Silicon Valley and cliffhangers may be strange bedfellows, but Palo Alto writer Sadie Hayes debut, "The Start-Up," is an unexpectedly addictive new novel that combines high tech hi-jinks with high tech publishing: a serial eNovel with monthly new releases planned.
Adam and Amelia Dory are Stanford freshmen; orphans raised by foster families attending the west coast's answer to the Ivy League on scholarship. In a neat twist, it is Amelia who's the geek - the introverted programmer more comfortable in The Bill Gates Computer Science Center than at a frat party. Not so for Amelia's computer-matched roommate, Patty Hawkins, privileged party girl whose wealthy parents are also trustees of the university. Brother Adam is likeable and ambitious, a part-time bar tender for a caterer fully aware of the millions being made in California's latest Internet Gold Rush. So when the decidedly not materialistic Amelia stumbles onto an opportunity to join a new high-profile technology incubator, she demurs, much to Adam's dismay. The simple plot quickly thickens when the twins find themselves entangled in multi-billion dollar acquisitions, top-tier venture capitalists, family tensions, and fledgling love affairs, mixing to create a delicious stew of treachery, deceit, power, and envy, that is, just another day in America's capital of innovation.
Hayes writes an easy but confident prose; lean and clean story lines unencumbered by unnecessary trappings or pretension; here is an author who knows her stuff and, more importantly, knows how to tell a story. Her characters are authentic - having lived and worked in Silicon Valley for the nearly two decades, I've "known" every one of her cast, from the reclusive programmer genius with little regard for the money guys to the arrogant and powerful denizens of Sand Hill Road to the clueless wannabes who'd die to be either. Stanford's leafy campus, Atherton's overdone mansions, and Palo Alto's University Café ring true as the arenas where the brilliant and the shallow-minded collide and rebound.
Hayes' serial format is as intriguing as it is risky, but for one, I'm anxiously waiting for the next episode to see how Adam and Amelia extract themselves from dilemma they've innocently created. Bravo, Sadie!
on October 24, 2011
"The Start-Up" is the first fictional book I have read in years and it was very much worth my time. The first in a three part arc, "The Start-Up" is an intriguing novella reminiscent of "The Accidental Billionaires" but with a Silicon Valley flair.
The story takes place in Silicon Valley and follows the adventures of Adam and Amelia Dory, sibling undergraduates at Stanford University. The story describes their experiences at Stanford and ultimately their chance encounter with the world of Silicon Valley venture capital.
Although a work of fiction, much of this book is based on true to life themes, which make it both an informative and entertaining read. In particular, there are a number of things "The Startup" does very well.
First, I really enjoyed the contrast between Tom Fenway, a Tesla Roadster driving VC and T.J. Bristol, a polished Stanford undergraduate vying for a place in a new incubator. At this meeting T.J. was prepared based on his previous corporate internship success - a fancy suit and tales of his success with slide decks while in these positions. He was shocked to discover Tom arriving at the meeting in shorts, Tommy Bahama garb and flip flops. He was even more surprised to discover the VCs indifference to his past experience which was irrelevant to entrepreneurial success. After all, what works in a late stage company is very different from a seed or even early stage company. This part of the book captured the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit (which Tom refers to as the spark) and the breaking of usual corporate convention.
Second, the contrast between Adam and Amelia is true to life. Amelia, the inventor, is the software obsessed coder without concern for money or prestige. Doing what's right and problem solving is of paramount importance. Trading freedom for funding is unthinkable in her mind. Adam on the other hand is the more business minded of the pair. Although less technical savvy, he is receptive and on the lookout for business opportunities. This dynamic appears to match the complimentary President vs. CEO roles in a seed stage company.
In addition, "The Start-Up" documents the roller coaster ride of entrepreneurship well. Entrepreneurs experience a wide range of emotions based on smashing successes to bitter failures with a corresponding emotional range of exuberance to flaring tempers. Although most books and reports on entrepreneurs focus on the overnight success which is the exception rather than the rule, the truth is captured by "The Start-Up" - there will be many successes and corresponding failures - life can, and will change in the blink of an eye for the entrepreneur.
Finally, the Start-Up seems like it was written for the overwhelmed entrepreneur, especially the wired mind of an Internet entrepreneur. The novella is short in length at under 100 pages and the chapters are each written in short form content which are a breeze to read.
In closing, "The Start-Up" was an easy, entertaining, yet informative read. The characters are likable, the story intriguing and consistent with the world of start-ups. I greatly look forward to the second book in the three book arc and feel compelled to experience Stanford and Silicon Valley for myself!
Sadie Hayes writes about entrepreneurship in her eBook THE START-UP and the story, the style of writing, and the fact that this opus 1 appears to be an ongoing exposé of the new world of computer controlling frauds and genius applications would indicate that this writer has a firm grip on the very topic about which she writes. If her subsequent followup novels (or novellas: they are short) can stand up to the degree of savvy in describing lifestyles of the rich and famous as well as the contrast between those born to wealth and those who acquire it by brainy means, then she is on her way to becoming a new kind of best seller - an eBook bestseller.
The story basically deals with a brother sister/twins combo Amelia (the brainy one) and Adam (the dreamer, who wants to rise above the low income background of their orphaned childhood). They attend Stanford University on scholarships and while Adam climbs the social ladder by bartending in the wealthy homes etc, Amelia basks in the computer lab, coming up with an iPhone application of a signal frequency algorithm of multiple devices cross-coordinated with the Apple platform and unpublished cell tower proxies--that is incredibly complicated. Or as Amelia describes it, 'I wrote a little program linking the phone signals with television and radio frequencies, so I can control them with my iPhone. It's like an eye. The program is, I mean, in that it can see other devices and access their frequencies.' Amelia's 'discovery' leads to Adam's obsession to find a manner in which they can make fortunes equal or greater than those of the people with whom he begins socializing. But Amelia is wary of that direction of her brain work: "Money causes problems. The pursuit of money causes problems, and I don't like the way you're thinking."
The darker aspects of the world of computer wealth and manipulation and crime enter the picture and puts further stress between her money eager brother and the manner in which Adam and Amelia are absorbed into the Silicon Valley mindset and lifestyle and morals or lack of) leads to a vivid portrayal of the ills of venture capitalism and acquisitions - the instant billionaire mindset. Sadie Hayes knows that to keep her reader's attention she must insert love interest and she does that with a knowing passion. This writer understands her subject and manages to propel the reader along to an ending that is a real cliffhanger. More to follow, very obviously. THE START-UP may not be a great book, but it definitely is a door-opener for a savvy new talent on the scene. Grady Harp, October 11
The Start-Up episodes are an interesting concept in story telling for the changing way we read books. The story slowly unravels over a series of novellas - or episodes, as they are called.
Amelia Dory is a brilliant computer engineer who develops code like a musical prodigy creates a song. It just flows through her and she is content with the process. She's not looking for fame or fortune. The thrill of creating code is enough for Amelia. Her twin brother Adam, however, wants to become rich and powerful. They are attending Stanford on a scholarship and he always feels inferior to the trust fund kids around him. This time one of Amelia's codes for an iPhone app is something BIG.
Amelia: 'I wrote a little program linking the phone signals with television and radio frequencies, so I can control them with my iPhone. It's like an eye. The program is, I mean, in that it can see other devices and access their frequencies.'
Everyone and their brother is vying for this technology and for Amelia to work for them. Adam seeing it as their ticket to the top, convinces her to give up her moral high ground and join venture capitalist Tom Fenway's tech incubator. Adam and Amelia are in way over their heads when they head into the cut throat world of Silicon Valley.
Each episode is fast paced and plunges you into a high tech world of moral dilemmas, double crosses, black mail and corporate intrigue. I've seen a few people compare it to the movie The Social Network and I agree but I would also say it contains a good dose of The Lying Game. Aside from Amelia, we never know who to trust or root for. As she and Adam cross paths with new associates, the waters get murkier when everyone scrambles to get a bigger piece of the pie.
Amelia and Adam are the main focus of the series but there is a wide cast of characters who's stories often overlap as secrets and plot twists unfold.
The name dropping sometimes felt a little forced (Google, iPhone, Facebook were mentioned frequently) but this was a nice fun fast paced novella if you're a fan of twists, turns and the dangers of technology and Big Brother knowing your every move
on December 17, 2011
Title: The Start - Up
Author: Sadie Hayes
Number of Pages: 90
Date of Release: October 17th, 2011
Summary From Goodreads:
When a college freshman's breakthrough software program catapults her into the limelight, she and her twin brother must navigate a treacherous world of money, power, and envy: Silicon Valley.
In a world of tweets, apps, and mobile games, The Start-Up is a fast-paced and exciting serial story with a new episode released each month.
Review: I think there is something magical about the world Sadie Hayes has created in her first novel. I don't really ever read realistic fiction, because I can't get into it, because the personalities of the characters I can never connect to. With The Start - Up I loved every minute and flip of the page.
I really love programming and coding so Amelia was my favorite of the twins. Her whole concept of writing a code for an iphone app, that was super complicated and worth millions, but wanting none of the money, really hit me. The moral standards she kept and wanting not to be tainted by the evils of Silicon Valley was very interesting to read about.
Her twin brother Adam is like the polar opposite of Amelia. He doesn't like being looked down on as a scholarship student at Stanford, and will do anything and I mean literally anything to show them he is worth their attention. It was kinda sad to read about him, but the reality is that is a very natural human instinct and can be seen almost anywhere.
Then Sadie throws in the complicated romantic elements, and like wolla I was hooked. Its not one of these elements she puts together that makes the book a good read its all of them. This book is kind of like gossip girl, but without so many of the annoying rich snobs. I definitely recommend this novel!!
on December 6, 2011
At first glance, there's little about The Start-Up that should be appealing to me. This pure CW teen drama in a lot of ways - it's the problems of beautiful people as they juggle relationships, drama, and school (even if that school is college). And yet, even as I concede that this should be pretty far outside of my wheelhouse, I can't deny that I was absolutely addicted to the first two parts of this series. As a marketing idea, The Start-Up takes King's serializing of The Green Mile and brings it into the digital age, both literally (selling the story in short, low-price novellas every few weeks) and figuratively (by making it a story about college students in Silicon Valley who are navigating the cutthroat business world and indulging their coding skills). The result shouldn't be as much fun as it is, but it manages somehow. One of the great assets, I think, is Hayes' strong characters; while many first seem to fit into easy archetypes, she toys with audience assumptions well, especially with the one who I assumed would be the series' main antagonist. I read the first two volumes of this back-to-back, which makes it hard to review each one individually; the first nicely immerses you in the world, while teasing the shape of the story to come with the prologue, while the second dives deeper into the characters and their pasts, deepening what we've seen so far. Is there a lot of focus on relationship drama? Oh, yes. Are there lots of impossibly beautiful people meeting each other and instantly falling in love or lust? Of course. But I can't deny that I really enjoyed both of these books, maybe if for no other reason than loving a series where geeks and coders are the heroes, not the sidekicks or comic relief. Or maybe Hayes just tells a fun story. Regardless, I enjoyed this, and the fact that it's so far out of my wheelhouse should tell you something about how much fun it is.
on December 17, 2011
The Start-Up surprised me from the very first paragraph, or should I say before I started reading it? The blurb caught my attention immediately, it left me with a desire to know about the characters and the plot, and I was super excited to read it. It was the first time I was reading a book with this topic, a YA book. There are no YA books like The Start-Up! No! I haven't seen them! I haven't read them! So, it was something completely different to me, something really appealing! And the best thing is that it doesn't disappoint! It's awesome!
Ok, why it's awesome?
First, amazing plot. Imagine a big mix.
Gossip Girl + Technology + Dark Secret = The Start-up.
The story talks about two brothers, Amelia and Adam. They spent their childhoods in foster homes, they don't have money, but they have a lot of dreams, they want to do something with their lives. Amelia loves everything related with technology, she loves to code and to create new things. Adam is more ambitious, he wants to improve their lives, he wants to be like the people he sees around him people that make a lot of money, billionaires. They are finishing their freshmen year on scholarship at Stanford... but.. there is a big change... a complication. Amelia discovers something that she shouldn't. Now she knows something that will put her life and her brother's in danger.
Like I said before, the topic is something new, it's something different and there is a little bit of everything:
A. Drama: Family relationships, brother and sister, when they have different opinions. Father and son, when the son wants to impress his father. Sisters, when a sister falls for her sister's fiance... OMG!
B. Romance: Not only one couple... I think there are more...
C. Technology: If you're fan of technology, or if you have an Iphone, or an smart phone, you can be sure that you're going to enjoy this book a lot. Think about Apple and Silicon Valley...
Second, the characters are very realistic. They are not perfect, they have problems, and they make mistakes. They have different opinions, and the best of all is that you understand why they behave in they way they do, or why they do those things. You can't be only on Amelia's side, or Adam's. You understand their points of view. You understand them. Both of them.
And of course, there are also other characters that you will meet, some you will hate, and others that you'll love.
Like I said at the beginning, The Start-up is a really easy book to read, and difficult to stop reading. The plot is unique, complicated sometimes, but unique, and the way the author describes the story is wonderful. You think you're there. That you're part of that world. So, if you like books that talks about technology, technology that you may know, that maybe you have at home or in your pocket, if you like books like gossip girl, where there are rich girls and rich boys, rich families and big parties, and if you like a little bit of mystery, you'll will love this book. Highly Recommended! : )
on November 19, 2011
Deep-seated greed and corruption intricately blended with naivety and intelligence, The Start Up: Episode 1 by Sadie Hayes, is sharp and fun and full of angsty dramatic brilliance. Gossip, intrigue and illegal corporate tactics sing from Silicon Valley, telling us of the money to be made and the people who will destroy anyone in their way to get that money.
Adam and Amelia are scholarship entrees into Stanford. Amelia,the epitome of genius when it comes to code and computer engineering, wants nothing more than to spend her days in the computer lab, coding day in and day out.
"She's a total nerd. Like, beyond nerd. Imagine if a computer and an iPhone had a baby--that's Amelia." [Amelia's roommate--Patty]
Adam, her twin brother/bartender wants to be more than the "scholarship student", he wants to be part of the "In Crowd", he wants to go places, do things...be somebody. However, it is Amelia who is discovered by Tom Fenway--a billionaire who sold his own product to Apple in the late 90's-- and he wants to help her start her own company and eventually help her find investors to spawn her genius in computer engineering. Amelia, much to her dismay, reluctantly joins the project and suddenly is cast into the evil of Silicon Valley. With people who want her to fail and those who she doesn't think she can trust, Amelia must try to make it through with her soul in tact and hopefully her brother following closely behind.
The Start-Up is categorized as a serial story. Think of it like a nighttime TV series. The ones that take place in rich cities where the rich profit and the poor try to make it by with their smarts. Each book in the series is an episode and each episode is released monthly. To me, it's a total WIN! I don't ever get to watch TV and I love me some drama, so reading Sadie Hayes's The Start-Up is getting what I want, but better. Now, instead of watching the people on TV and their drama, I get to experience every crazy moment with them.
I get to be there while Adam and Amelia Dory try to make it through the lives they've been handed. Lives that involve foster homes in a system that was corrupt in it's own way. I get to see them make it to Stanford on scholarship and see Amelia try and keep her morals in tact while people are trying to bribe, blackmail and extort her into what they want.
I love fictional drama with characters I love to hate, characters I love to love and characters that are on that fictional line of not knowing whether I want to murder them myself or make-out with them. The Start-Up is all of that. With a huge array of characters from the bottom feeders to the spoiled to the sweet. Its a cacophony of personalities and emotions and its so fun to read and see all the characters and the dirt that accompanies their lives. Especially those who dirty up those lives on purpose. Am I evil? Who knows....what I do know is the drama in The Start-Up is jaw-dropping and hilarious and I loved every minute of it.
The book is short, and I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say the writing is excellent and well paced and the cliffies are big, but not hurtful and besides, what good drama series doesn't have cliffies? Lucky for us a book is released EVERY month. The first 2 are out now and the 3rd is out next month. So, I give The Start-Up: Episode 1 a 4/5 and recommend it to anyone who likes YA, Adult, Crossover, Contemporary, Electronic Fiction as well as fans of Gossip Girl, 90210, Pretty Little Liars, One Tree Hill....that is, if they all "took place in Mark Zuckerberg's dorm room... and if he had a twin sister and they lived in California (Sadie Hayes)" Also, this series contains sex, drinking and swearing and I recommend it for an older YA audience (17 years on up).
on February 5, 2015
There aren't many novels based in Silicon Valley so kudos for the author for writing a young adult novel set in the Valley.
I moved up to Silicon Valley after I graduated college to pursue a career in technology so I was excited to read about the area I moved up to. Too bad it's not realistic. After reading this, I think I might try to publish my own novel.
I expected a lot from someone who says they went to Stanford, I expected them to capture the culture of the area and of their own school more accurately. If anything, this book plays a lot off Silicon Valley legends and folklore, borrows the names of VCs and renames them, and just twists things around to make it suit the book a little too much. This book is too much of a fantasy and exaggerates, the reality is that most startups fail and most Stanford graduates end up working for someone else's company. The book should have turned out better if the first page of dedications includes people who beta tested the book. A lot of those people are Silicon Valley legends.
Instead of going on about how the characters are weak or how they don't grow, I'll just summarize this book as unrealistic Gossip Girl set in Silicon Valley. It also plays up too much on stereotypes such as computer geniuses and rich local kids. The reality is most of Silicon Valley is in the middle class because rent is too high to utilize the high tech company salaries. The chapters are too short so we don't ever get to know the characters and the Point of View jumps around all the time.
Skip it unless you're a Silicon Valley addict.
on January 8, 2012
Twins Amelia and Adam Dory have lead difficult lives, bouncing among foster homes in Indiana, but now they're scholarship students at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Amelia is majoring in computer science and loves nothing more than spending all her time coding. And she's good, really good, coming up with super apps for the iPhone at lightning speed. Her brother Adam is an equally quick thinker with big ideas for his and Amelia's lives. A chance glimpse into the world of venture capital at a ritzy graduation party where he's tending bar pushes Adam to consider capitalizing on Amelia's gift. Meanwhile, Amelia has her own serendipitous encounter with an investor who seems different from the other vultures. But Adam and Amelia are both naive and the high tech, high stakes world of Silicon Valley may devour them.
The Start-Up is the first episode in a new electronic-only series. It's very short (~88 pages), but that's the idea--to get readers hooked into the world of the episode so they'll keep coming back for the next one. It's a snappy business model and will work well if all the stories are as fast-paced and captivating as this one, which is kind of like Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Social Network, all rolled into one. All of the characters use information strategically to get what they want. Amelia and Adam are engaging characters whose hard luck background makes them sympathetic. This is all the more true when they're forced to dip their toes into the shark-infested waters of Silicon Valley, where the competition is ruthless and the players will use any advantage they can--a policy that applies to both business and personal alliances. Who can they trust? Can they hide their secrets? And how can scholarship students afford iPhones? These questions and more will send most readers scrambling to get the next installment of this great new series. Recommended for ages 15 & up. Sexual situations, language.