How I traded shoes for the Twitter handle I was dreaming of

A story of kindness and little bit hustle.

Waqas Ali
Published in
4 min readJun 7, 2017


When we changed our startup name from Hometown into Markhor. The handle @Markhor was not available on any social media channel (especially on Twitter). So without wasting our time we signed-up with @themarkhor.

@markhor — used by Mark Horowitz

Time went pass by, and we noticed that quite often our customers were tagging us on twitter as @Markhor instead of @themarkhor. We looked up and found that Markhor was used by a gent named Mark Horowitz. Yes, he was using first 7 letters of his full name, which just happened to be name of our brand. If we were to ask him to give up the handle, there was nothing which we could offer in return, so I started looking, perhaps a better/similar twitter handle for him. Also I did not had immediate connection with him, and at that time he was Editor at Medium.

Help came from an unexpected place.

We got busy approaching Y Combinator Demo Day (we were part of summer 2015 class). Then came the demo day, which YC organizes twice a year at Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

My co-founder Sidra and I were wearing our Markhor teeshirts and meeting potential investors. It is when Steven Levy approached us, he said hello. Steven, without any doubt is one of the most senior technology journalists and authors. I think I freaked out a little bit. He was very kind and further mentioned that his boss at a previous job at Wired, currently has twitter handle @Markhor which Steven can potentially help us get from him. We took the offer and asked Steven to check with Mark and make an intro.

After few days I followed up with Steven and he made the intro next day. We talked with Mark and offered that we would get him a good twitter handle as an alternate and a pair of beautiful Markhor shoes. He happily agreed to support. One thing I noticed was that both Mark and Steven were super kind and generous. I knew that it would work out!

@markhorowitz— taken but not used by Marc Horowitz

We also found @markhorowitz, an account that was taken but not really used. I knew this would be the ideal handle to offer to Mark Horowitz. To find who owned it, we looked closely and the account was following 2 people only, one of them was a guy named Marc Horowitz, so we thought this might be our guy who can get us @markhorowitz and then we can trade the account with @markhor.

I googled Marc Horowitz and to my surprise learned that him and I had a Facebook friend in common, Garry Tan, at time our partner at Y Combinator. Garry happily made an intro over Facebook. Marc shared me his email address and then I wrote him the following email.

(We offered the best thing we could, which is off course: Markhor shoes.)

His assistant got back to me and after few back and forth emails, we scheduled a phone call. I have found that phone calls are much more effective than emails when it comes to persuading people or sharing something you care.

It worked and we made a deal. It was more than what we expected to give, but I agreed to make them 13 pairs of Markhor shoes in exchange of the twitter handle @markhorowitz. Basically they wanted their whole team to get a pair of Markhor shoes.

It took us another 2–3 months, to get all the sizing rights, there were few returns issues and we had to manage it all from our end. At the end they got all the shoes and we made the switch of the twitter handle. Now we owned handle @markhorowitz.

I then got back to Mark Horowitz before asking him to start the switch, we got him his pair of Markhor shoes. Steven Levy also got one for his support.

Then the day came and we made the switch. At the end we got the twitter handle we have been dreaming for quite sometime.

During the whole process, several times I felt like giving up. It felt too much work without any hope of success, but it was a great lesson learned.

I love when one can learn from success.

RELATED: Watch this video when I flew all the way from Pakistan to San Francisco to hand-deliver shoes to our Kickstarter backers.

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Waqas Ali

Trying to put imagination into words and learn from the process. Founder of @WearAtoms @Markhor.