by Chris Murray, adult services supervisor at SCLSNJ’s Bridgewater Library branch
Do you ever find yourself wondering how you would handle working at a tech startup in the middle of the second dotcom boom? Do you wonder how companies can post millions of dollars in losses and still be valued highly? Do you want to know what venture capitalists and angel investors are looking for in the hopes of hitting it big?
In “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble,” Dan Lyons, of “Fake Steve Jobs” social media fame, answers the first question as he takes a job as a marketing fellow for marketing and sales software company HubSpot. The remaining questions, however, even Lyons is still confused by.
Lyons came to the job expecting for his background as a tech journalist to be an asset to the company. Instead, he finds that his age (early 50s) and hair (grey) sets him apart; being twice the age of the average employee and having life experience outside of a college atmosphere makes him the odd man out.
HubSpot, like many software companies at that time, is shown to be like a strange cult rather than a more traditional work environment. According to Lyons, the atmosphere is comparable to a frat house. The marketing department is full of people who overly praise each other while using way too many exclamation points!!! When he arrives, nobody knows who he is, despite his being hired by executive level staff, who assured Lyons an important position. Lyons drifts aimlessly through his first few days at the startup, unable to discover the location of his hiring contacts.
Additionally, there are no offices in the building, no matter how high the rank. Instead there are meeting rooms of beanbags, allowing employees to sit with laptops upon their lap. There is a wall filled with candy and nut dispensers, but there is no real company focus besides “do great!!!” and “be awesome!!!”
In the content factory, a non-diverse group of women create daily blog posts that will hopefully lead to sales of the company’s product. The telemarketing center is exactly what it sounds like: a huge group of college kids, calling people who have expressed even the vaguest interest in the company’s products, with the ultimate goal of completing a sale. At the annual conference, the company spends thousands of dollars to garner brand endorsements from high-profile celebrities and big-name marketers. And through it all, even though the company is hemorrhaging money, HubSpot still manages to launch an IPO and, consequently, are valued in the millions.
What use does Lyons’ experience have to the small business owner? Consider it a warning. Perhaps a cautionary tale: a story where if your company is like the one detailed, maybe it’s time for a change. It is also a humorous and engaging book, as Lyons is quick to mock everything around, from his own foibles to the other huge companies that leak cash like a sieve while still being valued higher than gold. The language is occasionally crude, which may turn off some readers, but reflects his time as a journalist, who (claims Lyons in the book) are known for their vulgar language ‘off the record.’
This book is recommended for those in the tech field, or for those who don’t understand the field and want to be as amused as they are baffled.