An inside-out look at the frenzied and at times surreal work environment of tech startup HubSpot.
In 2012, at the age of 51, longtime journalist Lyons was “unceremoniously dumped” from his position at Newsweek. The magazine, like so many other traditional media publications, was struggling to cope with digitization. (The irony is that the author covered technology for the magazine.) Forced to reinvent his career, Lyons took a risk by accepting the position of “marketing fellow” at HubSpot, a software-as-a-service marketing and sales company that had become “one of the hottest tech start-ups on the East Coast.” As the writer behind the satirical blog Fake Steve Jobs, the author could not have imagined a place so ripe for parody as HubSpot. Every detail of the hip office space, incompetent management, and delusional workforce described by Lyons in his hilarious and unsettling exposé is like something out of a scripted comedy (the author writes for HBO’s Silicon Valley). But beneath the showy display of unlimited candy, beer, and other sundry perks enjoyed by HubSpot’s employees, the culture Lyons experienced was ruthless, predatory, and unforgiving. Employees were routinely “graduated” (i.e., fired) without warning, oftentimes by younger, inexperienced managers. (The theme of ageism plays throughout.) HubSpot pitches itself as a mission-based company whose software will not only help their customers save money and increase profits, but also make the world a better place. These examples of Orwellian doublespeak and utopian jargon are commonplace at tech companies, and they are strategically employed to whip up fervor among employees, investors, and the press as well as disguise the fact that their business models are often ineffective. Lyons sums up the startup model: “Grow fast, lose money, go public.” For Lyons, his adventure at HubSpot was a case study in drudgery, and it turned out to be more pernicious than he could have guessed.
An exacting, excoriating takedown of the current startup “bubble” and the juvenile corporate culture it engenders.