By Dan Lyons
I read this in a rush, for the writing was engaging and hilarious, and it was so very relevant to my own experiences in start-ups. The story is almost fantastical; this journalist in his 50s gets laid off from Newsweek, where he was the technology editor, and decides to join a startup that looks like it will IPO and make some money. He remembers writing about the 2000s dotcom bust and how even though it went bust, lots of people made lots of money. He wants to get in on it.
So he gets a job at Hubspot, interviewed by the co-founders and hired by the VP of marketing or some other high level exec. Hubspot! Just down in Cambridge. But on his first day there are foreboding signs. No one is there to meet him. Eventually a young guy comes, a guy in his 20s that reminders the author of interns he had at Newsweek, and at some point the author realizes that this young guy is actually his boss. Holy shit.
The people who hired him never, ever come to see him. Instead he is thrown into the blogging team, writing inane, terrible articles. After complaining about this too loudly they move him onto the sales floor, a huge open area where 100 frat bros walk around with headsets throwing footballs to themselves and cold calling customers to get them to sign up. It’s a terrible cacophony, but at this point the author forces to think of himself on an anthropological mission.
Eventually he gets a new boss, someone around his age who seems respectable. But that too falls apart as this new boss inexplicably starts to gaslight him, sending him daily emails about his failings, the failings of his work, his failure to commit to the company, to go out to drinks, etc. It’s torturous, and the author needs to get out, which he does, eventually, after making about $60k in the IPO and securing a job back as an actual journalist.
Part of the shock of this story is the culture of Hubspot, a culture of 20-year old white people who are so incredibly peppy and optimistic and praising that this 50-year-old, sarcastic journalist can hardly stand it. Part of it is the peppiness, sure, but part is also that these people are crap at their jobs, have no experience but consider themselves industry leaders.
The whole thing was fascinating, scary, weird; a great read, a worrisome sign. Were the companies I was at like this? He saw almost exclusively the marketing side; I see mostly the engineering.