You may know Dan Lyons as the former technology editor at Newsweek, as the sarcastic mind behind The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs or even as a writer for HBO's "Silicon Valley," but over the past few weeks his name has been on the lips of many Bostonians as the author of the newly released book "Disrupted: My Misadventures in the Start-Up Bubble." The book is a tell all about Lyons' time working as a "marketing fellow" at HubSpot, a Boston-based startup that sells email marketing software.
Though much of the book is about Lyons' stint at HubSpot, it's also about the changes happening in the journalism world, ageism, company valuations and whether or not we should be bracing ourselves for the burst of another tech bubble.
I found Lyons' road to HubSpot fascinating. He had been a journalist for over 20 years. Through all the interviews he conducted and panels he moderated, he was very well connected in the technology sector. His layoff from Newsweek was a complete surprise, especially since he and his wife had just decided his wife would stop working (due to a chronic health problem). They also had six year old twins at the time.
When Lyons' met with the top executives at HubSpot, they positioned his role as an innovator in the marketing and content department. I won't spoil anything for you, but let's just say, the leadership role they described to him was not at all what he arrived to on that first day. Or any day after that.
Over the course of the book, Lyons brings you inside the walls of HubSpot and shares details about company rituals, sayings, approaches to recruiting and sales and much more. The HubSpot office is just two blocks away from my office, yet somehow I never knew they were famous for their Halloween party. Makes total sense as their company logo is orange.
Lyons describes some pretty painful moments during his time at HubSpot, especially with his direct manager. Other than the two co-founders, he doesn't use anyone's real name. The book does have an epilogue (a rather long one) in which he reveals the names of two individuals, but only because in real life those two people were accused of using "extreme measures" to try and get a copy of the manuscript for this book. Their attempts were so aggressive that the FBI launched an investigation. You can read about that here.
I was gripped to this book the entire time. I read the whole thing in a day in a half. As a person who works in the same neighborhood as the HubSpot office and also works with startups, I could relate to a lot of Lyons' observations. There was one passage where he describes a trip to San Francisco and how flush the startup community has become that had me laughing out loud:
"Thanks to all this new disposable income, San Francisco is bubbling with weirdo delights, like twee little shops selling liquid nitrogen ice cream and trendy bakeries making artisanal toast. 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 Gagaroo."
You can tell Lyons is a television writer. He's a great storyteller. He writes with detailed descriptions, honesty and humor.
Whether you work with startups or not, get a copy of "Disrupted." Everyone can relate to being a fish out of water and this fish happens to be an incredible writer.