Bad Blood, The Theranos Scam & Scandal

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says "Winner of the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award 2018 Bad Blood Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup NLB The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos 61 lohn Z] ;arreyrou"

Allow me to share an good read which is both engaging and intriguing – like a detective novel. Theranos was touted as a DIY bucket sized blood testing mini-lab that could perform 4 common blood tests with as little blood as that from a lancet prick. School dropout Elizabeth Holmes was about to make a dent in the universe.

Impressive speech on TED, except that she is a fraudster and the technology never really existed. But Ms Holmes’ domineering, confident and dictatorial style even managed to win her the trust and respect of a 4-star general.

The device would have been tested on troops in Afghanistan if not for the gutsy, uncompromising microbiologist LTC Shoemaker who stood his ground against his military superior.

Combined with Ms Holmes’ charisma and iron-fisted rule with her boyfriend Sunny, the rapid turnover of staff achieved through the speedy dismissal of critical employees, the equally rapid promotion of sycophants and servile, pandering foreign workers and the litany of lawsuits thrown at whistle blowers, the scam took America nearly 15 years to expose! What’s even more interesting is that the device was endorsed by former vice president (current POTUS) Joe Biden.

Who took them to task and called their bluff? No, it’s not the FDA which actually approved a herpes testing component that wasn’t even a unique or original concept. Neither was it part of the original design. It was not the government as VP Joe Biden had nothing but praises for Theranos. The true heroes were the tenacious journalists and courageous whistle blowers who insisted on getting the truth out in spite of being stalked and threatened.

Erika Cheung, a key whistle blower who was threatened by lawyers and stalkers

But what really saved the American public and potential investors from this scam, is the culture of calling out fakes no matter how inconvenient and disruptive to the self. In another society, whistle blowers might have kept quiet, kept their jobs and journalists might not want to take the trouble or the risk to investigate and report. Fans and lovers of routine and predictability may label this spirit as “唯恐天下不乱“。

The following image was captured from a page in the book. Doesn’t this scenario look disturbingly familiar?

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