“Bad Blood” – Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou – Observations by Walrus.


I wrote in 2010 at SST on the characteristics and dangers associated with  narcissistic leadership. "Bad Blood' by John Carreyrou chronicles the rise and fall of Theranos, a Silicon Valley healthcare startup founded and run by Elizabeth Holmes, a card carrying narcissist if ever I saw one. This book, in my opinion, paints such a detailed and comprehensive picture of the way these creatures operate that I thought it worthwhile to bring it to the attention of SST members who may doubt my warnings of the dangers of allowing such folk near the levers of power in business and, worse, Government. I read this book over two nights and it unfortunately brought back my own experiences of working for a narcissist to the point of causing sleeplessness and indigestion.

Under the direction of the charismatic Holmes, Theranos burned through some $900 million in investors funds before being found out in 2015. Their blood testing business was a sham that endangered patients. The company's key business strengths were the "reality distortion field" Elizabeth Holmes projected over investors and  directors and the twin weapons of secrecy and fear they wielded over their employees.

Disbelievers my argue that start up companies sometimes require desperate measures to stay afloat and that you cannot make an omelette, etc. etc. However the pattern of behavior at Theranos was ingrained and consistent – "an orchestrated litany of lies" as a judge has said in another matter.

If you wish to perhaps be a little forearmed against the day that you perhaps must engage with one of these creatures it would be well to understand the cautionary tale of Theranos.



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