GigaOm: True Confessions from an Analyst on the Outside
I wasn’t really a GigaOm insider. If you know me, you know I’m not that cool. While I was a “Pro” Analyst for a few years, churned out a few blogs (including one that got picked up by the Washington Post that nearly got me fired), and managed to lose thousands of dollars to them in a shocking betrayal (that’s sarcasm folks), l was in no way a member of the GigaGang.
I suppose I do have the right to be upset, but I also know that losing money is part of doing business, especially when you’re a little fish in a dirty and rising ocean. But, I was surprised to learn since I was first contacted about the company shuttering, that GigaOm was using a lot of contract labor that most of us thought were employees (I did, anyway). They had titles and everything. I don’t mind at all if that’s the relationship these people were seeking with GigaOm, but I can’t help but notice that the mechanics of the shutdown seem to indicate that very few of these people are likely to collect anything unless they can hire a lawyer and take their burden to court.
So here’s my first mea culpa. I have to apologize to Robert Reich whom I’ve lambasted several times on my personal Facebook page for being depressingly redundant with his rants on Uber for their extensive use of contract labor. You can often read something from him that says something like, “Uber workers aren’t alone. There are millions like just them, also outside the labor laws — and their ranks are growing. Most aren’t even part of the new Uberized “sharing” economy.” I’m sorry Mr. Reich. You obviously have a point that I now clearly understand, though I haven’t yet deleted my Uber app.
But, something else is bugging me, too, and I’ve got to get it out.
I’m an industry analyst, and I’m pretty good. I am a little bit like an Internet psychic though, and I won’t pick your lottery numbers. At the same time, I am creepily accurate when it comes to detecting patterns in behaviors. I have made a few solid predictions relating to the demise of an individual, company or even an entire industry — I can spot these machinations a mile away. (Disclosure: I predicted the failure of Microsoft when I first used Windows 3.1. I still don’t understand how they beat IBM’s OS/2. And it still smarts). This cynical ability to see through people (or the people who call themselves a company) comes directly from my experience chasing sex offenders when I was a digital forensic investigator. I learned how victims are groomed, manipulated, and abused — sometimes for years.
Oh stop it.
I’m in no way comparing a business failure to sex abuse (though I’m sure someone is going to try it if they haven’t already).
Look here — -> All I’m saying is that there were patterns at GigaOm that pointed to big problems. And some of them were screamingly obvious. I missed them, and I’m grumpy about it. For the record, here are 3 data points that I should not have overlooked:
1. Inconsistent Messages. I received an email on December 10th from a reputable financial reporter asking me if I could confirm that GigaOm was not paying their contractors. I couldn’t, but asked the team at GigaOm before I started our new job if maybe we should hold off. Here was the response I got, “I assume [the reporter] is referring to the fact that we have backed up some of our analyst payments heading into year-end as we wait for some big receivables ourselves. It’s something that we expect to have resolved shortly” and a slightly different answer from another person at GigaOm who said, “The short answer is that we are paying analysts.”
2. Discomfort with Risks. I noticed that the reporting at GigaOm had become much less hard-hitting and instead appeared to too often trade its own journalistic integrity for high-powered relationships and access. I contacted a reporter twice to ask why they weren’t addressing the stories about a major cleantech company that was reportedly bilking its customers out of literally millions (billions, maybe. Remains to be seen) of taxpayer-backed dollars with failed promises about the capabilities of its products. No call back.
3. Failure to Add Value. When writing my research and analysis pieces about the industry, I never even bothered going to GigaOm anymore. I used to use them as a primary source to figure out which companies were innovating and emerging with new offerings, Tesla being one of their big breaking stories back in the day. For about a year, I can’t recall learning anything more than I would find in corporate marketing materials.
I told you up front I don’t know anything about GigaOm, how it worked, or what happened. All I know is what I’ve just written here: I lost some money unexpectedly and now I have some extra business development to do. I was one of the lucky ones, because I can survive this. Not all will emerge easily, so I doubt we really want to hear about how great it was back in the day. Not yet.
So far, speculation is all I’ve seen from the press on the GigAffair, so I’m guessing no one else has figured out the whole story yet, either. But as an analyst, I’m reminded to always follow the signs. They are there if you know where to look. First the gut, then the facts.
Now, if I could just figure out that Windows 3.1 thing.