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.
Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-up Bubble
For 25 years, Dan Lyons was a magazine writer at the top of his profession—until one Friday morning when he received a phone call: Poof. His job no longer existed. “I think they just want to hire younger people,” his boss at Newsweek told him. 50 years old and with a wife and two young kids, Lyons was, in a word, screwed. Then an idea hit. He’d long reported on Silicon Valley and the tech explosion. Why not join it? HubSpot, a Boston start-up, was flush with $100 million in venture capital. They offered Lyons a pile of stock options for the vague role of “marketing fellow.” What could go wrong?
In this hilarious (and timely) keynote, Lyons tells the tale of his rise and fall at Hubspot: a company with an office vibe that was frat house meets cult compound. The party began at four thirty on Friday and lasted well into the night; “shower pods” became hook-up dens; a push-up club met at noon in the lobby, while nearby, in the “content factory,” Nerf gun fights raged. Groups went on “walking meetings,” and Lyons’ absentee boss sent cryptic emails about employees who had “graduated” (read: been fired). In the middle of all this was Lyons, exactly twice the age of the average HubSpot employee, and literally old enough to be the father of most of his co-workers, sitting at his desk on his bouncy-ball “chair.”
Lyons’ talk is a gripping and definitive account of life in the (second) tech bubble. He offers trenchant analysis of the start-up world, a de facto conspiracy between those who start companies and those who fund them, a world where bad ideas are rewarded with hefty investments, where companies blow money lavishing perks on their post-collegiate workforces, and where everybody is trying hang on just long enough to reach an IPO and cash out.
What Would Steve Do: The 8 Simple Secrets to Apple’s Success
Over the past 15 years Apple has gone from being nearly bankrupt to being the biggest company in the world, with a market value exceeding half a trillion dollars. How did they do it? Dan Lyons, author of the critically acclaimed book, Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs, and one of the world’s top experts on all things Apple, explains the simple principles that enabled Steve Jobs to lead Apple through the most amazing comeback in corporate history. In this talk, Lyons tells an engaging tale that captures the spirit of Steve Jobs and leaves his audience with eight rules that can be applied in any organization or industry. Why did Steve Jobs shun focus groups and trust his own taste instead? How does Apple evoke such strong responses from its fans and get thousands of people to line up outside Apple stores, turning each new product release into a kind of cultural event? Who was the little-known mentor who guided Steve Jobs in the early years of Apple and created the three words that have guided Apple’s marketing philosophy since its origins? Why does Apple dare to take risks while its competitors play it safe? How is that other companies sell products, while Apple sells an experience? What drove Steve Jobs to be such a fanatical perfectionist? Lyons spent five years writing the world’s most popular Apple-centric blog, “The Secret Diary of Steve” and hopes that the legacy of Steve Jobs will inspire a new generation of innovators and risk-takers who will dare “think different.”
Comedy by Committee: Lessons in Collaboration From the World of TV Writing
Creativity and collaboration are key to your company’s success. But how do you create an environment where people can work in groups and build consensus to create new products and ideas? What does a creative, collaborative culture look like? In this talk, Dan Lyons, a writer on HBO’s hit comedy series Silicon Valley, shows how companies can learn from the world of TV comedy.
TV writers work in big teams of 10 or more people. They work on tight deadlines, and they iterate constantly, rewriting and rethinking episodes dozens of times. Hollywood writers have developed an effective brainstorming system, and have figured out things like this: How do you make people feel comfortable and confident, so that they’ll participate? How do you deal with writer’s block? How do you create groups that are less intimidating and more productive?
Over the course of an eclectic career, Lyons has been a journalist, a marketing executive, a novelist, a university creative writing professor, and a blogger. He’s a lively, funny speaker, as you might expect from someone who makes a living writing comedy. Be warned: a few brave souls might get called up to do some improv on stage, but no audience members will be harmed! The goal is to have a good time, and take away real-world lessons that your organization can start using right away.
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.”
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