Tech Start-Ups: Dan Lyons’ Eye-Opener

Tech Start-Ups: Dan Lyons’ Eye-Opener

techBecause my son works in Sil­i­con Val­ley, and has start-up expe­ri­ence both as an employ­ee and a founder, I found this book of inter­est and devoured it in three nights. It’s the sto­ry of a jour­nal­ist who, at 52, tries his hand as a tech mar­keter, and is grave­ly shocked and dis­ap­point­ed with the cul­ture he dis­cov­ers in a start-up tech firm with hun­dreds of employ­ees and bazil­lions in ven­ture capital.
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Dis­rupt­ed: My Mis­ad­ven­ture in the Start-Up Bub­ble, by Dan Lyons. Hachette Books, $15.16 from Ama­zon, Kin­dle $13.99. 
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Tech morphs con­stant­ly; human­i­ty nev­er changes. I book­marked descrip­tions which remind­ed me of peo­ple my son has described—and peo­ple I’ve met in my own career, which is as far away as it gets from the Sil­i­con Val­ley tech world.
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The author may come across to some as a whin­er who takes umbrage too eas­i­ly, imag­ines slights, some­times blows events out of pro­por­tion, and was very care­less about the opin­ions he expressed on Facebook. I am guilty of all but the last. But hey, we’re writ­ers, not techies; kvetch­ing is our business!
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Clear­ly Dan Lyons is deeply dis­grun­tled. This comes across ear­ly. He claims the only peo­ple who make real mon­ey in start-ups are investors and the founders (not the employ­ees, the grunts). One founder of his com­pa­ny invest­ed $500,000 at the begin­ning and is now worth $100 million—with a firm that has nev­er made a prof­it in ten years.
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Despite all the crit­i­cisms, how­ev­er, the firm is still alive, and in one sur­vey was vot­ed the fourth best tech place to work at, ahead of Facebook and Google. Go figure.
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The epi­logue is inter­est­ing. He claims the firm went hack­ing for him after they got wind of his book, and he thinks his pri­va­cy is blown and sold to the dark web, which he admits sounds pret­ty para­noid. Maybe.
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This com­pa­ny was not just a wacky frat house with Cin­co de Mayo mar­gari­ta bash­es and sales bros puk­ing in the men’s room, a bunch of clue­less 20-some­thing managers….”You think you can make fun of us? Just look at what we can do to you.”
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Yet he is naive enough to believe the book was “just writ­ten to entertain.”

A Message for All, Tech or Otherwise

I’m from anoth­er gen­er­a­tion where you were hired to do a spe­cif­ic job, the para­me­ters of which were clear­ly laid out when you signed on, and reg­u­lar­ly empha­sized. The mea­sure­ment of suc­cess was how well you met those para­me­ters. So I don’t real­ly under­stand the cul­ture of tech start-ups. But one pas­sage nev­er­the­less should inter­est everybody:
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The thing is, we all do it. We all share our infor­ma­tion with com­pa­nies all the time. We send email through Google or Microsoft,. We store files on Drop­box. We shop on Ama­zon. We buy apps and music from Apple. We hire dri­vers through Uber, and rent apart­ments through Airbnb. Com­pa­nies used Work­day for HR, Zen­desk for cus­tomer ser­vice, Sales­force for cus­tomer track­ing, Slack for mes­sag­ing, and on and on. Most of these com­pa­nies don’t own their own data cen­ters. Instead they rent serv­er and stor­age space from a host­ing com­pa­ny like Ama­zon. Our infor­ma­tion gets dis­trib­uted around the globe, zipped between data cen­ters as the speed of light, stashed on hard dri­ves, backed up, dupli­cat­ed, repli­cat­ed, sliced and diced, sold and shared. Even the peo­ple who sup­pos­ed­ly man­age our data have no idea where all of it resides or who has access to it.
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And yet we go along. We con­vince our­selves that noth­ing bad will hap­pen. We tell our­selves we’re not impor­tant enough for any­one to spy on us, or that there must be safe­guards that pre­vent bad peo­ple from snooping….I used to believe that. I don’t anymore.

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