“An often-delightful tour through startup culture… But there are parts of his book that should send shivers down the spine of anyone who uses the Internet.”― Harvard Business Review

Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble

For twenty-five years Dan Lyons was a leading tech journalist — until the Friday his Newsweek boss called. His job? Gone. Fifty years old with two young kids, Lyons was, in a word, screwed. Then an idea hit. For years he’d seen people strike gold in the start-up boom. Why not him? One tech company, flush with $100 million, offered a pile of stock options. What could go wrong?His new employer made the world a better place…by selling email spam. The office vibe was frat house meets cult compound: shower pods became hook-up dens; Nerf gun fights broke out at lunch; and absent bosses specialized in cryptic, jargon-filled emails. In the middle of this sat Lyons, old enough to be his coworkers’ father. With portraits of devilish angel investors, fad-chasing venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and wantrapreneurs, bloggers and brogrammers, Disrupted is a hilarious story of self-reinvention and a definitive account of life in the tech bubble.

Quotes from Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble

“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit” seems like the motto not just for Chopra but for the entire conference. Benioff and his philanthropy, the dry ice and fog machines, the concerts and comedians: None of this has anything to do with software or technology. It’s a show, created to entertain people, boost sales, and fluff a stock price.”

“There’s an adage in Silicon Valley that people who use online services are not the customers. We’re the product. As”

“These are the bozos. They are graspers and self-promoters, shameless resume padders, people who describe themselves as “product marketing professionals,” “growth hackers,” “creative rockstar interns,” and “public speakers.”

“You tell them that you’re doing this not because you want to save money on office space but because this is how their generation likes to work.”

“You don’t get rewarded for creating great technology, not anymore,” says a friend of mine who has worked in tech since the 1980s, a former investment banker who now advises start-ups. “It’s all about the business model. The market pays you to have a company that scales quickly. It’s all about getting big fast. Don’t be profitable, just get big.”

“I’m worried,” I tell him. “This place seems out of control.” Harvey says everything I’m describing about HubSpot is absolutely normal. “You know what the big secret of all these start-ups is?” he tells me. “The big secret is that nobody knows what they’re doing. When it comes to management, it’s amateur hour. They just make it up as they go along.”

“At Newsweek, I get paid to meet amazing people and write about subjects that fascinate me: fusion energy, education reform, supercomputing, artificial intelligence, robotics, the rising competitiveness of China, the global threat of state-sponsored hacking.”

“One day Spinner, the woman who runs PR tells me, “I like that idea, but I’m not sure that it’s one-plus-one-equals-three enough.” What does any of this nutty horseshit actually mean? I have no idea. I’m just amazed that hundreds of people can gobble up this malarkey and repeat it, with straight faces. I’m equally amazed by the high regard in which HubSpot people hold themselves. They use the word awesome incessantly, usually to describe themselves or each other. That’s awesome! You’re awesome! No, you’re awesome for saying that I’m awesome! They pepper their communication with exclamation points, often in clusters, like this!!! They are constantly sending around emails praising someone who is totally crushing it and doing something awesome and being a total team player!!! These emails are cc’d to everyone in the department. The protocol seems to be for every recipient to issue his or her own reply-to-all email joining in on the cheer, writing things like “You go, girl!!” and “Go, HubSpot, go!!!!” and “Ashley for president!!!” Every day my inbox fills up with these little orgasmic spasms of praise. At first I ignore them, but then I feel like a grump and decide I should join in the fun. I start writing things like, “Jan is the best!!! Her can-do attitude and big smile cheer me up every morning!!!!!!!” (Jan is the grumpy woman who runs the blog; she scowls a lot.) Sometimes I just write something with lots of exclamation points, like, “Woo-hoo!!!!!!! Congratulations!!!!!!! You totally rock!!!!!!!!!!!!” Eventually someone suspects that I am taking the piss, and I am told to cut that shit out.”

“Training takes place in a tiny room, where for two weeks I sit shoulder to shoulder with twenty other new recruits, listening to pep talks that start to sound like the brainwashing you get when you join a cult. It’s amazing, and hilarious. It’s everything I ever imagined might take place inside a tech company, only even better.”

“Civilians is one term journalists use to describe non-journalists. Another is laypeople. Or normals.”

“Another, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, suggests I need to change my Facebook photo to something that makes me look younger. I scan an old photo from my First Communion and make it my profile photo. There I am, age eight, wearing my First Communion robe, hands folded in prayer in front of me, looking angelic. “I’m trying to get a promotion at HubSpot,” I write. “The 8-year-old version of me has lots of ideas about how to expand geographically while also driving up MRR by pushing into the enterprise.”

“On the Internet, ginning up fake grassroots support is called astroturfing, and the tactic is generally frowned upon. I’m”

“Every morning, walking to work, I dodge a river of hipsters in skinny jeans and chunky eyewear riding skateboards — grown men! riding skateboards! — while carrying five-dollar cups of coffee to their jobs at companies with names that sound like characters from a TV show for little kids: Kaggle and Clinkle, Vungle and Gangaroo.”

“A lot of these new start-up founders are somewhat unsavory people. The old tech industry was run by engineers and MBAs; the new tech industry is populated by young, amoral hustlers, the kind of young guys (and they are almost all guys) who watched The Social Network and its depiction of Mark Zuckerberg as a lying, thieving, backstabbing prick — and left the theater wanting to be just like that guy.”

“Apple CEO Steve Jobs used to talk about a phenomenon called a “bozo explosion,” by which a company’s mediocre early hires rise up through the ranks and end up running departments. The bozos now must hire other people, and of course they prefer to hire bozos.”

“I ask my young, white, male colleague to imagine that instead of saying that older people (gray hair and experience) are overrated, Halligan said that gay people are overrated, or women, or African-Americans, or Jews. Imagine Halligan saying, “We’re trying to build a culture specifically to attract and retain white people, because when it comes to technology, white people do a much better job than black people.” “But he didn’t say that!” my colleague responds. “He didn’t say anything about gays, or women, or black people!” As the Bible says: Jesus wept.”


Biography

Dan Lyons is a novelist, journalist, and screenwriter. He is currently a co-producer and -writer for the HBO series Silicon Valley. Previously, Lyons was technology editor at Newsweek and the creator of the groundbreaking viral blog “The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs” (AKA “Fake Steve Jobs”). Lyons has written for the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Vanity Fair, and Wired. He lives in Winchester, MA.


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