I am a longtime Doree Shafrir fan. I had the pleasure of meeting her once, when she was at the Brookline Booksmith promoting Postcards from Yo Momma. Since then she has joined the BuzzFeed team, moved to Los Angeles, gotten married and released her first novel, Startup.
Startup is a work of fiction that, as the name suggests, is set in the world of startups. In this case, a mobile app company called TakeOff that promises to check in with you throughout the day at the precise moments you need a mood booster or reminder. The book centers around the twentysomething CEO, Mack McAllister. Mack feels completely invincible as he is just days away from closing a huge funding round with well-respected venture capitalists, when a sexual harassment scandal threatens to derail his master plan.
The accusations involve one of his employees, Isabel. Though the book is fiction, it is clearly a commentary on the male-dominated startup world and the epidemic of sexism in these companies. If you have another two minutes, definitely read Shafrir's interview with Rolling Stone, which digs deeper into this topic.
In the acknowledgements section at the very end of the book, Shafrir thanks all of the startup founders and venture capitalists who answered questions as she created this incredibly authentic world in Startup. I work for a public relations agency that largely represents startup companies, so I live and breathe this every single day. Her characters, their office interactions, even the platforms they are having these conversations on (always Slack) are spot on.
In one of my favorite passages, a young reporter for TechScene (clearly a play on TechCrunch) is headed into a party being hosted by a hot shot in the New York City startup scene. Shafrir writes:
"Katya knew Andrew as well as she knew most of the successful twentysomething founders in the startup scene, which was to say, both not very well and rather intimately, all at once. She didn't really know Andrew Shepard, person. But she knew him, just like she knew practically all of these guys. They were runners and foodies and cyclists; they all wore fitness trackers and compared with one another about who had run the most miles or slept the optimal 7.5 hours. They donated money to charities started by their friends that taught underprivileged kids ow to code but voted against raising taxes to make those kids' schools better. They participated in hackathons and marathons; they climbed mountains; they loved South by Southwest. They thought everyone, including themselves, were where they were entirely because of their hard work and innate creativity, and if you weren't successful, that was because you hadn't tried hard enough. They didn't understand people who weren't just like them."
This is so accurate that it left me speechless. Then I promptly dog-eared the page.
If you're curious about the startup world, Shafrir's novel is a crash course. It's fast-paced, it's smart and it's addicting. I found myself finishing a chapter and going, "Ok, just one more." I read it in three sittings and I was sad when it was over.