Tech Start-Ups: Dan Lyons’ Eye-Opener

by Richard Langworth on 28 January 2017

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.
.
Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, by Dan Lyons. Hachette Books, $15.16 from Amazon, Kindle $13.99. 
.
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.
.
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!
.
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.
.
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.
.
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.
.
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.”
.
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:
.
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.
.
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.
Share this post...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: