You’ve all heard about interweb phenom “Fake Steve Jobs,” right? The blog by that name was a sensation, attracting so much attention that even interweb-shy TV execs noticed. Which brings us to this tale of how the site’s creator, Dan Lyons, has made a new life for himself – under his own name, this time:
Interview by Kwame Opam
Dan Lyons’ career has taken him strange places, from covering IBM to working with Mike Judge on HBO. Remember Fake Steve Jobs? During his time as Forbes tech editor, Lyons created The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs in 2006, pretty much just as a way of understanding how to blog. It was funny and insightful, and it got people to pay attention. Pretty soon the site was earning 1.5 million visitors a month.
To this day, the site remains one of Lyons’ best-known achievements. He’s since written for places like Valleywag and ReadWrite, and is a minor celebrity in the bubble that is tech media. It even landed him a writing gig on Silicon Valley, whose second season finale airs on Sunday. Lyons insists the whole thing was just a crazy accident, though — yet another happy circumstance in a life spent just trying things out.
Lyons is currently in the middle of writing a book titled Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble, which sounds like the next natural leap from working on TV. I spoke with Lyons this week ahead of Sunday’s finale to ask how he wound up at HBO, his new book, and what it’s like being the real Fake Steve Jobs.
How did you end up in the job?
Then, when Silicon Valley was picked up by HBO, the original showrunners left the show right after the pilot was made. HBO brought in this other guy named Alec Berg. Alec had worked on Curb and on Seinfeld, so he went way back with Larry Charles, and Larry said to him, “Oh, you should talk to Dan.” He showed Alec some of my old scripts and said, “This guy really knows Silicon Valley really well.” [So] I get this call from my agent, saying, “Completely weird thing, but HBO just called and asked if you would come work on a show for the summer?”
The thing that’s always struck me about it was that I was really heartbroken in 2010 when the Icon show got dropped. I just was kind of crushed, but then weirdly enough something good came out of it. It was one of those stories when people say you never know where things are taking you.
Speaking of you knowing a lot about how Silicon Valley works, how did you wind up becoming Fake Steve Jobs?
Well, here’s the thing. I wouldn’t say that I know a lot about Silicon Valley. I live in Boston, for one thing. And I don’t live and breathe this stuff the way most of the guys out there do. I was working at Forbes, and I covered big enterprise companies — IBM, Sun, and EMC — and it was kind of boring. Forbes only came out every other week, so it was not the most fast-paced job in the world. It was very nice, comfortable.