Nebula cofounder Chris C. Kemp Wikimedia Commons Earlier in April, journalist and comedy writer Dan Lyons released “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble” – his long-awaited memoir of a year spent working for marketing startup HubSpot. The short version is that Lyons found his year-ish working at a Silicon Valley startup to be a weird, cult-like experience where he never got as rich as he hoped. In an excerpt of the book that ran on Fortune, Lyons called it “startup hell.
” I can’t speak to Lyons’ specific experience at HubSpot. Some startups are probably like this. But, I, too, worked at a startup, Nebula, for just over a year, and it wasn’t like he describes at all. I definitely didn’t get rich from Nebula. With San Francisco rents and the cost of commuting on the region’s crumbling infrastructure, I was treading water, financially speaking. Nebula itself went bust just over a year ago, with most of the talent jumping over to Oracle.
But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I learned a ton from some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, got a tremendous amount of insight into the workings of business and startup life, and made valuable connections. That doesn’t sound like “startup hell” to me. Cloud evangelist Nebula’s flagship product, the Nebula One cloud controller, was designed to make it easy for anybody to build a cloud computing environment, similar to the one Amazon Web Services uses.
Just plug it into your server rack, turn it on, and boom, cloud. That speeches was the sales pitch, anyway. The reality was more complicated. When I first joined Nebula in the fall of 2012, I was coming off a stint as a freelance reporter for an obscure tech blog. I had been around enough startups to know that I would probably not get rich from Nebula. But they offered me stock options as part of my compensation package, and I figured, hey, best case, I can pay off my student loans.
Really, though, the thing that attracted me to Nebula was its pedigree. The Nebula One Cloud Controller was supposed to make it easy to build and maintain a private cloud. Nebula Cofounder and CEO Chris C. Kemp had most recently served as a CTO at NASA, and brought tons of talent from the space agency to start the company. And it had raised at least $35 million in funding, with legendary Silicon Valley investors like Sun Microsystems cofounders Scott McNealy and Andy Bechtolsheim.
Better yet, Kemp himself recruited me to the company – I interviewed him at a party, and he liked the ensuing story. If you ever want an ego boost, have a former NASA executive personally ask you to join his company.