Bad Blood covers the unbelievable story of Theranos from its origins right up until early 2018.

Some of the Theranos story is stranger than fiction. How did Elizabeth Holmes use her cult of personality to lure many, many major investors such as Walgreens, Safeway, Rupert Murdoch, the Walmart Waltons, Betsy DeVos, etc. to give her company millions of dollars? How did she build a board of directors with members such as George Schultz (!), William Perry (!), Sam Nunn (!), Bill Frist (!), and Henry Kissinger (!!!), plus other notables?

The company was run by Holmes’s boyfriend Sunny Balwani, who was eighteen years older than her, and who ran the company using intimidation and fear. Turnover was extremely high and threats of lawsuits were used to intimidate rivals and former employees. The tactics used by the whistleblower who ultimately took down Theranos have to be read to be believed. Therenos spent astronomical amounts of money on private investigators and the best corporate attorneys money could buy.

The dark(er) side of the story has to do with the people affected by the inaccurate test results produced by the Theranos equipment which was based on technology that didn’t work. Even though the company’s supposedly cutting-edge technology was giving inaccurate readings Theranos continued selling consumer testing through their corporate partners, choosing dollars over the safety of their customers. There are currently lawsuits pending against Theranos from people who were harmed by Theranos’ inaccurate test results.

This was an excellent listen. I would highly recommend even to those who are interested in business as the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is just enthralling from start to finish.

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80 people found this helpful

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Excellent listen & definitive account

The definitive account of a massive fraud perpetrated by Theranos and it’s leadership team — as well as the extraordinary lengths to which the company and its bare-knuckled attorneys went to try to prevent the fraud from being discovered - recounted by the journalist who pulled on the strings that unraveled the whole disgusting enterprise. I finished it in 4-5 days and would recommend to anyone who is interested in Silicon Valley, venture capital, the perils of private securities offerings, and the limits of the “fake it till you make it” mantra that is pervasive (but not confined to) Silicon Valley and the startup culture.

Elizabeth Holmes is clearly a sociopath - the book never quite figures her out, but that much is clear - but my impression from the book (and my own anecdotal experiences) is that Holmes is not as unique as we might like to believe. We will see in time. But it is hard to read this book and not come away with the impression that a big part of the reason the Theranos story ends with Holmes under federal indictment for fraud is that she made the mistake of perpetrating that fraud in the highly regulated industry of human laboratory testing, Had she sought to “disrupt” a more mundane industry - anything that wasn’t literally “life and death” - I suspect there is good chance she would have gotten away with it. For his part, the illustrious David Boise also comes across looking at best like a tarnished super-lawyer at worst like a terrible human being who went to (suspiciously) great lengths to abet Holmes and her fraud. Kudos to Carreyrou for telling this story and to the WSJ for publishing it. Well worth the credit.

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What an amazing journalist

This is just an incredible book. I’m so grateful he 1)exposed a sociopath and 2) wrote it all down for us to read. Just fantastic.

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Female Psychopath

This is the story of the intricate manipulations of a female psychopath. Older, successful men were a key target. She’d play the granddaughter role or any other role to fulfill their psychological needs. A true but almost unbelievable story of a successful psychopathic plan.

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What a cast of rotten characters!

Unbelievable. I hope Holmes and Sunny go jail for a long time. Selfish losers. The biggest heroes are Carreyrou and Tyler Shultz, George Shultz's grandson. I hope George is shamed by his behavior. Tyler showed the most courage of anyone in the story, and he was only in his 20s! Good job, mom and dad, even if it was tough on you for a while. I hate bullies and Elizabeth Holmes certainly is one. Let's see how she fares in jail. Throw away the key.

I binged this in about 3 days, turning down fun invitations to stay home alone listening. The best book I've read in a long time. What a journalist. We need more like him.

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Off the chart expose’!

Having been in and around the tech startup scene for 25 years, I felt like I personally experienced every situation and person that the author portrays in this amazing story of fake-it til you make-it. One of the top books I’ve read in the last 10 years. It’s a must read, true story of control, manipulation, greed, lies, fantasy and recklessness. 5 out of 5 IMO.

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whoa baby

I am not a non-fiction reader AT ALL and only chose this book because of my foolish habit of judging books by their covers/names. The name of this book put me in mind of the HBO show Big Little Lies, which I really enjoyed.
This book does not disappoint. It is dripping with juicy drama, secrets and lies. To think it actually happened is unbelievable. In the book it mentiones a few times how surprised people were of Elizabeths Holmes voice. They were not kidding.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish.

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Outstanding and the definitive words on Theranos.

This is an outstanding story and sits on the shelf entitled, "If It Wasn't True, No One Would Believe It." It is nearly a mandatory reading before investing in any company and it's too good to be true representations. I hope there are appendixes because I strongly suspect that this story is no where near completed.

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OK narrator

Don't understand why the narrator used such a high pitched voice to quote Elizabeth who is known for her fake baritone but ok.

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