As Mack McAllister is developing a new multi-million dollar app with a team of up-and-comers at his tech startup, personal foibles threaten the whole venture.
Iâ€™m not sure exactly what Startup is supposed to be, but I have two ideas:
- It’s a criticism of the millennial-driven tech world, full of self-important, ego-inflated people who have blurred the lines between fun and work and personal life so much that it stunts their growth. The proverbial takeoff becomes a takedown.
- It’s a scathing exposure of the sexism that still runs rampant in employment, even among people who claim to be running diverse and equal-opportunity businesses in this new, culturally aware and sensitive world. Itâ€™s still very much a boyâ€™s club.
The players of Startup are more caricature than character. Men are creepy, power-hungry harassers. Women are weak, acting to mollify their spouses and superiors. Self-congratulatory employees are more impressed by the companyâ€™s complimentary snack bar and Twitter shout-outs than the actual emerging tech.
Startup reads like a cautionary tale against, well, working or starting a tech business or having a relationship or being a female with career ambitions.
Every turn is fraught with drama and personal ruin. I mean come on, they’re creating an app that’s based on feelings (gag).
The founder, Mack, wants to fire a manager at his company because she wonâ€™t date him any more. And heâ€™s flummoxed that this behavior isnâ€™t okay. In a pivotal scene, he compares himself to Steve Jobs (First: you, sir, are no Steve Jobs. And second: gag).
The author is in on the joke. These characters arenâ€™t played with tenderhearted earnestness. The technology theyâ€™re working on so diligently isnâ€™t making significant advances for humankind. Itâ€™s another way to waste time and ignore the people actually with you.
Itâ€™s not about becoming centered. Itâ€™s about being more self-centered.
Iâ€™ll call it a satire and hope Iâ€™m right.
Letâ€™s all cringe together and lament the rise of the machines, which will eventually turn sentient and crush us, our complimentary snack bars, and $7 cold-press coffees.
If you enjoyed Startup, you might also enjoy:
Disrupted (book) by Dan Lyons
In this nonfiction book, Dan Lyons joins a startup much like the one in Startup and finds that being over age 40 equates to being a dinosaur in this unicorn-worshipping community. Do not enter if you need endings full of rainbows and lollipops.
Startup.com (documentary) by D.A. Pennebaker
This documentary shows a prime example of a dot com rising and swiftly falling during the tech bubble of the late 1990s/early 2000s. Lots of interpersonal drama among the â€œvisionaryâ€ founders.
The Circle (book) by Dave Eggers
This fascinating book gives a dystopian what-if story of tech companies. This is where all of the starry-eyed idealism becomes maniacal demands to live life on technologyâ€™s (or rather, the executiveâ€™s) terms.