Sally Kang

why join the navy.

Bad Blood Review: Fake It Till You Make It

12 May 2019

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This week I have read a very compelling book which I even stayed up for reading it, it’s called Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou, this book tells about the rise and fall of Theranos which was valued at $9 billion in 2013 and finally valued nearly zero by 2015.

Elizabeth Holmes is the core part of all this, she dropped out from Standford when she was only 19 years old and founded Theranos. What Theranos does is to quickly give you a complete picture of your health using only a drop of blood from your finger stick, which turns out never worked later. However, with that vision Holmes described for investors, both she and Theranos quickly became the darlings of Silicon Valley, and what worth mentioning is that Holmes is also an admirer of Steve Jobs, which makes her even more attractive and iconic. I feel like ever since Jobs’death, the whole Silicon Valley has fallen into a kind of empty by waiting for the next Steve Jobs, this person would have firm, unstoppable faith (sometimes you can even call it insane) to change the world, and he has this reality distortion field to achieve things that normal persons can not, I mean, like, if you are not crazy enough you can not even get money from Silicon Valley. So when Holmes and her company show up, it turns out that ‘the next Steve Jobs’ is not even a man, it’s a young girl with crazy and great ideas, which immediately attracts these persons who are always seeking for a great female entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, it’s like you know, Mayer and Sandberg are great indeed, but they didn’t find a company from zero.

The truth is even though Holmes has keeping convincing investors putting money in Theranos, but the whole thing is built on lies, the machine they made never worked to have correct results of the blood test. All they did is buying the third party products like from Siemens to do actual blood tests and fake the presentation demo to investors. Worst of all, Holmes continued to tout untested or nonexistent technology.

It was not until John Carreyrou who wrote this book broke the whole story as a reporter at the Wall Street Journal that the public knows about Theranos’ deception. Because he was so integral to the company’s demise, Bad Blood offers a remarkable inside look. It starts from chapter 20 that Carreyrou showed up himself in the book and details the thrilling process that how he track down supporting evidence while Holmes and Balwani worked to derail his efforts.

Fake it till you make it has been a famous saying in Silicon Valley, and sometimes it works indeed. We all know that many big companies started from faking, Bill Gates didn’t actually have the software product which he claimed to have, it wasn’t until he got the contract that he started writing code from scratch. Steve Jobs lied, even more, to get orders from customers by claiming that they have reliable assembled computers, while Apple 1 is just an ugly circuit board then. In this story, maybe Homles and persons who are believing in her are just following this, sometimes you want one thing to be true so much that you even take everything to make it up, but what Homles ignored is that, unlike other technology companies which are creating apps, websites or digital products, Thernaos is a biotechnological company, if you can’t create an app that’s ok because no one would die for it, but if you are giving wrong results of blood tests all the time, patients will probably die for that. Health technology requires a different approach than other kinds of technology because human lives are on the line, it’s not like a social media thing.

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