A Novel


By Doree Shafrir

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From veteran online journalist and BuzzFeed writer Doree Shafrir comes a hilarious debut novel that proves there are some dilemmas that no app can solve.

Mack McAllister has a $600 million dollar idea. His mindfulness app, TakeOff, is already the hottest thing in tech and he’s about to launch a new and improved version that promises to bring investors running and may turn his brainchild into a $1 billion dollar business — in startup parlance, an elusive unicorn.

Katya Pasternack is hungry for a scoop that will drive traffic. An ambitious young journalist at a gossipy tech blog, Katya knows that she needs more than another PR friendly puff piece to make her the go-to byline for industry news.

Sabrina Choe Blum just wants to stay afloat. The exhausted mother of two and failed creative writer is trying to escape from her credit card debt and an inattentive husband-who also happens to be Katya’s boss-as she rejoins a work force that has gotten younger, hipper, and much more computer literate since she’s been away.

Before the ink on Mack’s latest round of funding is dry, an errant text message hints that he may be working a bit too closely for comfort with a young social media manager in his office. When Mack’s bad behavior collides with Katya’s search for a salacious post, Sabrina gets caught in the middle as TakeOff goes viral for all the wrong reasons. As the fallout from Mack’s scandal engulfs the lower Manhattan office building where all three work, it’s up to Katya and Sabrina to write the story the men in their lives would prefer remain untold.

An assured, observant debut from the veteran online journalist Doree Shafrir, Startup is a sharp, hugely entertaining story of youth, ambition, love, money and technology’s inability to hack human nature.

“A biting and astute debut novel [with] many delights.”-Lara Vapnyar, New York Times Book Review



Save Your Generation

THEY CAME FROM all over the city in the predawn hours, a merry band of highly optimized minstrels in purple leggings and shiny headbands and brightly colored sneakers, walking the fifteen minutes from the L train or directing an Uber to the former spice factory in the no-man’s-land between Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The neighborhood’s normal early-morning crowd—the dog walkers, the construction workers, the marathon trainers—mostly looked upon them with amused curiosity. Nothing fazed them anymore.

Once they got into the club, they either headed straight for the dance floor or descended on the bar, which this morning was not selling alcohol but rather providing free sustenance in the form of granola bars and coconut water and green juice (all sponsored by an on-demand laundry app), which they drank greedily before, or in some cases while, slithering onto the dance floor.

This was the October edition of MorningRave, a monthly gathering devoted to the idea that the best way to start the day was with the excited energy of a clean-living dance party. It was a movement that in a previous generation might have been derided as corny, or Mormon. But this was a different New York. The cynical echo of Generation X had finally been quieted and, along with it, most of the dive bars, rent-stabilized apartments, bands, underground clubs, clothing boutiques, and fashion magazines that used to define the city. In its place had arisen a Promised Land of Duane Reades and Chase ATMs on every corner, luxury doorman buildings, Pilates studios and spin classes, eighteen-dollar rosemary-infused cocktails and seven-dollar cups of single-origin coffee—all of which were there to cater to a new generation of twentysomethings, the data scientists and brand strategists and software engineers and social media managers and product leads and marketing associates and IT coordinators ready to disrupt the world with apps. And today, like every day, they would work until it was dark again, and then they would go to dinner parties or secret cocktail bars or rooftop events, and most of them would end the night watching Netflix on their laptops in bed, perhaps in one of the new high-rises summoned directly from a marketing brochure—Doorman! Swimming pool! Rooftop cabanas! Yoga room! Unparalleled views and the lifestyle you deserve! Few of them lived alone, but most of them rarely crossed paths with their roommates. Everyone was just so busy.

Wherever they resided—Williamsburg or Bushwick or the Lower East Side or Bed-Stuy or Crown Heights—they embraced their neighborhoods’ ready availability of acai bowls and yoga studios. They were all in agreement that adulthood could, and should, be fun.

It was truly a new Gilded Age.

At MorningRave, they danced alone and in pairs, with friends and with strangers. They danced on the stage and on the floor. One woman danced with a baby in a carrier attached to her torso. (The baby wore headphones.) A guy in a turquoise headband did a backflip into the crowd and landed on his feet. They cheered when the DJ told them to make some noise. They danced with the passion of people for whom nothing ever really goes wrong.

Twenty-eight-year-old William “Mack” McAllister was among them. Many of the sixty-three employees of his startup, TakeOff, were there too, and as he made his way through the crowd, coconut water in hand, it seemed as though every other person said hi. In New York’s bustling innovation community, Mack was one of the anointed, at least if you went by consecutive number of times he’d been named to the TechScene 50 (three), the amount of money in seed funding he’d raised for TakeOff (five million; the industry’s news site TechScene had reported it as six million, a figure he had not bothered to correct), his Twitter follower count (23,782), and how many women he had slept with since moving to New York City from his hometown of Dallas six years ago (fifty-one, and there would have been more if not for a three-month period of self-imposed celibacy when he was first launching his company). Indeed, by virtually any metric, Mack McAllister was crushing it, and he saw no reason why he would not continue to do so for the foreseeable future. He held up his phone to take a selfie, making sure to capture the crowd in back of him, and posted it to Instagram with a caption that read: The best way to start the day: a massive dance party. #MorningRave #MorningRaveNYC.

There was one person at MorningRave who did not post any selfies to Instagram. She was there to dance, and only to dance. Nor did she say hello to Mack. She knew who he was, but he was not yet aware of her existence. Katya Pasternack was at the party with her boyfriend, Victor, who himself was a founder of a small company called StrollUp. Katya was twenty-four years old, but ever since she was a child, people had said she had an old soul. From what she could tell, this mostly meant that she preferred the company of people older than herself. One of the exceptions was this party, which she loved. Katya weighed ninety-one pounds and had never gone to a gym a day in her life, but she danced at this party as though it were her job. Her actual job was as a reporter for TechScene. She took a break from dancing—Victor was at the bar, getting a green juice—squinted and scanned the crowd. Besides Mack, she recognized no fewer than seventeen startup founders. She took out her phone and noted all of their names, just in case she felt compelled to write something about any of them later.

At exactly 9:00 a.m., the music stopped, and the dancers cheered again. They held their phones up to record this moment, when the thick curtains on the windows of the club would be drawn back, and the crowd would recite, in unison, “Good morning, good morning, great morning!” and then a cheer, louder than before, would erupt. They posted this moment on Snapchat and Instagram, on Twitter and Facebook, anywhere that their message—I was here—could be loudly, clearly received.

Most of them still clutched their phones a few minutes later as they headed out into the morning. Although their eyes blinked as they adjusted to the sunlight, all of them had their heads down, looking at their phones. They needed to see how many people had liked their Instagrams, if anyone had viewed their Snapchat videos, how many likes and comments—so jelly!!!!!; omg i can’t believe i missed this; i’m here too! where u at—they’d gotten on Facebook, how many people had retweeted their observation about this being the best party ever. Mack noted, with no small degree of satisfaction, that his selfie already had 129 likes. Katya pulled a long-sleeved shirt over her head, kissed Victor good-bye, and started walking toward the L train to go to work.

Neither of them knew it yet, but Katya Pasternack’s and Mack McAllister’s lives would be intersecting again very soon.


Do the Math

MACK MCALLISTER EXITED his East Village apartment building wearing a royal-blue gingham-checked button-down shirt tucked into jeans and a navy blazer. He carried a soft brown leather briefcase with two buckles, given to Mack by his father when he graduated from the University of Texas and on which his initials—WSM, William Sumner McAllister—were embossed in gold capital letters. His dark brown hair was close-cropped, which highlighted his somewhat ungainly ears. Mack considered his ears his secret weapon in that they made him just slightly unattractive, a characteristic that he found made him irresistibly disarming to women.

This morning, Mack had agreed to give a breakfast presentation at Startup Boot Camp, an incubator that gave founders office space and access to venture capitalists and other successful entrepreneurs for one year in exchange for 10 percent of their companies. His Uber, a silver Prius, pulled up right as he put his headphones on and opened the MindSoothe meditation app on his phone. He hit pause as he confirmed his destination, an office building in the financial district, with the driver. Then the opening chimes played, and a soothing female voice said, “Welcome to your meditation session. For the next twenty minutes, you have granted your mind and your body permission to connect with the world of thought and feeling.” He closed his eyes. Certainly an Uber in Manhattan at rush hour was not the most conducive atmosphere for meditation, but Mack had made it a goal to try to meditate in the most inhospitable environments. Anyone could meditate in a silent, darkened room, but could you find peace crawling down Broadway? That was the mark of true enlightenment. Meditation was relatively new in Mack’s life, despite the fact that he had developed a workplace-wellness app. But the practice had become popular in the startup scene as a kind of self-improvement mechanism—supposedly even Zuck was a devotee—and it did seem like people at TakeOff were much more productive ever since he had begun offering guided meditation in the office once a week.

As the car inched along, honking every minute or so, he tried to focus on what the app was telling him—“Continue to bring awareness to the breath.” But his mind kept drifting to his meeting with Gramercy Partners next week, where he was going to make a case to the partners that they should lead his next round of funding, his Series A round. He knew it was ambitious, but he was hoping for a valuation of six hundred million dollars, and then, maybe, just maybe, the next round of funding would value TakeOff at over one billion. In startup parlance, TakeOff would be a unicorn. Silicon Valley might have already been overrun by unicorns, but here in New York City, they were still a rare and coveted breed.

TakeOff had started as a company that promoted workplace wellness; at any point in the day, you could open the app and tell it what your mood was, and it would immediately give you something to help improve how you were feeling (Mack believed that even if you were in a great mood, you could always feel better). Sometimes it was a cat picture or a funny meme, sometimes it was an instruction to take a walk around the office, sometimes it was a song. Now he and his team were working on developing something even cooler, a new version that would go beyond the workplace and would anticipate your mood at any time of day or night, based on your past inputs but also on sentiment analysis from your social media accounts, emails, text messages, and IMs. TakeOff didn’t actually read your emails, texts, and IMs or store them, of course; it just combed them for keywords and relevant emoji. Like if you were using the sad-face emoji too much or if you had the word pissed in your emails or texts more at a certain time of day, the app would take all of that into account and send you a notification when it perceived that you were feeling bad.

Even if TakeOff wasn’t a unicorn quite yet, six hundred million dollars would be nothing to sneeze at. Six hundred million dollars would make his remaining 23 percent stake in the company worth approximately one hundred and thirty-eight million dollars. He said that number to himself a few times, just to get used to the sound. One hundred and thirty-eight million dollars. One hundred and thirty-eight million dollars. One hundred and thirty-eight. Million. Dollars. What would he even do with that much money? Maybe he would hire a personal chef and finally start that gluten-free paleo diet everyone was talking about. Actually, fuck it, if he had a hundred and thirty-eight million dollars, he could afford to buy a private plane and staff it with the personal chef.

“Take a long, slow, deep breath in through your nose.” Pause. “And now release that breath out through your mouth. In and out. In and out. Slow your mind down and guide yourself into a new state of awareness.” He had learned through meditation that it was important not to think too much about worst possible outcomes, because then that was what you ended up manifesting into existence. Instead, as his Uber picked up speed a bit, he brought himself to that new state of awareness in which he was a multimillionaire and he was the one turning down meetings with VCs.

“Sir?” He opened his eyes, startled. They had stopped in front of a glass-and-steel tower. “This the place?”

He hit pause and removed his earbuds. “Yes, sorry about that.” He got out of the car quickly and, after handing over his ID at the security desk, took the elevator to the eighth floor.

“Hi,” he said to the woman at the reception desk. “I’m here for—”

“I know who you are!” She stood up to shake his hand. He sized her up quickly: She was probably around twenty-two or twenty-three, wearing a floral dress and tights and bright red lipstick. Her light brown hair was in a bob with bangs. Not his type, exactly, but cute. “It’s so great to meet you, Mack. We’re so happy you’re here! I’m Gina, I’m the office manager. I’ll take you to the conference room! There’s breakfast and some drinks all set up.”

He followed her back through the open-plan office. It was a large room, packed with desks and computers. Small signs indicated each company’s name at its workspace, most of which had three or four desks. People looked up as Mack walked by. Most of them smiled. A few stood up and followed him and Gina to the conference room, where there were already five or six people seated at a long table, including the guy who’d invited him, Peter Fernandez. Peter stood up as Mack came in. “Mack!” He made his way over and shook Mack’s hand. “So glad you could be here this morning. Help yourself to a bagel or coffee.” Peter was a former venture capitalist who had left the VC world two years ago to start this incubator. So far, seven of the incubator’s companies had been bought, netting Peter around twenty million dollars in the process.

Mack poured himself a cup of coffee. “How’s everything going?” he asked Peter.

“You know, Mack, everything is going great. We have a killer class right now—I’m just really psyched about the potential everyone brings to the table.” He glanced around the room, which had filled up. “You ready to do this?”

Mack nodded. He had prepared his speech the night before, practicing in front of the full-length mirror in his bedroom. “Great. I’ll give a short intro and then you can just go into it.” Peter cleared his throat. “May I have everyone’s attention?” The room quieted down. “I’m very pleased to introduce today’s breakfast speaker, the extraordinary Mack McAllister.” Everyone applauded. “He’s a guy who needs no introduction, really—I’m sure you all have TakeOff on your phones—but I’ll give him an intro anyway, just so we can be reminded how incredibly awesome this guy is. So Mack got kind of a late start in the startup world—he founded TakeOff at the ripe old age of twenty-five, which should give some of you here hope.” Everyone laughed. Peter pointed at a tall guy leaning against the wall in the back of the room. “I’m looking at you, Sunil.” Sunil saluted, grinned. “Sunil just turned thirty-two,” Peter stage-whispered to Mack. “Anyway. In addition to founding TakeOff, which now has sixty-three employees, Mack’s on the board of the New York Startup Series and he also founded Tech for Kids, which teaches children in underserved communities how to code. Oh, and he’s run the New York City Marathon three times.” Peter mock bowed down to Mack. “Really, dude, is there anything you can’t do?”

“I never could master German.” The room laughed with him. “Seriously, though, thanks for that intro, Peter. So…show of hands. How many of you, growing up, thought you were one day going to start a company?” Around half of the people in the room shot their hands up. “Wow, impressive. How many of you thought that you would one day work for a startup?” Another smattering of hands. “And how many of you thought that that startup was going to be in New York City?” This time, no hands went up. Mack grinned. “In the past few years, this city has experienced nothing short of a revolution. And it’s all because of people like you, and you, and you.” He pointed at a few random people in the room. “Heck, it’s because of all of you! I moved to New York six years ago, and believe me, things were not the way they are now. The city was in a depression. And I don’t just mean economically—I mean the whole city was depressed. Wall Street had basically imploded. New York was spiraling. Those point-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-one percenters at the top, they never got rid of their Hamptons houses or their yachts, but a lot of people at their firms lost their jobs. So when things started to change, it wasn’t Wall Street leading the way. You know who it was?” He paused for dramatic effect. “It was people like you and me. The tech industry. We were the ones taking leases on office space no one wanted. We were the ones hiring. And we were the ones trying to build a community.”

Mack had moved to New York after getting a Facebook message from a college friend he hadn’t heard from in a while saying that he was looking for people to work for his startup. A couple years later, the startup failed, but Mack decided to stay. He bounced around a few other startups before finally landing on the idea for TakeOff one day when he was running along the Hudson River, and after three months of all-nighters he’d raised one million dollars.

“Let me ask you something. Do you think Wall Street would have started a game-changer like the New York Startup Series?” He paused for effect. “Here’s the answer: They had over a hundred years to do it, and they didn’t. We’ve gotten over two hundred companies funding through the Startup Series. Because we’re the visionaries in New York now. This is a new city. It’s not about who your parents are or what school you went to anymore. It’s about who you are and what you do, and what you can do for the greater good.” He’d given a version of this speech at least a dozen times, and it never failed to make him emotional. “This means responsibility—great responsibility. But what could be better than giving your life to something greater than yourself?”

The room broke into applause. A couple people whistled. He waited for it to die down and continued. “Of course, there will always be naysayers about the tech industry. That just comes with the territory. There are always going to be the finance guys who think they can keep pretending they still rule the world. Then there are those types on the opposite end of the spectrum—you know, the ones who barely even know what the internet is? Once your companies begin to get off the ground and you start looking for office space, you’ll understand this—there are people out there who will raise hell about a relatively small tax break for a tech company to stay in New York and create jobs.” He shook his head. What he always wanted to add, but didn’t, was how supremely annoyed he was by the entitlement of people who would fight tooth and nail to keep their rent-stabilized apartments even when they had country houses and sent their kids to private school. This was basically socialism. Meanwhile, his employees lived off subway stops in Brooklyn he’d never heard of.

“Now, look, I understand that there might come a time—well, let’s say, there will hopefully come a time—when I’ll find Wall Street and its access to capital markets extremely useful.” Peter, and a couple others, laughed. “But until then, I will continue to argue that the tech industry is the best thing to happen to New York City since a Dutchman bought this whole dang island.” The room erupted into applause.

Something else Mack always left out of his talk was how his dad had built an incredibly successful contracting company from nothing—but he had never forgotten that he’d been turned down by five banks in Dallas for a small-business loan when he was starting out. If he’d had the same access to capital that Mack had had, he’d probably be one of the richest men in Texas by now. But VC firms were built to understand and profit from this new world. So what if they ended up owning a chunk of your company? They knew that it took money to make money. In fact, it was considered a bad sign if your company was profitable too soon; you had to spend the money you were earning to build your business or else your investors would wonder if you were thinking big enough and taking enough risks. That was Startup 101.

Mack’s dad still didn’t totally understand what Mack did, or what the company did, or even really how VC funding worked or why Mack would take money from someone else and “let them get into your business like that,” but he loved to talk about how entrepreneurship was in the genes, and Mack had overheard his mother on the phone with one of her friends when he was home for Christmas last year bragging that he was going to be on the local news in Dallas talking about being a tech-company founder. What they really didn’t understand, though, was why he was single. His younger sister, Hailey, had gotten married three years ago, when she was twenty-three, to a guy she’d met at SMU, and everyone at the wedding had seemed surprised—Hailey’s single girlfriends, pleasantly—that Mack came unattached. He’d ended up hooking up with one of Hailey’s sorority sisters and her best friend from high school, and he was pretty sure that neither of them knew about the other and that Hailey knew about neither of them. He still occasionally got texts from the high-school friend; he responded if he knew he was going to be back home for a few days. She was always up for something fun.

His parents knew he dated around but didn’t ask too many questions. The closest they had come was when he was home briefly at Christmas; he’d been watching football with his dad and Hailey’s husband, Colton, and when Colton got up to get a beer from the kitchen, Mack’s dad had said, quietly, “Your mother’s worried about you.”

Mack’s response was to laugh, a little nervously, until he saw the dead-serious look on his dad’s face. “I mean it, son, she’s worried about you. I know things are going well with the company, but she is just worried that…well, she’d just really like you to meet someone, is all.”

Mack had to laugh again to break the tension. If only they knew…“Dad. Please, she has nothing to worry about. You have nothing to worry about. I do fine.” This seemed to do it; his dad clapped him on the back and said, “Enjoy it while it lasts.”

Still, they were old-fashioned in their way. They didn’t want to meet any of Mack’s girlfriends unless Mack felt like it was serious. And Mack would probably have to bring the girl to Dallas because his parents had yet to set foot in New York. Until very recently, he hadn’t been with anyone he’d even remotely considered taking to Texas. But lately, the thing—he hesitated to put a more concrete label on it—he had with his coworker Isabel seemed to be getting more serious. They’d been seeing each other secretly, and nonexclusively, for the past year, neither of them willing to articulate anything that suggested a desire for commitment, but now Mack was starting to think he was “catching feelings,” as they used to say in middle school. And he had probably felt this way for a while, if he was being completely honest with himself. Maybe the next time he and Isabel hung out, he would broach it.

He suddenly realized that the applause had died down and people were looking at him expectantly. “Are there any questions?” He took a sip of his coffee. In the back, Sunil raised his hand. “Yes?”

Sunil nodded. “First of all, thank you for coming today—your talk was truly visionary and inspiring. Second, my question has to do with scale and hiring. At what point did you need to add layers of, shall we say, administrative staff? You know, finance, HR, and the like. My company is obviously way too small to start thinking about this, but I’ve seen a couple of friends get tripped up by it and I was curious how you’d handled it.”

“Sure. To be honest, we’ve been winging that stuff a little bit. Investors don’t want to hear about you hiring a head of HR. They want to hear about you hiring engineers. So it’s on our radar, sure, but not totally a priority.”

“Thanks,” Sunil said. He didn’t seem totally satisfied with the answer but didn’t ask a follow-up.

“Any other questions?”

“Where do you see TakeOff going from here?” This was from a woman sitting near the door. He’d noticed her on his way in—she was a little chubby, with curly blond hair. He’d dated girls like her in high school.

“I was waiting for someone to ask me that question.” He smiled at her. Was she blushing? She was blushing. “What was your name?”

“Bella.” She smiled back at him. Maybe she was cuter than he had initially thought.

“So, Bella, the goal right now—and by now, I mean, let’s say, the next nine to twelve months—is to scale as fast as we can. We’ve got a new product that’s launching very soon that I can’t say anything more about, but as soon as that launches we’re going to be kind of in a new phase. We’re going to need probably a dozen new developers ASAP. And then, I mean, we’re looking at international expansion, we’re looking at a version for teenagers, we’re exploring partnerships with some major companies right now…there’s a lot happening. It’s a very exciting time.”

All of this was, of course, totally true, but also hugely exaggerated—but, he told himself, in a “fake it till you make it” kind of way. And it wasn’t completely faking it—so far, everything he had “faked” he had subsequently “made.” So he had no doubt that, even though it would mean everything going 1,000 percent according to plan, he would be hiring a dozen new developers, even if that depended on getting the money from Gramercy and being able to find a dozen developers. And he hadn’t exactly discussed the viability of international expansion or a teenage version with anyone on his staff, but these were things that certainly could


  • "[A] smart, breezy novel... a beach read for Silicon Valley fans."
    Entertainment Weekly
  • "Shafrir has a deft, easy touch, but her take on gender politics in the workplace is razor-sharp. This ruthlessly clever look behind the scenes at a New York start-up demands a sequel."
    Kim Hubbard, People
  • "Startup is a dramedy-of-errors, a Shakespearean yarn of secrets, sex, miscommunication, misogyny, and money...Crack this one open on the beach and you just might find yourself a little more enlightened when you return to the workplace."
    Lexi Pandell,, 9 Essential Summer Reads
  • "Though often wickedly witty, Startup is so much more than mere satire; it's a smart, deeply empathetic novel genuinely interested in exploring the way we live now."
    Rumaan Alam, author of Rich and Pretty
  • "This funny, empowering debut is chock-full of strong women transcending the workplace drama, sexual politics, and all-around dumb stuff the men in their life are doing. It's a novel that just might spark the official feministing of startup culture. If I were a tech bro, I'd be shaking in my hoodie."—Camille Perri, author of The Assistants
  • "Don't buy this book. Don't open. Don't start reading it. Because if you do, I can assure you, you won't be able to put it down. I was hooked from the first page and found myself lost in a beautifully-written fiction that so succinctly echoes today's bizarre reality."
    Nick Bilton, Special Correspondent, Vanity Fair and author of Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal
  • "Is there a satirist alive more brilliant--and more insightful--than Doree Shafrir? That I tore through Startup in a single day--ignoring the cries of my children and the dinging of my phone, laughing with recognition at her characters' foibles-is perhaps not nearly as significant as the fact that this ridiculously compelling novel has haunted me, every minute, in the weeks that followed. If you have ever lived in New York or worked in an office, you will love this novel. If you love the novels of Tom Perrotta, you will love this novel. But also: If you are a sentient human, you will love this novel."—Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year and A Fortunate Age
  • "Doree Shafrir's Startup is like a thrilling combination of Po Bronson's Bombardiers and Jessica Knoll's Luckiest Girl Alive. Shafrir has set heartbreak and romance in the ticking clock environment of startups and the result is a topical, funny and perfectly observed document of our insane times."—Karl Taro Greenfeld, author of Triburbia and The Subprimes
  • "Doree Shafrir is so spot-on in her observations about the tech world that it's hard not to think this novel must be telling the juicy truth-and in a way it is. Sharp, compelling, and expertly written."
    Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs. The World
  • "A funny, delicious and charming novel about the alternate reality of startups #divine."—Delia Ephron, author of Siracusa
  • "What a tremendous book. Fun, breezy and charming. I think I finally understand the Internet and I'm both gladdened and depressed."
    Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
  • "Exacting, though not without empathy--Shafrir renders even the most infuriating of her characters with unexpected humanity-the novel is a page-turning pleasure that packs a punch. To call it expertly observed is an understatement."—Kirkus (Starred Review)
  • "Funny and unflinching, Shafrir's cast is chock full of strong women taking charge of a world the boys still think is their own... [a] sharp debut novel".—Girlboss
  • A "deliciously detailed satire."
    Jenny Comita, W Magazine
  • "I tore through Startup in two days. It could've been one, but I had to eat, sleep, and feed my cats-all normal activities that became frustrating distractions while reading this book. Well-observed and told with a crackling wit, this debut is one of the best I've read so far this year."—Amy Brady, Lit Hub
  • "Shafrir's compulsively readable debut novel is hilarious, smart, and timely; it feels like a necessary read right now, so perfectly does it deal with issues like the insatiable media, the weird place where wellness and technology meet, and why white men suck so badly-especially when they have just a little bit of power."—Kristin Iversen, Nylon
  • "[A] timely page-turner."
  • "A pitch-perfect depiction of the industry's culture and sexual politics."—Elle
  • "[A] very contemporary screwball comedy, this is a cheerful satire... good, dizzy fun, if you can put your iPad down long enough to read it."
    Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times
  • "Move over, Silicon Valley. Shafrir's satirical novel is set in the New York tech scene, where a cast of characters are swept into the rise (and viral fall) of a mindfulness app called TakeOff. A tech writer herself, Shafrir makes incisive, astute, and all too real observations on the idiosyncrasies of the industry. This a fun, breezy, utterly millennial read."—Elena Nicolaou, Refinery29, Best Beach Reads 2017
  • "While everyone's obsessing over followers, likes, retweets, and comments, Shafrir smartly dissects age, gender, and workplace politics."—Booklist
  • "Some people are calling Startup a satire, but you get the feeling that there's very little air between Doree Shafrir's alternately hilarious and unsettling novel and reality."
    Adam Rathe, Town & Country
  • "In her debut, BuzzFeed culture writer Shafrir skewers a world she knows well--startup culture and the outlets assigned to cover it."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Buzzfeed writer Shafrir's debut is full of humor and layered in truth as she exposes the underbelly of start-up culture."—Library Journal
  • "Part of the joy of reading Startup is deciphering which parts are based in fact and which are fiction, but even if you don't care about guessing who's who you'll find the read a charming one."—Maris Kreizman, New York Magazine's Vulture Blog
  • "It explores modern workplace culture while highlighting the strengths of women who work--this is a must-read that you won't be able to put down."—Alexandra Wilson, Stylefox
  • "Funny, hip and clever, Shafrir's Startup slices through the world of tech startups and the kids running them."
    Shelf Awareness
  • "Startup is a clever novel about trying to connect in the tech-heavy world we live in now."—Brenda Janowitz, PopSugar
  • "Giddy fun...satirical genius."
    Marion Winik, Newsday
  • "Startup is compulsively readable. You will probably finish it in a day, because you will never find a reason to put it down."
    Alex Balk, The Awl
  • "Fast-paced and engaging...Shafrir's touch is just right in this debut novel. She's got the excesses of this industry nailed."—Shawna Seed, The Dallas Morning News
  • "Smart, amusing... a coming-of-age novel for these digital times.... Doree Shafrir manages to hold our interest for more than 140 characters as she pokes fun at a group of young overachievers in this old-school written form."—Clea Simon, The Boston Globe
  • "If you love smart, true-to-life novels and are fascinated by the startup world, this is the book for you."—Bookish
  • "A searing yet hilarious novel, Doree Shafrir, senior culture writer at Buzzfeed, hands readers a promising-and a promise-fulfilling-debut."
    Ilana Masad, Read It Forward
  • "Startup's greatest accomplishment is the care and sensitivity with which it adapts app-based communication for a more traditionally novelistic format...As the world hurtles ever onward at a breakneck clip, Startup illustrates the dystopian quality of our destabilizing present by generating nostalgia for it. "—Helen Holmes, Rolling Stone
  • "Shafrir smartly - but lovingly - skewers tech culture, its grandiose leaders and the naivety of thinking that good intentions, lots of money and a mindset of fun will prevent bad behaviors in the workplace."—Matt Tiffany, Portland Press Herald
  • "Eerily on-point in its illustration of this universe-especially when it comes to gender dynamics."—Hope Reese, Hazlitt
  • "Shafrir presents a humorous and thoughtful meditation about both the sexism in tech, and its counterpoint, as one character describes it: today's 'very male-hostile moment.' More than anything, the book will leave you wishing there were more like it."
    Anne VanderMey, Fortune
  • "Startup may have read as satire a decade ago but feels like historical record today. Shafrir's precise eye for detail takes stock of the tech industry's favorite answers for tough questions ... Startup is about more than business. It navigates the rocky foundation of relationships, journalism's importance, sexual harassment, and digital careerism."—Andy Newman, The Millions
  • "Doree Shafrir, senior culture writer at Buzzfeed, has written a novel of manners for the digital age. Startup could be called Pride and Prejudice and Tech Bros; Shafrir turns a sharp eye on the culture of techy startups and their unspoken moral codes."—Heather Scott Partington, Las Vegas Weekly
  • "Takes jabs at the pretentiousness that's all too common among the young and brash tech workforce."
    Michael B. Farrell, Christian Science Monitor
  • "The book aptly skewers the trappings of the tech industry, but also gets to the heart of one of its most a persistent and pernicious issues--its treatment of women."—Nina Zipkin, Entrepreneur Magazine
  • "Highly entertaining... this is my pick for your beach bag."
    Lexi Mainland, A Cup of Jo, Seven Big Summer Books
  • "A satire about the New York tech scene that pulls no punches when it comes to inconsistencies between the rhetoric around humane, supportive office culture and many workers' realities."
    Evie Nagy, The Official Slack Blog
  • "A pointed illustration of the tech world's cults of personality, the outsized egos that believe something like a mindfulness app could change the world, and the seedy underbelly of all that workplace closeness: sexual harassment."—Angela Shah, Xconomy
  • "In an industry ripe for satire and criticism, Shafrir tweaks the startup culture beautifully while introducing characters you will actually care about."
    James McQuiston, NeuFutur
  • "Our favorite BuzzFeed editor brings her storytelling prowess to the next level in this dazzling debut about the adventures (and misadventures) of one startup... Startup belongs on your summer TRL."
    Brit + Co.
  • "Close out of Twitter and start turning the pages of this novel by a Buzzfeed writer who gives us a glimpse into Flatiron-based startup culture."—Melissa Kravitz, amNY, Summer Beach Reads
  • "This entertaining story is about youth, ambition, love, money and of course the startup world."
    Allanah Dykes, Levo

On Sale
Apr 25, 2017
Page Count
304 pages

Doree Shafrir

About the Author

Doree Shafrir is a senior culture writer at BuzzFeed News and has written for New York Magazine, Slate, The Awl, Rolling Stone, Wired and other publications. A former resident of Brooklyn, she now lives in Los Angeles with her husband Matt Mira, a comedy writer and podcaster, and their dog Beau.

Learn more about this author