HubSpot’s Dan Lyons has the best job (not) in Silicon Valley

Photo of Dan Lyons via <a href="http://www.realdanlyons.com/">www.realdanlyons.com</a>
Photo of Dan Lyons via www.realdanlyons.com

HubSpot’s Dan Lyons is back in Cambridge after spending the summer in Los Angeles playing a role in writing for Season Two of HBO’s hit “Silicon Valley.”

In his career, Lyons has been a business journalist at Forbes, Newsweek, ReadWrite, and written a novel. But he is probably known best for secretly writing humorous tweets and blog posts as the Fake Steve Jobs from 2006 to 2007, until he was outed by Brad Stone.

HubSpot hired Dan in 2012 as a HubSpot Fellow, where he’s been writing lots of smart things about creating content and the future of journalism. Check out his essays on “Brand Journalism,” especially the one about reporters in newsrooms versus journalists in companies.

When Dan was asked to join “Silicon Valley” last spring, the smart folks at HubSpot encouraged him to take a 14-week leave of absence to join the show on the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City.

“Brian [Halligan] and Dharmesh [Shah] and Mike Volpe, our CMO, were incredibly generous and let me take a leave of absence to go work on the show,” he said. “I was really grateful for that, and I’m also grateful to be back at HubSpot now and working on an exciting new project for our marketing department.”

How did Dan get that Hollywood gig anyway?

“I spent two years working on a sitcom about tech called “Icon” with Larry Charles (of “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) a while ago, which we sold, but it never got made,” Lyons said.

“The producers of HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” Mike Judge and Alec Berg, saw those scripts and asked me to come help write the second season if they got picked up,” he added.

Not only did the show get green-lit for a second season, but it also picked up five Emmy nominations. The next season of the show is slated to start in April 2015.

“They wanted me there, not to write jokes, but give the show authenticity. To tell them what a startup was really like, to talk about what happens the day after you win TechCrunch Disrupt,” Lyons said alluding to the manner in which first season ended for the fictional startup Pied Piper. “I was there to help them get the culture right,” he explained.

The opportunity put Lyons in the middle of two very different California cultures — spending the summer in LA writing about San Francisco. “The Hollywood sitcom culture itself was fascinating. They have their own set of rules, their own terminology, particular ways of working,” he said. “The writers’ room culture is as unique as the culture we were writing about – the geek culture.”

Lyons also commented on how challenging a task it can be to write comedy. “Everyone is in the room, throwing ideas around — even acting them out — and there are two typists, typing up everything as it’s being said. It’s like very fast, very funny brainstorming. And the writers there are really brilliant.”

“It’s a lot like improv in a comedy club,” Lyons said of the the fine line between a joke succeeding and falling flat.

Much like startups, the bad ideas end up begetting the good ones, as he explained, “Even if an idea sounds stupid at first, you still have to chase it down, because you might end up spinning something great out of it.”

After working on a show that didn’t succeed, Lyons himself has learned an important thing or two, and now he’s on two winning teams, “Silicon Valley” and HubSpot.

Halley Suitt Tucker is an author, entrepreneur, TechStars alum, and two-time successful Kickstarter campaigner. She lives in Arlington.
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