Bad Blood: A Conversation on Megalomania in Silicon Valley

Episode of: Track Changes

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Aug 28, 201827m
Bad Blood: A Conversation on Megalomania in Silicon Valley
Aug 28 '1827m
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Product is Humbling: This week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk about John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies In a Silicon Valley Startup, a book about “what can go wrong when you believe stuff”. Drawing comparisons to Wild Wild Country’s Baghwan and the late Steve Jobs, this episode discusses the founder of Theranos’ charisma within the culture of Silicon Valley. Was the failure of Theranos to deliver its product a case of collective megalomania, mass hysteria, or simply a refusal to say “I don’t know?”

Paul — 2:00: “You’re looking in a mirror in some parts of this. You’ve met people like the people in this book. First of all, it’s hardware instead of software — and it’s healthcare hardware instead of software.”

Paul — 3:05: “You cannot deceive the public with your blood product and tell them, ‘come to Walgreens and we’ll test everything and we’ll tell you what’s wrong with you!’ when you can’t do that.”

Paul — 3:20: “There’s an element of self-deception throughout that I really found fascinating because that’s a big part of software. You kind of lie to yourself about how easy it’s going to be.”

Paul — 4:30: “Clearly [Steve Jobs] knew what the limits of possibility were and he would just shove people right up through that. Past that limit.”

Paul — 7:25: “It was also cool to see Silicon Valley connect to pharma, […] like this is Brave New World.”

Paul — 8:55: “Everyone is starting to realize that the marketing message doesn’t correlate to reality. It’s this very tricky thing where the agency isn’t quite sure what its ethical responsibilities are because they’re about to put help information up.”

Rich — 10:15: “You try to get in the head of the founder here and you have to wonder, is the founder terrible and self aware and has just decided, ‘ok, I am evil, I know what I’m doing is evil,’ or is this someone that just got lost and drank their own kool-aid?”

Paul — 12:45: “The book ended up being about the way that litigation affects the truth about business, and how a business is run and operated at a certain scale.”

Paul — 15:20: “Your number one job in any role where you’re dealing with the public is to reduce litigation risk. People don’t get that. My job has often been — when I’m writing, when I was an editor — you think constantly about the attack surface for litigation.”

Rich — 18:30: “There are two ways to get people to stay with your organization: Fear or, really, a sense of commitment or loyalty to the place […] where if you’re doing it right, if someone leaves, you pause and reflect on yourself and wonder what happened.”

Paul — 22:25: “It’s very easy if you are a smart, talented person who has succeeded to believe that you have perfect knowledge about things you know not a damn thing about.”

Paul — 25:45: “Nobody pretends that real estate in New York City is a utopian life-changing industry that’s gonna make the world better. It’s just savage vampires sucking blood from each other.”


Track Changes is the weekly technology and culture podcast from Postlight, hosted by Paul Ford and Rich Ziade. Production, show notes and transcripts by EDITAUDIO. Podcast logo and design by Will Denton of Postlight.

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