Reading the book, “Bad Blood… “, I was struck by how much of what we take as success is empty from the inside. The true story of a company called Theranos, founded by a Stanford dropout, Elizabeth Holmes, it narrates the spectacular rise and fall of its CEO and the company itself. It makes for compelling reading, especially for someone like me, having ties to the Silicon Valley.
Without giving away too much of the story of the book, Theranos was founded on the premise of a breakthrough in the way that blood tests are performed. The CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, had an excellent story to tell about how it was going to help humanity. She was inspired heavily by Steve Jobs, even copying his style of dressing! In the valley where VCs are always on the lookout for the “next Apple” or the “next Facebook”, her story was lapped up, peaking at a valuation of 9 billion USD, before its steep fall, thanks to a whistleblower and the author of the book, who published the story in the Wall Street Journal.
The story of Theranos is the story of multiple Technology start-ups. In an era of rapid technological development, everyone wants to be a part of the next big thing before their competition gets to it. It fuels irrational human behavior, even among the most experienced heads of organizations. To think that big corporations also bought into the lie that was Theranos to the tune of 100s of millions of dollars says something about how, fundamentally, companies are nothing but people working together for a vision defined by some other people. Everyone has insecurities and fears – when they come to the fore in the leaders of companies, it leads to poor decisions taken without enough background study.
The book got me thinking on how we, even as individuals, are willing to sacrifice so many of our own beliefs for the sake of a living. Employees of Theranos were treated unfairly and very few spoke up about it or took a stand against the rowdy tactics of the company. How many of us are in situations where we see wrong happening and do little about it? I hope not too many, but looking at the Theranos’ story, I don’t know anymore!
Of course, the book is compelling reading, especially if you are in the Tech Industry. There are many parts and characters that one can easily identify with and the narration style is excellent, if a little sensational at times. It got me thinking on multiple dimensions vis-a-vis the IT industry, people, the lawyers and the human need for a leader.