Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-up Bubble Dan Lyons Hachette $28
A 52-year-old journalist who has covered the tech industry for decades is laid off. He joins a start-up where the average employee is aged 29 and tends to wear clothing bedecked with the company logo and colour.
Coming from the author of a cutting satire of Steve Jobs, who now writes for the HBO comedy Silicon Valley, the tale could be mistaken for a film pitch or parodic dystopian novel. But Dan Lyons is serious. After being “dumped” as Newsweek’s technology editor in 2012, Lyons decides to ride Silicon Valley’s second great bubble. Lyons finds the right company, if only for the raw material that he, a seasoned satirist, spins into gold.
When Lyons joins Boston-based HubSpot as a “marketing fellow” in 2013, it is gearing up to go public. Reeling from culture shock, Lyons catalogues daily life in the company and its unselfconsciously ridiculous vocabulary.
Its software helps businesses assail customers with messages it says are not spam but “loveable marketing content”. Employees are not sacked, they are “graduated”. A co-founder totes a teddy bear to meetings to represent the customer. There are yoga ball chairs, free candy, taps dispensing beer, and a replica of a red British telephone box. The funny, if repetitive, descriptions paint a workplace that is “a cross between a kindergarten and a frat house”.
But the book is not just a chronicle of the tech bubble’s silly quirks. As Lyons gets to know HubSpot, questions arise about the business model of a company that does not appear to trust its product. At one point his desk is moved to a “boiler room” of telemarketers selling HubSpot software, which claims to replace such dated practices. The company says it evaluates its employees on “HEART” — an anodyne acronym for “humble, effective, adaptable, remarkable and transparent” — but holds its sales reps to strict quotas.
Lyons uses the lens of his growing disillusionment to focus a broader critique of Silicon Valley. “The people at the top are profiting from this game, which they have rigged in their favour,” he writes, by turning money-losing start-ups into financial vehicles for the benefit of a handful of investors. Tech workers, meanwhile, “are told the needs of the company are more important than their own”.
The darkest turn comes, after Lyons has thoroughly fallen out with HubSpot (but profited from its IPO), returned to journalism and written this book. HubSpot’s chief marketing officer is sacked for unethical conduct after trying to obtain Lyons’s manuscript, another executive resigns before he too can be fired and the chief executive is sanctioned for his role in the affair. The Federal Bureau of Investigation probes the incident.
But it is HubSpot’s response to the book that suggests it is as clueless as Lyons portrays it. The co-founders write a LinkedIn post that strikes the wounded tone of a jilted ex.
“We were upset when we first read the book,” they write. “But negative emotions have a relatively short half-life with us. Our emotions have been dissipating quickly and we think they’ll asymptotically trend towards zero over time. Besides, life is too short to hold grudges.”
The reviewer is a reporter at the Financial Times
《颠覆：我在初创企业泡沫中的奇异遭遇》(Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-up Bubble)，作者丹?莱昂斯(Dan Lyons)，Hachette出版集团出版，售价28美元
莱昂斯曾撰写过有关史蒂夫?乔布斯(Steve Jobs)的措辞尖刻的讽刺作品，现在担任美国家庭电影频道(HBO)喜剧《硅谷》(Silicon Valley)的编剧，因此这本书中的故事可能会被误以为是一部电影宣传片或一本恶搞性质的反乌托邦小说。但莱昂斯是认真的。在2012年作为《新闻周刊》(Newsweek)的科技编辑被“炒鱿鱼”后，他决定利用硅谷第二次大泡沫的机会。他找对了公司，哪怕这只是让这位老道的讽刺作家找到了妙笔生花所需的素材。