Notes on Bad Blood - Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

The book was written by John Carreyrou and exposes the full story behind the failed blood testing startup, Theranos. These notes are simply things I thought while reading it.

  • Pushing your children and having “excellence running through the family” is a problem
  • Euopeans who force their young children to learn Mandarin may lead to psychopath tendencies
  • The made up contraints and deadlines should be reasonable and achievable if they are made at all
  • Good and smart people are corrupted by pressure and money
  • Sleep 8 to 9 hours and enjoy a stress free life - you decide your happiness levels
  • Even if everyone tells you that some person is good or a don - use your own judgement and gut. Your bs detector has served yu this far in life.
  • Don’t get caught up in the hype
  • Rich and famous people are sick, lonely psychopaths
  • A manager that pushes back against unreasonable emands from executives is someone to be cherished
  • You will know when you come across a good person, choose the good person over the money, over your own greed.
  • There’s good advice and then there’s kak advice. You know what is good if you trust and know the person has your best interest in mind instead of just sounding cool.
  • Rushing is bad always (in tech)

  • When the entire company is called together and told something negative and uncomfortable (something like former employees are being sued, or if you don’t like using x then leave now) - then you probably should leave
  • If you need a non-disclose agreement then you’re a corporate and might be doing it wrong
  • Tightening the grip on the flow of information up instead of across is bad - the less barriers between clear comms the better
  • Elizabeth Holmes delibrately modified her voice like a psychopath to a barratone in public and wore steve jobs attire. Don’t be fake, be yourself. - You create your own prisons.
  • Tight network controls result in hours of lost productivity and loss of teh business objective
  • Beware of the after hours pizza or dinner
  • The more secret the more prone to moral breaches
  • Rapid hirings / entries can be just as bad as Rapid firings or exits
  • At some stage integraton and functional tests will be an answer to the business question, unit tests rarely are.
  • Some eople don’t have ethics and can do terrible things
  • No one is above you and no one is below you. Don’t despise someone due to their status at the same time do not hale those of a perceived status.
  • Enron was built on the belief in the projections of negotiations (perceived future deals) not on concrete deals. Much like Theranos.
  • You need deals in writing
  • If asking the hard questions puts you in hot water - you are on the way out.
  • Excitable, busy and antsy leads to stress, anxiety, and drama
  • No one likes being told no, but sometimes you need to take the “L” like a man. Can’t run from “L”’s your whole life, that means you are deluded.
  • Don’t deal in equity of non public companies - you’ll get fucked unless you are the corrupt one
  • A person that is unreasonable is bad
  • Beware the obsessive penny pincher
  • Be careful on what you look at on your browser - espescially on corporate networks
  • Moving companies changes your life
  • “The overall impression was that of an eighth-grade science project”
  • Too many moving parts and uncontrollables
  • Why this what biotech was built on - holy smokes
  • No matter how much you spend - if your product and process is a joke, its a joke. Keep it lean.
  • “When the drugmakers’ executives asked if the Theranos system could be customized to suit their needs, Elizabeth would always answer, “Absolutely.” - wonder who is going to hold the bag at the end of this.
  • Demo’s - damn them. They can go one of 2 ways.
  • The old: “minor technical glitch”
  • Go with your gut, don’t get convinced to change your mind
  • “When you strike at the king, you must kill him.”
  • Beware the crazy bitch
  • “Tim was a yes-man who never leveled with Elizabeth about what was feasible and what wasn’t. For instance, he’d contradicted Justin and assured her they could write the Edison software’s user interface faster in Flash than in JavaScript.” - wow.
  • If Never saying no represents a can-do attitude - well then fuck off
  • Degrees of magnitude greater than they need to be in lies and stress - how’s about honesty and calmness.
  • If you think you need to recommend the “The No Asshole Rule” - you are as good as dead to that company
  • Wealth rarely stays for long between generations - harbour ethics and moral rigidity instead
  • Look at people directly in the eye and focus for more trust
  • Beware the aggressive in you face management style
  • “Commerce One acquired the startup for $232 million in cash and stock. It was a breathtaking price for a company that had just three clients testing its software and barely any revenues.”
  • “In one of the first company meetings he attended, he bragged that he’d written a million lines of code.” - keeping track of this is a huge smell
  • “Sunny didn’t know or understand any of this because he had no background in medicine, much less laboratory science. Nor did he have the patience to listen to the scientists’ explanations. It was easier to just blame the cellular connection.” - you can be rich and an arrogant, know nothing asshole. Unforunately many rich people are.
  • Making decisions on hearsay is bad, hold and use the product on the ground to make better decision.
  • A culture of fear via intimidating behaviour is not something you want to be a part of
  • Don’t lie
  • “There was a sleeping bag on the floor behind his desk, his bathroom had a shower in it, and he kept a change of clothes on hand. He worked such long hours that on many nights he crashed at the office, he proudly told the visitors.”
  • If you are the enomy for saying no or asking the hard questions - then you are the enemy and you got no friends there.
  • When an argument using quantity and status is used, there is usually no real grounding: ““all the big x companies mostly used y”
  • tension and conflict is to be resolved, not avoided.
  • Beward the wild and strong claims
  • How a system or product functions is always more important than other trivial and aesthetic characteristics
  • Nepotism is a company breaker
  • Working long hours is just portraying an image. The effetiveness of output is the only thing that matters.
  • Better to be smart and poor than dumb and rich.
  • Never tell your employer you have something going on the side
  • Again the old get the company together and make threats: “The miniLab is the most important thing humanity has ever built. If you don’t believe this is the case, you should leave now”
  • Illusions of your own importance are dillusions
  • Supporters of Patton are no good, supporters of Churchhill are good (in my opinion)
  • “It belonged to one of the Indian consultants Sunny had brought in to help with software development.”
  • Stock buybacks: “By reducing the number of shares it had outstanding, buybacks could artificially raise a company’s earnings per share—the headline number investors focused on—even if its actual earnings fell. It was an old trick that astute Wall Street analysts versed in corporate sleights of hand saw right through.”
  • Some fields (most fields) need thorough testing but medical probably needs the most. Ever single case. Don’t throw an untested sketchy product when people’s lives are at risk.
  • If you are threatened with being fired, you as good as gone.
  • “You cannot run a company through fear and intimidation”
  • Executives getting angry from poor financial results leads to lies and cooking books
  • Getting lucky once or having a good prior track record does not mean you are special and above the fundementals of sound management
  • If it feels right in your gut to walk away yet your mind says youve spent too much time and money. Then walking away is the correct choice.
  • Better to speak up and raise concerns
  • Sometimes prolonging an argument is a waste of time
  • “Mattis had been gruff but reasonable and a workable compromise had been reached” - this is good
  • silos - bad
  • Never go back to a company you have been fired from - or you left voluntarily
  • Don’t surround yourself with “yes” men
  • Don’t be forced to lower your standards of quality
  • Don’t attach yourself to a company
  • “THE FORTY-EIGHT HOURS before the website went live turned into a mad scramble”
  • “Elizabeth had wanted all those sweeping claims to be true, but just because you badly wanted something to be real didn’t make it so”
  • “The biggest problem of all was the dysfunctional corporate culture in which it was being developed”
  • Beware the PHD person who has little real world experience and is forced to be a yes man because they lack the knowledge to say no
  • Simple is better than complex. Reliable is better than cramming many features into fixed constraints.
  • If people use words or phrases like they are cool mythical things, they probably dont know what they truly are. ie. A blade server
  • Don’t use indian consultants. Quality is always lacking due to a culture thing.
  • Perceived smart or high status people have low ethics - sometimes
  • when you force things that cannot be done that leads to stress
  • an engineer and a doctor have different ethical compasses
  • dont let an idiot tell you how to do something.
  • Always put the actual customer that should benefit first - not the business partner
  • Amazing how seasoned investors got nailed on facade statup valuations and bitcoin
  • projections aren’t real
  • Teams changing is a big thing
  • cherry-picking data isn’t good science
  • Young people in high and stressful positions will break moral and logical barriers to seem like they are making progress
  • Beware redirection instead of straight answers
  • CLarity and brevity
  • Don’t accept someone belittling you
  • Can’t let you job run your life
  • The hype that the media has around money and an idea - not a working product is astounding
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • In most cases, you can’t build a bus while driving the bus
  • Using software development and lean startup methodoligies don’t work when people’s lives are at risk
  • Never go to a meeting with someone or company who is now the enemy
  • lawyers aren’t concerned aboutt he truth, they are concerned with doing what their client wants
  • Amazing that people will attack your objectivity when they are always terribly in the wrong
  • Lawyers are bullies and bluffers
  • WHen you are tasked with masking an error message to not show on a digital display there is problem.
  • Denying that there is a problem when there clearly is one

Glassdoor review:

Super high turnover rate means you’re never bored at work. Also good if you’re an introvert because each shift is short-staffed. Especially if you’re swing or graveyard. You essentially don’t exist to the company.
Why be bothered with lab coats and safety goggles? You don’t need to use PPE at all. Who cares if you catch something like HIV or Syphilis? This company sure doesn’t!
Brown nosing, or having a brown nose, will get you far.
How to make money at Theranos:
1. Lie to venture capitalists
2. Lie to doctors, patients, FDA, CDC, government. While also committing highly unethical and immoral (and possibly illegal) acts.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of the calm, jovial and small incremental bites colleague.
  • Denial is strong and it seems to work until it all comes crashing down
  • Beware the white collar political types and their suckups
  • Beware indian, pakistani developers and scientists
  • Don’t feel bad for not being a salesperson, most of them are arrogant stupid and will lie cheat and steal for anything.
  • Never did like: “Fake it till you make it” - thats salesmen trash
  • Beware exrteme secrecy and sureillance