HubSpot book author Dan Lyons well known in high-tech circles as a ‘muckraker’

Daniel Lyons, creator of the Fake Steve Jobs blog, signs his book, oPtion$, written in the Fake Steve persona at the Stacey's bookstore in San Francisco on Friday November 2, 2007.
Daniel Lyons, creator of the Fake Steve Jobs blog, signs his book, oPtion$, written in the Fake Steve persona at the Stacey's bookstore in San Francisco on Friday November 2, 2007.

The Winchester man at the center of a controversy involving one of Kendall Square’s hottest companies may not be a household name, but he is well known in tech circles as “Fake Steve Jobs,” a writer on the HBO series “Silicon Valley” and, in his own words, a “muckraker.”

Dan Lyons, a polarizing journalist who often strikes a biting tone in criticizing people in the technology world, is writing what he has described on Twitter as a “scathing” memoir about his stint at HubSpot, a marketing software firm whose stock price has more than doubled since an initial public offering last fall.

HubSpot’s chief marketing officer, Mike Volpe, was allegedly so determined to find out what was in the book that he attempted to obtain a copy of the draft manuscript, which Lyons recently submitted to the Hachette Book Group. HubSpot said Wednesday that it had fired Volpe and “notified the appropriate legal authorities.” It did not specify which laws he might have broken or say whether he succeeded in getting his hands on the book, due out next April.

Lyons has not responded to multiple Globe messages seeking comment, but a person close to the writer, who spoke with him Thursday, said Lyons is unsure why someone at HubSpot would feel compelled to seek an advance copy and does not know how Volpe allegedly tried to gain access.

Though it’s unclear what exactly is contained in Lyons’s draft, a teaser on Hachette’s website suggests his depiction of HubSpot won’t be entirely flattering.

“The office vibe was frat house meets cult compound,” the publisher’s description reads. “Shower pods became hook-up dens; Nerf gun fights broke out at lunch; and absent bosses specialized in cryptic, jargon-filled emails.”

Lyons spent 20 months as a marketing fellow at HubSpot between April 2013 and December 2014, a period that included the company’s IPO. He was previously a technology editor at Newsweek magazine and a columnist at Forbes magazine but wrote in a blog post at the time of his hiring by HubSpot that he “had grown less and less enchanted with the kind of work I was doing as a ‘mainstream’ journalist.”

He has suggested in more recent writings that his time at HubSpot was merely a phase. On Valleywag, the technology news site owned by Gawker Media, where he assumed the editor’s post late last year, Lyons has poked fun at “my ridiculous attempt to reinvent myself and start a new career as a marketing person inside a software company.”

Yet his return to a newsroom was even shorter than his foray into marketing; Lyons’s tenure at Valleywag lasted just six weeks. He told Wired magazine in June that he is now focused on the book, entitled “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble.”

Non technology wonks may be more familiar with Lyons’s work as “Fake Steve Jobs,” the pseudonym he used during his time at Forbes to write a popular blog spoofing the late Apple chief executive. Lyons hid his identity for more than a year before he was outed by The New York Times in 2007.

Though intended as satire, Lyons’s posts under the Fake Steve name were not always greeted by laughter.

A 2008 post about Sarah Lacy, founder of the tech news outlet PandoDaily, ignited a long-burning feud with the site. Following Lacy’s online critique of the iPhone, Lyons wrote in the character of Fake Steve that Lacy is “obnoxious” and “almost always wrong,” yet impossible to hate because of her physical attributes.

Pando writers have rehashed the post several times since then, filing it under “gross, sexist comments about women in tech.”

But last month, the site grudgingly praised Lyons for his contributions as a writer on season two of the HBO sitcom “Silicon Valley.”

“Despite this undistinguished career arc that left behind a trail of boring, sexist journalism and insidious content marketing, Lyons has finally and improbably accomplished something worth celebrating,” Pando’s David Holmes wrote.

Cal Borchers is a business reporter for the Boston Globe. Reach him at [email protected].
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