Expanded on his devastating investigative reports for the Wall Street Journal on Theranos, John Carreyrou reveals the relentless drives and the bottomless lies from its chief executive Elizabeth Holmes. Dropped out of Stanford after only eight months to start her company in Silicon Valley, Holmes set out to change the healthcare industry with her innovative device that could test blood quickly and accurately with just a few drops. Unfortunately, the revolutionary concept was easy to sell, but impossible to execute. Together with her partner-in-crime Sunny Balwani, Holmes cut corners when they couldn’t deliver and cut into people’s lives when the tests showed inaccurate results. They became ruthless to anyone, particularly their employees, who questioned their fraud and immorality.
Right from the first chapter of the book, Carreyrou profiles Holmes’s childhood life with some red flags. Like most parents, her father instilled in her the notion of living a purposeful life. They encouraged her to be all that she can be; therefore, she had become competitive. When she played Monopoly with her younger brother and cousin, she always wanted to win. When she occasionally lost, she ran through the screen door in a rage. I had seen kids with this type of competitive edge. I wondered if that type of behavior is good or bad. I always taught my kids that it was OK to lose. They didn’t have to win everything and every time. Then I began to doubt myself. If I don’t drill the competitiveness in them, will they not try hard? Competitiveness had built confidence in Holmes, but focusing on just winning made her lose sight of everything else including consequence, ethnic, and compassion. If she could balance out her consciences and competitiveness, she might be able to come up with a groundbreaking product.
Drawing from 150 people (including 60 former employees), Carreyrou has written a riveting non-fiction book that reads like fiction. Although the book is 300 pages, it moves swiftly. His prose is so hard to put down. I highly recommend it.