Thoughts about Ross Mayfield and Pingpad

Two days ago I was tagged in a Twitter post and I didn’t notice it for 4+ hours because Twitter was burying it. What I’m about to share with you is my raw thought process and thinking here, because this situation is nuanced and not super clear as to what to do yet. I know you may read this and come to the conclusion that it is clear, but I assure you, it isn’t. I wish it didn’t happen, but it did and now I wish it was easier to figure out, but it is not…

What caught my attention is that someone I know favorited the tweet and I noticed I was mentioned in it. Had I not been online and looking at that time, I may have missed it until a reporter reached out to me. I’d love to know why I’m not seeing messages I need to see, but will save that for another time.

My heart dropped when I saw this and I knew the right thing to do was respond to Jae immediately. As you can see, the email is highly inappropriate. Nothing illegal happened, the power dynamics are actually shifted in her favor, but it doesn’t matter — in a professional relationship, nobody should receive emails like this.

What unfolded after has been bizarre to say the least.

After responding to her, a few people reached out to me to tell me who Jae is and about her personal history.

Even if she was this person that people were telling me about, it doesn’t make the email ok. As a matter of fact, it could make her an easy target. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. It shouldn’t be a factor in this. Also, the story about Jae and Taryn Manning seems like a highly charged and complicated breakup of which none of us have specifics on.

In the first 24 hours I tried to give Ross the benefit of doubt, just in case this was false, but none of the investors had an explanation from Ross as to what happened and how. I worked through these thoughts:

1) Are we applying heteronormative thinking to the wife statement? Maybe he has some sort of open relationship that we don’t know about. Maybe condemning him “cheating” on his wife wasn’t the right path to take. I certainly don’t know him well enough to know any of that.

2) Was he on drugs? Who’s stupid enough to send something like this? Is this another strange story about Ambien? (I’ve heard many)

3) Jae already established that she tried to confirm with him proactively (out of kindness) if he was hacked, to which a second email was sent from his account denying it and asking her to stop having interactions with him.

4) The wording of the emails are definitely strange. Who says pleasure full?

I tried to think through through the lens of open mindedness and explore every possibility I could come up with. The damage this could do to Ross and his family, as well as his company could be unrepairable. It isn’t something you want to take lightly.

We now know because of a statement from Ross, that this email was indeed sent and from Ross’ work account. That rules out the fabrication hypothesis. Its a real email.

1) If what Ross says is true, that his account was indeed hacked — Why didn’t Ross immediately send out a mass message to his contacts letting them know his account was compromised? Why didn’t he immediately contact Jae? Was anyone else in the company aware of this? I can assure you that none of his investors were. We found out the same way all of you did. Did his family know?

So if his account was hacked, I believe how he handled it was reckless. It showed a lack of common sense and he should not only prove his account was hacked (which he can do with time), but apologize for the gross negligence that has put his family, his investors and his employees in this position. Thinking it would just go away is not very smart.

2) Ross is lying and he did send it. Well, that’s just gross. Also why from a company account? While not illegal, it is irresponsible and inappropriate. Is this an isolated incident? Did anyone else get emails like this? If so, please let me know.

3) Someone she knows hacked his account. Ok, this is straight up conspiracy town, but it’s not impossible. Improbable, but not impossible. If so, why? What on earth is to be gained from it? Also, how would such a hack occur? Does he have the worst email security ever? Does he run 2fa? Did an employee have a vendetta against him and did it on his desktop? Again, if so.. why?

I don’t know the answers, but here’s where I am today at this moment, in this hour:

1) I think how Ross handled this is terrible. If he did it or didn’t do it, both scenarios don’t look good for him. I can’t understand why you’d be too embarrassed to remedy something this serious. He should own that.

2) I believe an independent service should help with the security audit. I don’t think the investors or Pingpad/Ross should hire this person. If anything, maybe Jae can help pick the firm and we can help pay for it or the public can suggest some firms to go with. (Does such a thing exist?? I have never dealt with this — let me know).

Those that know me know I’m a pretty up front person. I take reports like this seriously. Every investor mentioned on the tweet is taking this seriously and some know Ross more than I do and are shocked. This doesn’t fit his character, but as you know, you don’t always fully know someone.

I also don’t believe in mob justice. This isn’t binary. Its complicated and if there truly is an innocent person here, then his life getting destroyed over this would be horrendous.

If he did this, then it will reflect on his career forever, probably as it should. Then there’s the question of what should be done about it.

So, given the negligence of reporting this as soon as Ross knew it happened, I am leaning towards he needs to prove that he didn’t send it and if he can’t prove that, then the question of “maybe he did” will remain there. Many people will just assume he did.

If you have any other thoughts here to share with me, please let me know. My thinking here is my own and I’m not speaking for all of the investors. We are collecting evidence and will issue a group statement shortly. Also, if this isn’t an isolated incident and this happened to you, please contact me as soon as possible. cyan@banister.net

Note to entrepreneurs out there: Don’t put your investors in this position. If anything puts your company, your employees and us at risk — tell us. Don’t be shy about it.

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