Book Summary | Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble



Dan Lyons is a middle aged man living his best life. He is married and has twins who are 7, and has a great job at Newsweek. However, soon his life would take an unexpected turn. As Dan Lyons is planning his family’s 3 week vacation to Europe, he gets a call from his editor at Newsweek. They are making cuts and his job is one of them. At age 52, Dan Lyons is on the search for a new job.

Although feeling like a “beached white male” (11), he lands a few different jobs including one that forces him to travel to San Francisco from Boston every week. Dan gets tired of the constant traveling and decides to take a marketing job at Hubspot, a Boston-based startup. Despite being double the average age of the employees at Hubspot, Dan hits it off with management and is excited to begin this new journey. However, Dan will soon realize that he is in for a lot more than just forced work parties.

Immediately, Dan gets an eerie feeling about Hubspot. Along with the clear age discrimination, Dan notes the ethnicity and gender uniformity. Dan notes the odd and problematic culture at Hubspot. The product that Hubspot is selling is very buggy and has a lot of faulty parts, however, Hubspot continues to use their funds to grow sales and marketing rather than improving the actual product. Another odd part of Hubspot’s culture is “Graduation Day.” Graduation Day is when an employee leaves or gets fired. Dan notes that employees would be fired without notice. An email would be sent out and their desk would be immediately cleared.  

Right away, Dan is shut off by management and isn’t assigned any projects to work on. Dan sees the management as kids who don’t have experience, but run teams anyway. He also describes the workplace as his kids’ “Montessori preschool.” (4) He describes the culture at Hubspot as being a frat house combined with a cult compound. If you don’t immediately get along with your coworkers, you are immediately in for a wild ride. Unfortunately, that is the case for Dan.

Dan is given no chance to contribute to the success of Hubspot. His ideas to improve Hubspot are shut down by the manager, even though the ideas were approved by the CEO. In fact, the manager takes Dan’s idea and promotes it as his own. After consistent cruel treatment and passive aggressive attitudes from his coworkers, Dan is miserable and is looking for any way to escape this psychologically grueling job.

Luckily, Dan is able to land a new job at Gawker along with being a writer on the comedy series, Silicon Valley. However, Dan’s exit of Hubspot did not go as smooth as he would have liked.


In Depth: Inbound Marketing

Throughout the book, Dan talks a lot about inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is creating reasons for customers to come to you on their own terms. Brian Halligan, co-founder and CEO of Hubspot, explains that inbound marketing is the reason that Hubspot exists. Inbound marketing consists of using online content such as blogs, podcasts, websites, etc. to attract customers rather than spending money on traditional marketing such as advertising and cold-calling (33). Inbound marketing is more effective and less expensive. Inbound marketing is replacing traditional outbound marketing (i.e. cold-calling, buying advertisements).

Although Hubspot’s software is facilitating customers to create inbound marketing strategies, Dan notes that, ironically, employees at Hubspot still practice outbound marketing. They constantly make cold-calls and send recurring emails to their current and potential customers. However, Hubspot has also increased their inbound marketing strategies by adding more content to their blogs and by producing a podcast. Every year, Hubspot has an annual marketing conference in Boston called ‘Inbound’

Hubspot’s approach to inbound marketing includes combining attracting, engaging, and delighting consumers by producing different content. (Note: Not mentioned in book, but on Hubspot’s website)


My Review

Overall, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble was very interesting and informative. Start-ups never seem to get a bad-rap in terms of culture. Unlimited vacation, free food, and nap rooms all sound so compelling to college students like myself. However, I am glad that I was able to read about a not-so-great experience at a start-up. Dan also mentions that Hubspot brainwashed all of its employees into believing in the culture and he claims that this is mostly because the employees are recent graduates who don’t know better. Reading Dan’s opinions on the culture made me more aware to examine the culture of a future employers. I also am curious to examine the cultures of the companies that we will visit, especially in terms of diversity in age, gender, and ethnicity.

Although I appreciate reading Dan’s viewpoint, it is also important to keep in mind that Dan has never had experience in the tech world prior to Hubspot. Dan’s lack of experience may have contributed to his attitude working for Hubspot. Nevertheless, I am glad to have read about the other side of the tech world.


7 thoughts on “Book Summary | Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble

  1. Hey Jessica,

    Loved your take on the book. I was initially intending on reading the book before settling in a different one so I was eager to see what your thoughts on it were. It’d be interesting to get a firsthand look at Hubspot itself to see what it’s like. I read that after this book came out (or during it’s writing), they fired their CMO for trying to get a copy of the book. The company still makes 375 mill in rev but are still in the red so we’ll see how the company works out. Anyway, really great summary!


  2. Wow the idea of Graduation Day is really off-putting. Any weird rephrasing stuff like that always seems like a red flag to me. I am glad to see that people are writing about the darker cultural issues that can develop in startups. Like you said it really does seem downplayed in our society but if we don’t talk about it then real nasty workplaces can develop. Great review!


  3. Hi Jessica,
    Great review! I also really enjoyed how this book gave a different perspective on startup culture as it seems to be very idyllic for employees, but for some is a very different experience that they have had at a previous job. I find it also very interesting that he had ideas shut down/stolen by managers while most startups seem to promote collaborative thinking and having everyone’s voice be heard. I will definitely look for this in the companies that we visit also. Great Job!


  4. I was really considering choosing this book so I’m glad I got to read a little about it! Unfortunately, the news isn’t quite what I was hoping for. I agree that Dan’s lack of experience and age may have contributed to his experience in the startup, but the fraternity culture and graduation day aspect are not appealing. I’m interested to look at the inbound/outbound marketing techniques used by the companies we are going to visit, and I think with the obsession with social media, why not utilize it for marketing as much as possible? Great job!


  5. I go back and forth about whether to keep this book in the mix. I think ideally it would be read at the end of TT as a counterweight to what we will see. I generally agree with your insights, though. He makes a number of good points, but some of his observations simply come from naiveté from never having worked in business / tech before.


  6. Jessica, this was a very informative take on the book–one I never got to read–so thank you for doing such a great job! I was always curious exactly what the story was and what exactly his “misadventures” entailed. I am actually inbound marketing certified through Hubspot, so reading about a company which I have spent a lot of time involved with was very interesting. This is definitely a book I plan to read soon. See you Wednesday!


  7. Wow, I loved your take on this book! I think it’s interesting that the book showcases an employee experiencing such a poor environment with a start up because, like you said start ups are usually known to have a good culture among the workplace. I will have to add this book to my list to read!


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