‘Disrupted’ by Dan Lyons is the best book about Silicon Valley today.

We talk to the author.

Dan Lyons was the 51-year-old technology editor at Newsweek in the summer of 2012, planning a European vacation with his wife and six-year-old twins, when he was abruptly informed by phone that his job was being eliminated. He had two weeks to pack up, no severance. About a year later, he found himself being shown around as the new marketing fellow at a Cambridge, Mass., software marketing firm called HubSpot, where his colleagues were, on average, half his age. The product of his 20 months at HubSpot is “Disrupted: My misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble.” It’s best book about the Silicon Valley state of mind as it’s playing out today, in what may well be the second tech bubble of our time. Simultaneously hilarious and terrifying, “Disrupted” is an insider’s look at a technology startup from an outsider’s perspective. Yet it’s more than a chronicle of Lyons’ tenure at one company, but a broader commentary on a business culture that often appears to be built on financial quicksand.

Maybe Hubspot is an extreme example onthe culture front, but it’s not an outlier.

“Disrupted” author Dan Lyons

According to Lyons’ description, the working environment at HubSpot is almost a caricature of a Silicon Valley startup. Most of its workers are fresh out of college. They’re energized by an almost cult-like atmosphere instilled by its founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, and plied with group outings and free beer and candy, foosball and ping-pong tables, and massages. Lyons asks what the point is of all this activity. “Where others saw a fun place to work,” he writes, “I saw a place where ‘old people’–those over forty and certainly over fifty–were largely unwanted….I saw poorly trained managers, haphazard oversight, and an organization that was out of control.”

Though Lyons’ experience leads the reader to doubt HubSpot’s staying power, the company staged a successful public offering in October 2014 and is currently valued at $1.5 billion. It has never turned a profit. Lyons, who left about a month after the IPO, was a veteran of technology reporting when he joined HubSpot.

He had been a technology writer at Forbes when he launched the Fake Steve Jobs blog1 pseudonymously in 2006, commenting on Apple2 and tech industry developments in the voice of a Jobs-like character. He’s been a pointed critic of Silicon Valley companies and ethics, including one 2012 episode in which he fomented a memorable verbal firefight by questioning the ethics of venture investors, PR gurus, and tech journalists in what he termed the “Silicon Cesspool.”3 We weighed in on the controversy here4. Lyons also wrote for seasons two and three of the HBO comedy “Silicon Valley,” though he recently learned he’s been dropped from the roster for the upcoming fourth season. The Q&A below is an edited version of the conversation we had with Lyons by phone earlier this week.


Michael Hiltzik: In “Disrupted,” you tell the story of one guy working at one tech company where the workplace seems like a frat house or even a pre-school. What sort of reactions have you gotten from others who worked in the same sort of environment?

@hiltzikm7 on Twitter, see his Facebook page8, or email

Return to Michael Hiltzik’s blog.10


  1. ^ Fake Steve Jobs blog (www.fakesteve.net)
  2. ^ Apple Inc. (www.latimes.com)
  3. ^ “Silicon Cesspool.” (www.realdanlyons.com)
  4. ^ here (articles.latimes.com)
  5. ^ wrote on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com)
  6. ^ earlier this week (www.latimes.com)
  7. ^ @hiltzikm (twitter.com)
  8. ^ Facebook page (www.facebook.com)
  9. ^

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