High-tech scammer

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
By John Carreyrou
Random House, 2018, 541 pp.

5 Stars

Elizabeth Holmes was a very bright, chemical engineering major at Stanford University. She dropped out of college in March, 2004 at the age of 20 because she had an amazing idea: to develop a compact blood analysis machine that could run hundreds of tests with only a few drops of blood drawn from a single finger prick.

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Elizabeth Holmes

Holmes founded the Theranos corporation in Silicon Valley to turn her dream into reality. She leveraged her youthful good looks and confident demeanor (which included a feigned deep, authoritative voice) to attract a bevy of big-name investors eager to get in on the ground floor of another high-tech start-up success. Holmes accomplished her dual dreams of becoming famous and a billionaire (on paper). There was just one small problem. Her idea wasn’t viable. Try as they might, Holmes’ team of scientists could not get reliable test results from a few drops of blood. Behind closed doors, Theranos actually used large blood analyzers built by competitors to test the blood samples that were sent to them. Holmes kept the truth from investors and regulatory agencies as long as possible, but whistle blowers confided in John Carreyrou, a suspicious investigative reporter working for the Wall Street Journal, who broke the story in 2015. Holmes denied the allegations, but mounting scrutiny eventually forced the shutdown of Theranos in 2018. Holmes was indicted on charges of fraud and awaits trial in March 2021 (the trial date has been rescheduled several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Recent filings indicate her lawyers may attempt a “mental illness” defense.

Holmes was quite a character; absolutely driven to be the “next Steve Jobs” and impressing potential investors with her trademark ninja black turtleneck shirts and her affected masculine voice, but with zero credibility. It was all “smoke and mirrors.” As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think about how society worships at the altar of fame, wealth, and attractiveness.

25 thoughts on “High-tech scammer

  1. Credibility and integrity are essential code in whatever we do. Thank you for this moral lesson Tom! True, the fallen world worships fame, wealth, and attractiveness. We are sanctified in CHRIST JESUS, set apart to focus on Him. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mandy! Yes, it was very interesting to read about how this fraud was perpetrated for so long. Investors were bedazzled by greed and by Holmes’ carefully orchestrated image.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. True story? Almost thought this was a novel. I think that sometimes it’s a streak of greed in the victims as well that lures them into ponzie schemes and investment frauds.
    Thanks for another good review! I hope all is well for you and your home, thinking of you as these autumn leaves begin to fall…πŸƒπŸ‚πŸπŸƒπŸπŸ‚πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, greed was the big factor and Holmes “played” the investors with her precisely orchestrated persona.
      Thanks, Lisa Beth! This book was definitely a page-turner. We’re doing fine and I hope you and yours are doing the same!
      RE: leaves
      Argh! They’re on my mind. Double-argh! The neighbors’ maple tree leaves are already beginning to fall but our oak tree leaves won’t start for another four weeks.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. πŸ‘‹πŸ»
      Thanks! I think I may have mentioned this friend to you a couple of years ago. We’ve been friends since 1st grade, 1962, but he had two really messy marriage break ups, one 20 years ago and this current one which has dragged on for four years (reconcile, separate, reconcile, separate, etc.). He’s a psychological mess – deep depression – and I avoided him for the last two years. The divorce is now being finalized and I’m hoping he can move on. He’s attends several churches (in addition to A.A.) so that he can latch on to people and tell them about his sad woes. Mental illness problems are difficult and I know you’ve seen some as a pastor.

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  3. Wow this sounds like a fascinating book! Though its quite thick and many pages. But subject matter is fascinating. I remember hearing about her on the news though before that I admit I never heard of her though everyone says she’s famous. I still don’t remember the name and when I read your review the name didn’t click until you told the story. Wow what a lesson of the problems of this world that worships fame, money, and physical appearances

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    1. What a story! The book was a real page turner. Well-told and not overly technical. She scammed many big name celebrity investors including Henry Kissinger, Rupert Murdoch, George Schultz, James Mattis, etc. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m guessing a lot of the older male investors became enamored with Holmes’ carefully crafted persona rather than actually checking into the bogus blood analyzer she was hyping.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I knew Mattis’ would catch your eye! Yeah, in addition she had all kinds of deals being lined up with the Pentagon for use in field hospitals even though her device did not work in the slightest.

        Liked by 1 person

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