Disrupted To Our Doom

DisruptedCover

This weekend I read Disrupted by Dan Lyons.

I’d seen long excerpts published on the Net, but none of that prepared me for the book itself.

It’s an absolute must-read.

Three excerpts that touch upon issues I’ve raised myself:

I smile and shake hands and go down the line, past a blur of Ashleys, Amandas, Brittanys, and Courtneys, realizing as I do that I am literally twice the age of these people, in some cases more than twice their age. “So where were you before this?” I ask some of them, who give me a strange look and say, “Uh, college?” I stop asking that question. They’re all women, they’re all white, and they’re all wearing jeans and sporting the same straight, shoulder-length hair. They all seem baffled by my presence. What is this old guy doing here? I smile and realize that I al-ready cannot remember anyone’s name.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

And:

HubSpot seems to recruit a certain kind of person: young and easily influenced, kids who belonged to sororities and fraternities or played sports in college. Many are working in their first jobs. As far as I can tell there are no black people, not just among my recruiting class, but across the entire company. The HubSpotters are not just white but a certain kind of white: middle-class, suburban, mostly from the Boston area. They look the same, dress the same. The uniformity is amazing.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

And:

Across the ranks of ordinary employees, as far as I can see there are zero black people. The first time I go to an all-hands company meeting I’m taken aback: It’s an ocean of white people, all of them young. It’s not just that everyone is white, but that they’re all the same kind of white. Klan rallies probably comprise a broader swath of the Caucasian population. It’s like stumbling into some weird eugenics lab, where people get hatched from pods, already dressed in J.Crew, Banana Republic, and North Face. The women have the same shoulder-length haircut, and when it rains they all show up in knee-high Hunter boots. The guys are former jocks and frat bros, with buzz cuts, salmon-colored shorts, backward baseball caps, and boat shoes. It’s like a reunion of the Greek system from some small college in New England. It’s like Cape Cod has barred up all of its summer inhabitants under the age of thirty, and they’ve landed in the same building in Kendall Square, still wearing their Black Dog Tavern T-shirts.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Yeah. See Beauty Mutants.

And the entire “Silicon Valley” thing is a massive Ponzi scheme:

I ask him if he thinks that start-up valuations are too high. Based on traditional metrics, it seems to me that some of these companies seem way too expensive.

“You think these valuations are high today? Wait until you see them a year from now, or two years, or three years. We’re not even near the peak. Before this is over there’s going to be a trillion-dollar transfer of wealth in Silicon Valley.”

His bank will make money by helping people move that money around and carving off a little slice as it flows through the pipe. Tad will arrange mergers and acquisitions. He’ll advise start-ups that are raising money, either from private investors or through IPOs.

Once again I bring up the issue of valuations and my fear that this can’t be sustained, that we’re going to have another crash.

“There’s an old expression on Wall Street,” Tad tells me. “‘When the ducks quack, feed them.’ Have you heard that? Back in the nineties investors wanted to buy anything with the word dotcom at the end of its name. So that’s what we gave them. Our job isn’t to talk people out of buying. Our job is to make what people want. Our job is to feed the ducks. And right now, the ducks are hungry.”

Nearby, a cheer goes up as a waiter delivers an enormous, two-tiered tower of seafood, a few hundred dollars’ worth of lobster, oysters, and other shellfish, to a table of twenty-something techies wearing jeans and sneakers and Warby Parker glasses.

Tad tells me again about the trillion dollars that is going to change hands. A trillion dollars! It’s the biggest transfer of wealth that has ever occurred.

Cue The Wolf of Wall Street:

Fuck the clients The Wolf of Wall Street

Name of the game: Move the money from the client’s pocket into your pocket.

That’s exactly it.

And how the fuck do absolute idiots like these even get jobs?!!?

Look:

At one point I’m working on a project in the brand and buzz department, and one of the twenty-something bros coins a new nickname for me: “I’m going to call you Grandpa Buzz,” he says. Everyone laughs. I laugh too, because why not? Grandpa Buzz! It’s hilarious! Jimmy, the bro who made up the nickname, doesn’t know what I did before coming to HubSpot, and even if he did he would not care. He has probably heard of Newsweek, but I doubt he has ever read it. It means nothing to him. He’s a recent graduate of the New Hampshire state college system, and though he works in media production, he has never heard of the Drudge Report, and when I refer to George Martin as the “fifth Beatle,” Jimmy says, “Oh, is he the one who joined after McCartney died?” Sigh.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Oh. My. God.

These are clearly The Snowflake Generation:

They pepper their communication with exclamation points, often in clusters, like this!!! They are constantly sending around emails praising someone who is totally crushing it and doing something awesome and being a total team player!!! These emails are cc’d to everyone in the department. The protocol seems to be for every recipient to issue his or her own reply-to-all email joining in on the cheer, writing things like “You go, girl!!” and “Go, Hub-Spot, go!!!!” and “Ashley for president!!!”

Gag me with an intelligent brain.

There’s more I’d like to quote, but I think I’m already really pushing the limits of the Copyright Fair Use provision.

Whatever you imagined this book would be like from any prior excerpts you’ve read, forget that. It’ll surprise the hell out of you. And if you’re around Dan’s age — as I am — you’re very likely to want to get drunk after reading it — or while reading it. Keep the alcohol away!

When all of this bullshit comes crashing down, when “Silicon Valley” crushes itself like some black hole and sucks all the money in America down its drain, Dan Lyons will be bombarded with requests to appear on TV to tell everyone the hows and whys it all happened. It’s all there in this book. We are fucking doomed.

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3 Responses to Disrupted To Our Doom

  1. E.T. says:

    He gave an interesting interview on Fresh Air back in April and on other podcasts.

    Like

  2. laura says:

    Ok, I need to read this. I used to regard this state of affairs as “job security,” ’cause at the end of the day you need SOMEONE who actually KNOWS how to DO something, but from what I’ve seen but can’t say and what Dan Lyons has seen and has said, I think we might be past that point at this stage.

    I just heard about another exposé of Silicon Valley tech startups, CHAOS MONKEYS, but I haven’t seen an honest review of it yet, so I haven’t decided if I want to spend time on it or not. DISRUPTED sounds more like serious journalism, in any case.

    Thanks for the review.

    Like

    • mikecane says:

      Chaos Monkeys, IIRC, is a tell-all about Facebook and is probably more germane to that company. What Lyons went through should scare the shit out of everyone who is not a naif.

      Like

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