Disrupted by Dan Lyons was centered around his time at HubSpot, a venture capital-backed marketing startup in Boston and the book both entertaining in the depiction of the company and Lyons trying to assimilate to it and sobering with how he describes startups as a whole and his view of how the industry works.
Lyons was previously the Technology Editor for Newsweek and hired in April 2014 at HubSpot, with the company making software used primarily by small businesses in their marketing efforts, either through outbound marketing via an automated email program, or inbound marketing with customers publishing blogs, websites, and videos so people come to them. Lyons was hired with the somewhat nebulous title of Marketing Fellow and from his conversations with the two company leaders at HubSpot, he felt he would be working on fairly high-level marketing. What he wound up being tasked with by his immediate management was writing blog posts, with the intent of getting people to express interest in learning more and generating a lead. The book covers how it's possible that Lyons was hired as a sort of PR move with them bringing in an established journalist, but also possible that the founders who hired him genuinely liked his skills, but then were distracted by other things.
Regardless of what led to his role at HubSpot, Lyons writes a rollicking story of what the company like. When he was hired, HubSpot had around 500 employees, the majority of them young, and marketed itself as a fun and exciting environment that was all about culture, teamwork, and making a difference. What Lyons described finding, however, was a strange and hard-partying environment primarily for those right out of college, and one that many people would with little warning get thrown out of, or as the company said "graduated" from. In a way, the stories from Lyons bring to mind the idea that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
There's definitely funny tales in the book about HubSpot, but on a broader scale, Lyons also writes of how a startup doesn’t need to have great technology or even turn a profit, it just needs venture capital to fund it and investors to want to buy shares in it, with the founders and venture capital firms the ones who reap the majority of the wealth. Lyons describes how HubSpot fit perfectly with the model of what investors wanted, a focus on revenue growth predominately via the engine of fairly low-paid employees providing sales and marketing staffing, with one phrase of his from the book about the company as "a financial instrument, a vehicle by which money can be moved from one set of hands to another." Additionally, Lyons wrote about companies continuing this same model after going public and the book concludes with Lyons leaving in December 2014 and then his manager as well as the CMO being forced out of the company due to their "attempts to procure the manuscript to a book about HubSpot," with one fired and one resigning. The company at the time the book came out in 2016 was a public one with a market value of nearly $2B and had never turned a profit, losing over $100M.