lyons at bitspiration

Dan Lyons is a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter whose work centers around technology and its impact on society. His latest book, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble, was hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “the best book about Silicon Valley today.” Disrupted became an instant New York Times best seller.

In recent years Dan has been been a writer on the award-winning HBO comedy series, Silicon Valley. Previously he was editor-in-chief of ReadWrite; technology editor of Newsweek; and a technology reporter at Forbes. Dan also created a blog, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, from which he developed a critically acclaimed novel, Options.

Dan has spoken at Google, Microsoft, Adobe, and other companies, as well as at conferences around the world, including DLD in Munich, Bitspiration in Poland, and Thinking Digital in the U.K. He has been a guest commentator on network and cable TV and been interviewed by Terry Gross for the NPR show, Fresh Air. His work has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, Vanity Fair, Wired, the New Yorker, and many other publications.


Dan Lyons — journalist, satirist, comedy writer — always wondered what it was like to work inside a tech startup. So at the age of 52 he took the plunge, and two years later published a New York Times best-selling memoir, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, a laugh-out-loud tale of a job experience gone horribly awry. Disrupted is also an insightful book about corporate culture, one that Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, calls “a fine, important work,” and which some CEOs have started giving out to their management teams.

Across every industry, from retail to media to finance, incumbent market leaders are faced with the threat of disruption. They are racing to reinvent their culture, and many are looking to Silicon Valley startups for inspiration. In this talk, Dan shares the perspective of someone who went into the belly of the startup beast seeking answers to the questions that many organizations are asking. How do startups create a culture that supports innovation? How can an established company change its culture, and become more hip and modern, without wrecking the things that made the company successful in the first place? What makes people loyal to a company, and happy, and engaged? Which perks really matter? How can we attract and retain Millennials? How do we manage a multi-generational workforce? How should we think about diversity?

Dan’s talk blends self-deprecating humor with insight about how the workplace is changing and how the right culture creates a healthy, agile, competitive, and sustainable organization.



Companies across every industry are realizing that in order to thrive they must first create the right corporate culture. “Culture,” says former Pixar CFO Lawrence Levy, “is the invisible force on which innovation depends.” But how do you create a culture? For that matter, what is culture? Dan Lyons spent two years embedded inside a high-growth software startup, and came away with a fresh perspective on startup culture, which became the core of his New York Times best-selling book, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble.

In this talk, Dan draws on the experience he chronicled in Disrupted and explains how startups create an environment where people are encouraged to take risks and embrace failure. He explores ways that established companies can incorporate these principles into their organizations and how to be selective about which practices to adopt. Despite the foosball tables and free beer, startups often suffer high turnover and sagging morale. Dan believes that a successful culture blends new and old ideas, and that in their race to embrace ideas from startup culture, companies risk losing the cultural assets that made them successful in the first place. In this talk Dan derives lessons from companies like Pixar and Apple, as well as a supermarket chain, a 100-year-old insurance company, and a maker of high-end audio equipment.



Most of what you read in the tech press makes startup life sound like a blast — foosball, free beer, lots of parties, and then everyone gets rich. A kind of mythology has sprung up around startups centered on the figure of the heroic entrepreneur who takes huge risks and changes the world. Dan Lyons believed that too — until he spent two years working at a software startup while the company was ramping up for a billion-dollar IPO, and came away disillusioned. That experience became the foundation of his best-seller, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, and also forms the basis of this talk where Dan punctures some myths about startup life and offers insight into the way Silicon Valley companies have changed the way we work.

Do Millennials really care more about mission than about money? Do startups really have all the answers? What’s it like to work in one of these places? How can an established company build a culture that attracts and retains Millennials, without alienating the rest of its workforce? What are the challenges and benefits of having a multi-generational workforce? What is “culture fit,” and why does it lead to a lack of diversity? How can established companies embrace the good aspects of startup culture while retaining the elements that made them successful in the first place?