Disrupted: Ludicrous Misadventures in the Tech Start-up Bubble By Dan Lyons Book Review

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My rating: 3 Stars

Disrupted Review:

Very interesting story of a 51 year old guy who got fired from his job at Newsweek and getting a job to work at the tech company. But this book is so much interesting because it doesn’t talk about benefits of the tech company so much, it is more focused on providing insights on how does those companies work and how they are funded and operated – or as it should be better putted: how those companies are run by incompetent people and funded by those who cares only about money and will in the end make money. I will call it a bit of a dark side of tech industry, even if it sounds a bit cliche.

I was a bit shocked by finding out how tech companies like HubSpot and many other operate and how they are funded – I will even dare to call them a ponzi schemes that are build for only one purpose and that is, to take money from the small investors and put it into pockets of investment bankers and venture capitalist investors. This book is different kind of information from which I’ve learned how things really is working; because there are so many stories, books and who know what more about successful people who’ve built great companies and made a lot of money in that process. And so many young people use them as a role models and trying to replicate their success – but often times failing miserably.

From this book I’ve learned how investment bankers and venture capitalist invest in early faze of the business who have built software or service to scale that business to look big, but losing millions, even billions of dollars during that process so they can make an IPO of the company and make it public. In the end because of those who are rich and have enough money to invest in these kind of companies, they don’t end up losing money in this process – those come up late when the company is already public and are small investors will end losing their investments. So many businesses seems to build this way using the same business model as it is present in this book: start company-lose a lot money during that process-go public.

Reading this was an eye opening moment and realizing that I have wrong people to look at to and use them as a role models. Seems like in today’s world ethic and moral in business, but only business, has disappeared completely. Okay, maybe not completely, but there are so many scams out there who is just taking advantage of other people.

I would encourage others to read this book as well, because you will learn from it that you need to be much more careful where are you investing, if you are investing in this sort of companies. And you need to do much more research about whom ideas and advice you’re taking. If we read books about founders from this well known companies, we will never be told a truth about how they raised money, blew it away and went public – that made small percent rich (those who already are rich,) and a large percent of people who lost their money.

In the end I have to same that I’m disappointed, but more than disappointed I’m disgusted.

If you like, you can read my other reviews of Biography & History Books

Also, check out my Best Business Books List

Disrupted Summary:


Beached White Male 

Nine months earlier, it’s the summer of 2012, and life is good. I’m fifty-one years old, happily settled into married life in a suburb of Boston, with two young kids and a job I love. At Newsweek, I get paid to meet amazing people and write about subjects that fascinate me: fusion energy, education reform, super computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, the rising competitiveness of China, the global threat of state-sponsored hacking. To me, Newsweek is more than a company—it’s an institution. And being a magazine writer seems like the very best job in the world.


When the Ducks Quack 

Losing my job sends me into a tailspin. On the surface I’m okay, or at least I am trying very hard to pretend to be okay. Inside I feel like I’m barely holding it together, even with daily doses of Ativan. “You’ll land on your feet,” people keep telling me, and I want to believe them, but as time goes by I’m not sure. So far I’ve had a disastrous inter- view at a big PR firm, with a vice president who invited me down to New York, kept me waiting for an hour, then told me that he didn’t like to hire journalists. At Forbes, an editor who less than a year ago was trying to poach me away from Newsweek now offers me a contract job that pays $32,000 a year and carries no health benefits. At night I lie awake in bed, unable to sleep, secretly afraid that I might never get hired again.


What’s a HubSpot?

There’s a post on LinkedIn—a software start-up in Cambridge is looking for a “content creator.” The company is called HubSpot. Its offices are six miles from my house in Winchester, Massachusetts, yet I have never heard of the company and have no idea what they make. I pore through their website, which talks about something called inbound marketing, which I’ve also never heard of. All I can tell is that they make software used by marketing departments.

I call around to friends who work in venture capital, who tell me that HubSpot is the real deal. The company is a bit of a sleeper. It’s not as well known as companies like Snapchat or Instagram, but it is run by a bunch of guys from MIT and headed for an IPO. Over the past seven years Hub- Spot has raised $100 million in venture capital, and its investors include some of the best firms in the business. Its business is booming. “Those guys,” one of my VC buddies says, “are going to make a shit ton of money.”


The Happy!! Awesome!! Start-Up Cult 

One month later I’m driving home from my first day on the new job and telling myself that everything will be okay. Sure, my boss is half my age. Sure, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. But it’s only been one day.

“It’s great,” I say, when I get home and find Sasha and the kids waiting for me, anxious to hear about Dad’s big new job. I tell the kids about the beanbag chairs and the Nerf gun fights and the kitchen with the giant wall of candy dispensers, with every kind of candy you can possibly imagine. The kids are seven years old now, and of course this sounds exciting to them. They can’t wait to come to the office with me. They’re going to bring their Nerf guns.



So I can be the DRI on this, or Jan and I can be DRIs together, and we’ll coordinate with Courtney to work up some potential KPIs, and then we can all meet again in like a week or two and we’ll present some ideas and then we can develop an SLA. Does that sound good?”

This is Marcia, the senior member of the blog team, talking to the content team, of which I am now a member. I’m about one month into my time at the company. I’ve finished my training program. I’ve still never heard anything from Cranium about what he wants me to do. So every day I just show up and say yes to every meeting that I’m invited to attend. There are lots of meetings. Endless meetings. Entire days book up with meetings.


Our Cult Leader Has a Really Awesome Teddy Bear

One morning in early July, about ten weeks after I’ve arrived at HubSpot, everyone in the marketing department receives word from Spinner, our peppy, ponytailed PR person, that Dharmesh has just posted an awesome article on LinkedIn, and it would be awesome if we could all use our Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote the article and drive lots of traffic to it so that it can go viral and blow up the Internet.


We Need to Make the Blog a Lot More Dumberer

What exactly is my job? What am I supposed to do? After three months this remains unclear. I thought I would be working with Cranium, the CMO. But I rarely even see Cranium. I run into him in the hallway once in a while, and I see him at the weekly marketing department meeting, which he runs. One morning, when I get to work early, I sit with him in the kitchen, and we chat over a bowl of Cheerios. But that’s it. He never sets a meeting with me, never sits down and tells me what my job is supposed to be. He’s friendly, but he has no instructions or guidance. Just: Hey, glad you’re here. I’m starting to think that Mike, my buddy the former Microsoftie, might be correct about my hiring.


The Bozo Explosion 

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. As Guy Kawasaki, who worked with Jobs at Apple, puts it: “B players hire C players, so they can feel superior to them, and C players hire D players.” That’s the bozo explosion, and that’s what I believe has happened at HubSpot in the course of the last seven years.


In Which I Make a Very Big Mistake 

By August, four months into my tenure at Hub- Spot, I am ready to give up. I’m stuck in the content factory writing articles for imbeciles. I cannot do this for a living. I’ve already appealed to Wing- man and pitched him on a project that would be a better use of my time—the one where we launch an online magazine called Inbound, with me in charge—and he has rejected it outright. As I see it, there is only one way out at this point. I can leap over Wingman and go straight to the top. I will pitch my idea directly to Halligan and Shah. They’re the guys who run the company. And they are the ones who hired me.


Life in the Boiler Room 

Hi, is that Jeff? . . . Hey Jeff, this is Pete from HubSpot up in Boston. How’s the weather down there in Tampa? . . . I bet it is! Hey, I wish we’d get some of that sunshine up here, right? . . . So Jeff, I saw that you downloaded one of our e-books, so I thought I would follow up to see if I could answer any questions you might have . . . Right. Sure. Okay. Well when would be a good time? . . . Jeff, what’s your marketing plan this year? What are your goals? Have you thought about what you need to do to hit those goals? . . . Okay, sure. So when would be a good time for us to have a talk?

Pete is a big ginger-haired guy who moonlights as a cheerleader for the Boston Celtics. Loud Pete, I call him. He stands ten feet away from me, wearing a headset and reciting variations of that script, again and again, all day long, in a booming voice. He laughs, he roars, he cracks himself up. He asks questions, gets hung up on, dials again. All. Day. Long. There are dozens more like him in this room.


OMG the Halloween Party!!! 

There are two big party days at HubSpot. One is Cinco de Mayo, when the company ships in a truckload of tequila and Dos Equis beer and Mexican food, and five hundred twenty-something gringos go mental in the first-floor conference room drinking margaritas and chowing down on nachos, and Halligan roams around wearing a huge straw hat—the kind that people wear in Mexico, geddit?—like a real-life version of Frank the Tank, the beer-bong-hitting character played by Will Ferrell in Old School.


The New Work: Employees as Widgets 

It turns out I’ve been naïve. I’ve spent twenty-five years writing about technology companies, and I thought I understood this industry. But at HubSpot I’m discovering that a lot of what I believed was wrong.

I thought, for example, that tech companies began with great inventions—an amazing gadget, a brilliant piece of software. At Apple Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built a personal computer; at Microsoft Bill Gates and Paul Allen developed programming languages and then an operating system; Sergey Brin and Larry Page created the Google search engine. Engineering came first, and sales came later. That’s how I thought things worked.


The Ron Burgundy of Tech 

Imagine Joel Osteen pumped up on human growth hormone. Imagine there’s a secret government lab where scientists have blended the DNA of Tony Robbins with the DNA of Harold Hill, the aw-shucks shifty salesman from The Music Man. Imagine a grizzly bear in a pin-striped suit, standing on his hind legs and talking about changing the world through disruptive innovation and transformation.


Meet the New Boss 

I’m still in San Francisco when I get an urgent message from Wingman asking me to call him. There’s some big news, he tells me. The company is about to announce an important new hire—a guy named Trotsky. Trotsky will oversee Hub- Spot’s content operations and thus will now be my boss, instead of Wingman.


Grandpa Buzz 

In the first week of December Spinner sends around an email informing us that Halligan has been written up in an awesome new story in the New York Times. She wants us all to promote the article on our social feeds and drive some traffic to it. Spinner told me a few months ago that a Times journalist, Adam Bryant, had asked to interview Halligan for a feature called Corner Office. That column is usually a puff piece where a CEO gets asked some softball questions, but Spinner was nervous about it, because, as she put it, Halligan has a tendency to stick his foot in his mouth and say stupid things when he gets in front of a reporter.


Ritual Humiliation as Rehabilitation 

Two weeks after my Facebook fiasco, in which I blasted Halligan for saying that gray hair and experience are overrated, it’s time to face the music. It’s the middle of December, a week before Christmas. Trotsky sets a meeting with me, in a conference room on the fourth floor. I assume this is the end. Cranium never likes to fire anyone himself. It would be his style to wait for Trotsky to come on board and then have Trotsky do it. But Trotsky assures me this is not the case and that I’m not being fired. I find this hard to believe.


A Disturbance in the Farce 

My stand-off with Spinner isn’t the only trouble that winter. Trotsky’s hiring has thrown a lot of people off balance, including Wingman. Half of Wingman’s job involves overseeing the content team. But now Trotsky will be doing that. Suddenly, Wingman has lost half of his direct reports and half of his responsibilities.


A House of Cards? 

One Thursday morning in the first week of April 2014 Trotsky pulls me aside in a hallway and shares a secret: HubSpot has filed its IPO paperwork. “It’s not public yet, and I’m not supposed to tell anyone,” he says, practically whispering. We’re about to go into a meeting. We’re waiting for the people in the conference room to finish up and get out. “But they’re hoping to start trading in June.”


Go West, Old Man 

Four years earlier, in 2010, back when my life was good, when I was writing for Newsweek and developing a cable TV show based on my Fake Steve Jobs book, I was sitting at my desk one day when my iPhone rang and it was Ari Emanuel. Ari is the head of William Morris Endeavor, a big Hollywood talent agency. He’s the real-life person that Ari Gold, the character in Entourage, is based on.



For the past few years one question has hung over Silicon Valley: Are we in a bubble? Some say yes, some say no. Some argue about what the term bubble even means and how to define one, and no matter which camp you’re in you can cherry-pick examples that support your case. I’m in the camp that says bubble refers to a period when valuations of companies are no longer connected to their financial performance, and that we are now in such a period.

Silicon Valley has officially become unhinged from reality for the second time in two decades, and even the smartest, savviest investors have thrown in the towel and are admitting that they can no longer tell good ideas from bad ones and have simply begun throwing money at everything, hoping some of their millions might land on a winner. Spray and pray is the actual term used by investors in Silicon Valley for this roulette- wheel approach. Some people embrace this philosophy and even celebrate it. “A lot of it is luck” is how blogger-turned-investor Michael Arrington once described the art of investing in tech startups.


Excuse Me, but Would You Please Get the Fuck Out of Our Company?

On the same day that HubSpot files its IPO registration statement, just hours before the announcement, and without any knowledge that this is about to take place, I happen to post a very small joke online. This very small joke will lead to a huge, blown-out-of-proportion fracas, and it will mark the beginning of the end for me at HubSpot.


Inbound and Down

Inbound takes place in Boston the week of September 15, 2014, and it’s a huge deal for Hubspot—it’s our version of Dreamforce, the four-day orgy that Salesforce.com puts on every fall in San Francisco. We’re a fraction of the size of Salesforce.com, but we’re trying to flex our muscles and look big. This year the show is an especially big deal because we have just announced our IPO plans. Strictly speaking, we’re supposed to be in a “quiet period,” when the Securities and Exchange Commission requires companies to avoid doing things that might artificially pump up the price of the stock. Halligan can’t get up on stage and start telling everyone to buy shares, but let’s be honest—the timing could not be better.


Escape Velocity 

Fortunately, as it happens, my job hunt has been going well. I’m pretty sure I will have an offer lined up soon and can give my notice. Meanwhile, on October 9, HubSpot manages to pull off its IPO. I’m rich! Not really. My options are worth about $45,000 more than what I will pay to exercise them. Still, I can’t complain.


If I Only Had a HEART

About a month after the IPO, in November 2014, I get an offer from Gawker Media, a blog publisher in New York with a reputation for doing some salacious stuff but also for doing some good investigative journalism. They want me to write about Silicon Valley on a blog called Valleywag. After months pretending to be an anthropologist at HubSpot, studying natives who have been growing increasingly resentful of my presence, I will return to my own tribe.


Graduation Day

The next morning I stop by Trotsky’s desk and tell him I need to talk to him in private. We find an empty conference closet. Ironically it’s the one with the beanbag chairs where we used to have our biweekly one-on-ones and shoot the shit about the morons we were working with.

I tell Trotsky that I’ve been offered a new job, and that I’ve accepted it. It’s Thursday, November 20. I won’t start until January, but I am giving him six weeks of notice. Next week is Thanksgiving, and then there are three weeks when everyone will be working before the Christmas break.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; 1 edition (April 5, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316306088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316306089
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Disrupted: Ludicrous Misadventures in the Tech Start-up Bubble By Dan Lyons
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