Hoo boy, didn’t see that coming.
When I sent out those tweets about the sale of Get Satisfaction last week, I really didn’t intend for many people to actually, you know, care. But it was 6am or so, and I had already been bracing for a really shitty day when the first “Congratulations!!!” popped up on my phone — from a good friend, no less. And my heart sank through the floor. The prospect of having to spend the day faking appreciation while everybody congratulated me about something I was incredibly sad about was too much to take. Those tweets were my attempt to head that off at the pass.
Which, um, sort of worked, and sort of didn’t.
So here we all are! And while I’m hugely looking forward to fading out of the social media limelight — it’s emotionally exhausting — I figure that while I’ve got this soapbox, might as well take advantage of it. So let’s say some things, and clear some other things up:
1) My cofounders are amazing. Amy, Thor, and Jonathan are to this day not just some of the best people I’ve ever worked with, but some of my best friends on the planet. You would be incredibly lucky to work with any of them, as a cofounder, as a coworker, or as one of their investors! The early years of Get Satisfaction, when everybody knew what it was — when it held such huge promise — were entirely a result of the work of this team. They’re incredible product people, brilliant marketers, and they pretty much invented the modern field of community management. You would be lucky to have them working with you. I certainly was.
2) Get Satisfaction’s employees are also amazing. And they work their asses off. Sprinklr is fortunate to get the current team, as are all the organizations that ended up with the teams that came before them.
The digital equivalent of an Irish wake takes place on the other side of a company’s end, turns out, and of course it takes place on Facebook. One of the best things about the last week has been the private group where people have been sharing memories, stories, and pictures of the time we got to spend together. What an incredible team. We were so lucky.
3) The product still rocks. One of the things that worries me most about this whole dust-up is that people will blame the product, and stop using it. Which would be ridiculous! All the financial crap that accompanies this kind of sale doesn’t actually have a thing to do with the product itself. Just because the company was mismanaged doesn’t mean that the product was.
Get Satisfaction is a great tool for the purpose for which it was built. Amy, my cofounder, still uses it daily to manage the community for Automatic, the startup where she runs community and customer success these days, and their active engagement with their car-loving community is a huge part of the reason Automatic is the stand-out leader in their market. (By the way, if you drive a car, you really should buy one. Seriously. So cool.)
4) My favorite venture capitalists. I made a joke about venture capitalists on Twitter, and while it was funny (c’mon, it was), it wasn’t entirely true. “VC” is a broad category, and there are many different types of venture capitalists, including a number who know that their job is to support founders, not undermine them. So here’s my recommendation for who to take money from, based on my direct experiences over the years. Because, while there’s a real strong chance after the last couple days that no one will ever fund me again, they might still fund you:
- Christine Herron, at Intel Capital.
- Dave Samuel and Josh Felser, at Freestyle.
- Rob Hayes, at First Round.
- Bryce Roberts, at OATV.
- Jeff Clavier, at SoftTech.
- Stephen DeBerry, at Bronze Investments.
- Mitch Kapor, at Kapor Capital.
- Josh Elman, at Greylock.
- John Lilly, at Greylock.
- Ron Bouganim, at Govtech Fund.
- Mike Walsh, at Structure.
- Hunter Walk, at Homebrew.
- Kanyi Maqubela, at Collaborative Fund.
- Dave McClure, at 500 Startups.
- Paul Singh, at Crystal Tech Fund.
- Stacy Donohue, at Omidyar Network.
- Ryan Sarver, at Redpoint.
- MG Siegler, at Google Ventures.
- Kent Goldman, at Upside.
- David Hornik, at August Capital.
- Dawn Umlah, at Innovacorp.
- Shaun Abrahamson and Stonly Baptiste, at Urban.us.
- Sarah Kunst, at Future Perfect Ventures.
- JS Cournoyer, at Real Ventures.
Not a comprehensive list of all the good ones by any means. Just the ones that I know, have worked with or worked close to, and can enthusiastically recommend. (I’m sure I forgot somebody, so if you think you should be on this list, ping me. Seriously. You know who you are.)
5) Doing something better with your life. If, as so many people in Silicon Valley do, you say that you want to “Change the world!”, and you really mean it, I have news for you: The startup world is the worst place in the world to do that. You’re much more likely to end up building Yet Another photo or video app. I’m not saying that those don’t still have some value, but there’s serious diminishing returns, and if you genuinely want to optimize for impact there are much better fields to apply your tech skills to.
For example: your government. These days I work for a non-profit called Code for America, a fantastic organization that brings talented technologists inside city governments to help them modernize how they use technology to serve their communities. We work to support all residents, from the wealthiest to the poorest, and it’s work that, at its best, helps the people who need it the most. We also have a global network of civic hackers called the Brigade you might want to get involved with. And did you know that the US government now has a Digital Service, designed to head off the next Healthcare.gov-type disaster? Or that they’re also building a team of super-talented open source hackers called 18f who are rebuilding government technology from the ground up? You might not make Scrooge McDuck money (though they do actually pay quite well), but believe me, you will help a great, great many people that need that help far more than they need a new dating app.
If you were one of the people who popped up to say something nice to me about this whole sorry situation, I appreciate it. Truly. It has made a difficult experience immeasurably better.
I’m going to end with this thing that one of our engineers said to us, because it helped me remember that the money, in the end, was only one part of the reason we did what we did — and truth be told, not anywhere near the most important:
If a startup had the mission of creating a group of good friends and providing great learning experiences for them (human, professional, technical, etc.), it would never get funding.
I’m glad the major investors sponsored that amazing side effect for many years without knowing it. There are so many good things that came out of Get Sat — I’m humbled, thankful, and almost think I don’t deserve having been part of it.
Thanks for listening!