The Forrest Four-Cast: May 9, 2017
One of the many reasons we love Austin’s Book People is the store’s continued attention to showcasing top tech-related authors, In addition to Cory Doctorow on May 10, mark your calendar for May 17 when I will be interviewing “Startup: A Novel” author Doree Shafrir.
In preparation for next week’s on-stage conversation, I connected with her on a few preliminary about her new book. We’ll dive a little bit deeper on these issues on May 17 — and get a little more of her sense of what is good (and not so good) for the East Coast entrepreneurial scene.
FORREST: Is “Startup” completely fictional? Or are bits and pieces taken from real-life episodes you witnessed at BuzzFeed?
SHAFRIR: The story and characters are completely fictional. That said, my experience at BuzzFeed, as well as writing I’ve done about startups, certainly influenced the book. (Let’s just say BuzzFeed has a lot of snacks.) But nothing that the characters say or do is anything that is based entirely on personal experience.
FORREST: Comparisons between the novel “Startup” and HBO’s “Silicon Valley” are probably inevitable. Did the show influence your writing in any way?
SHAFRIR: It influenced me in the sense that the show is very male-dominated and I wanted to write a book that felt like its female characters were more integral to the story and this world. And it was instructive in terms of how to find humor in the tech/startup worlds. But in my personal opinion my book is quite different, not just because it’s set in New York and has two female protagonists, but also in tone.
FORREST: In the book, Mack McAllister is the semi-clueless founder of the self-help app TakeOff. Although recently relocated to New York, he originally hails from Texas. Do entrepreneurs from the Lone Star State fit a certain stereotype?
SHAFRIR: Ha, I’m not sure! I wanted Mack to be not from the Northeast and Texas seemed like a place that he’d be from. There’s not supposed to be a broader implication there about entrepreneurs from Texas.
FORREST: You certainly started writing this book before the November 2016 election. How do you think the new administration will change startup culture?
SHAFRIR: It seems to have already rallied certain prominent names in Silicon Valley to become more political. I’ll be curious to see if this continues and which issues people in tech start to rally around.
FORREST: How have people from the startup ecosystem reacted to their sometimes less-than-favorable portrayal in “Startup”?
SHAFRIR: Most seem to be taking the gentle ribbing in stride, and some are even acknowledging that the book raises some systemic issues that should be addressed in startup culture as a whole.
FORREST: How have people from the journalism world reacted to their sometimes less-than-favorable portrayal in “Startup”?
SHAFRIR: The journalists I’ve spoken to seem to love it.
FORREST: The book ends rather abruptly. Will we see these characters again in some other setting?
SHAFRIR: Possibly! Stay tuned.
Hear more about the funny (and not-so-funny) world of founders from Doree Shafrir on Wednesday, May 17 at 7:00 pm at Book People at 603 North Lamar in downtown Austin!
Hugh Forrest tries to write four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts generally cover technology-related trends. When not attempting to wordsmith or meditating, he serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW in Austin.
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