Author of Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble and Writer and Co-Producer of HBO’s Silicon Valley
Dan Lyons is a writer and co-producer of HBO’s hit show Silicon Valley and the author of the book Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble: a hilarious story of self-reinvention and a definitive account of life in the tech bubble. He previously served as Technology Editor of Newsweek, a technology columnist at Forbes, and Editor-in-Chief of ReadWrite, one of the world’s top tech news sites.
He is an expert on consumer tech (Apple, Google, social media, mobile computing) as well as esoteric topics like fusion energy and supercomputers. He is fascinated by artificial intelligence, robotics and the Singularity movement. He was featured in recent Discovery Channel documentary about the Singularity, and has appeared as a guest on CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox Business News and National Public Radio.
In addition to his work as a journalist, Lyons has published three works of fiction and works in screenwriting for television. His book Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs, a sharp send-up of Silicon Valley, was published in 2007 to critical acclaim. His previous books are Dog Days (a novel) and The Last Good Man (short stories). As a fiction writer, Lyons has been the recipient of both a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts Literary Fellowship and the somewhat notorious Playboy College Fiction Prize. He also was named one of the “Fabulous 52″ in the 1996 Best Young American Novelists competition sponsored by Granta. His writings have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Vanity Fair, and Wired.
Corporate Culture: What Not To Do
How do you keep from screwing up your company’s culture? Journalist Dan Lyons spent two years working at a startup and came away with a harrowing tale of corporate culture run amok. HubSpot, the company where he worked, created a “Culture Code” and employed a “culture tsar.” It was a parody of a hip new-economy company: dogs in the office, free beer, a nap room, standing desks, walking meetings. Employees were constantly surveyed about their happiness. Yet HubSpot had a higher-than-average workforce turnover, a dismal record on diversity, and was run by under-trained or untrained managers. It may be the case study in what not to do. HubSpot, Lyons observed, had made a common mistake: it paid too much attention to superficial trappings of “culture” while failing to do the deeper, more difficult work of building a healthy, sustainable culture. In this talk, Lyons blends his personal (and often painfully hilarious) experience with big picture research in organizational behavior and social psychology from academics at Wharton, Harvard, Stanford, and other top institutions. Why is culture important in the first place? he asks. And how do you do it right?
Bubble 2.0: We May Be Headed for Another (Bigger) Tech Crash
In 2013 there were 39 Silicon Valley start-ups valued at more than $1 billion, and they were dubbed “unicorns,” because they were rare. By January 2016 there were 229 unicorns—and, suddenly, experts were warning of imminent disaster for our economy. Journalist Dan Lyons recently spent two years inside a “unicorn” that exploited the bubble and went public, enriching its founders and investors despite never turning a profit. Lyons emerged with an insider’s view. In this talk, he warns that a second dotcom bubble could take shape even as the rest of the country is still digging out from the first. This crash is potentially much bigger, more dangerous. Who could get hurt? Pension funds, college endowments, mutual funds, mom-and-pop investors—all are at risk. Lyons explains how a new breed of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs—with a mantra of “grow fast, lose money, go public”—co-opted the U.S. government as an unwitting accomplice. The companies fade out after the insiders have scooted away with the loot, and the bubble swells even as a few sane voices are warning of imminent disaster. Just as with the housing crisis of the 2000s, nobody can tell how much money is at risk or how much damage could be left behind when the whole thing blows up. Lyons's talk, delivered with his trademark humour, is a much-needed reassessment of where our economy is headed.
What is a Job Anymore? The Changing Nature of Work, and Why Older Workers Still Matter
What happens when you’re 50 years old and get dumped from your job? How do you start over?
The nature of work is changing, and fast. Technological disruption is casting new, unprecedented challenges. Older workers, especially, are caught in the middle of this transition, unprepared. People like Dan Lyons, who entered the workforce in the 20th century, did so with expectations about what a career should look like: jobs for life, a pension. But everything has changed. Companies now expect employees to serve a “tour of duty” that may last only two years. How do older workers adapt to this? How must companies—and in particular, HR departments—change if they are going to accommodate a workforce where people plug in and plug out after a few years? How can we overcome the bias against older workers and the belief that, as Mark Zuckerberg once said, “Young people are just smarter”? How can generations work together in a “blended” workforce? What are the implications for society when people are living longer but being "aged out" of work at age 40 or 50? In this talk, Lyons provides answers. In his bestseller, Disrupted, he chronicled his experiences as a 52-year-old working at a start-up with a median employee age of 26 and an openly stated preference for hiring millennials. Laugh-out-loud funny, poignant, and heartfelt, Lyons will leave you thinking more deeply about age, work, and the skills you need to survive in the new economy.
Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble
For 25 years Dan Lyons was a leading tech journalist—until the Friday his Newsweek boss called. His job? Gone. Fifty years old with two young kids, Lyons was, in a word, screwed. Then an idea hit. For years he'd seen people strike gold in the start-up boom. Why not him? One tech company, flush with $100 million, offered a pile of stock options. What could go wrong?
His new employer made the world a better place...by selling email spam. The office vibe was frat house meets cult compound: Shower pods became hook-up dens; Nerf gun fights broke out at lunch; and absent bosses specialized in cryptic, jargon-filled emails. In the middle of this sat Lyons, old enough to be his coworkers' father.
With portraits of devilish angel investors, fad-chasing venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and wantrapreneurs, bloggers and brogrammers, Disrupted is a hilarious story of self-reinvention and a definitive account of life in the tech bubble.
Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs—A Parody
Welcome to the mind, to the world of Fake Steve Jobs.
Fake Steve the counterintuitive management “Obviously we can't literally put our employees’ lives at risk. But we have to make them feel that way.”
Fake Steve the political “I can see why they keep Nancy Pelosi under wraps. Wacky as a dime watch.”
Fake Steve quoting friend/musician/philosopher Bono on road “Tink about dat next toim yer cuttin off some bloke and you don't know who it is, right? Could be Jay-sus. Or Boutros Boutros-Ghali or sumfin.”
And Fake Steve on, yes, “Geniuses have feelings, too.”
In the tradition of Thank You for Smoking and in the spirit of The Onion, Options is a novelistic sendup and takedown of Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and Washington, D.C., as viewed by a central character who exists, to his immense self-satisfaction, at the crossroads of all three “It’s like in one of those movies where a guy realizes he’s got telekinetic powers and it’s just too bad if he doesn't want them, he’s got them. Likewise, I have this gift. It’s who I am.”