Sunday, October 4, 2009

Can't We Disagree Without Being Disagreeable

Today I read this blog post by Dave McClure that I'd like to talk about.

Dave is an investor in Mint, a company that was recently acquired by Intuit, along with being a generally well respected guy in the tech universe.

Dave is apparently mad because another prominent blogger, Jason Fried, CEO of 37Signals, wrote that he suspected, based purely on his gut, that the Mint investors probably forced the CEO and founder of Mint, Aaron Patzer, to sell early in an unethical greed induced desire to cash out.

Jason's belief was that Mint had an opportunity to create a category killing product, and that selling out to Intuit was effectively like selling out to the dark side.

This all happened a couple of weeks ago, and it appears that Jason was wrong at least about whether the investors forced him to sell. The sale price was 170 million, and so it is not hard to imagine that Aaron actually thought it was a good idea. He says that he was not forced and that he was very happy about the deal.

But none of that is the point of this post.

The point is that Dave's post is an expletive filled over-the-top rant that just seems, well, mean spirited. Here are some of the high points.

[disclosure: the views expressed below are my own, and do not in any way represent the official position or perspective of either or Founders Fund... so please fuck off.]

I presume the fuck off part above is aimed at people like me who he knew would comment on this post.

Memo to Jason Fried: Sorry, You're Fucking Wrong

Fucking Wrong, and Irresponsible Conjecture & Hyperbole

Completely Fucking Wrong, and in fact Exactly the Opposite trend is going on, and finally

Perhaps you might want to contact one of these investors -- who, like me, are all publicly listed in Mint's entry on Crunchbase -- and ASK one of them, before you blow such a wild assertion out of your ass?

if you're simply too damn lazy to do some basic research, maybe you could just ask any experienced entrepreneur or venture investor why in the hell would it make any fucking sense for Series B investor Benchmark to encourage a sale that's likely only 4-5x its investment

In short, your logic here is not only faulty, it's piss-poor and reveals your absolute ignorance of what goes on in the venture world.

Dave then caps it off with:

And Jason: now that i've ripped you a new one, i'd like to apologize for all the harsh commentary and say that altho i disagree with you on this issue, i still think you're an amazing entrepreneur, and i still use your products. Happy to buy you a beer and shoot the shit anytime.

Then, after being taken to task by a commenter he responds, in part by saying:

i don't know if you're much older than my 43 years, but started programming ~30 years ago, have worked in Silicon Valley for over 20, founded & sold my own business in the 90's, worked at PayPal in the early days before IPO, ran marketing for a few years at Simply Hired, and -- as noted above -- was an investor in, as well as over 50 companies in the past 5 years.

This piece serves as a really great example of what prominent people in our or any community ought not be doing. In fact, it is a really great example of what's wrong with discourse in the modern high speed communications world. This is particularly true in the political sphere, but also broadly true in the online world. I fully realize that this kind of talk is part of human nature, and that nothing I say is going to change it. Still, it is shocking when you read someone as prominent as Dave McClure, writing a blog post like this. Whatever offense he believes Jason Fried committed, his piece makes Jason's post seem mild and uncontroversial.

I dunno. Call me silly. But can't we disagree without calling each other names, and using "fuck" every other sentence, and trying to diminish people's arguments by foisting your resume on them?

By the way, I suspect Dave is a totally decent person who doesn't behave this way in person, and who I'd happily buy a beer for and shoot the shit any time.


  1. Hank,
    Dave is a little like that in person. It's a persona he grooms and which works for him. He's also a very worthwhile guy to buy a beer for.

    I usually prefer the sort of civil discourse that you promote in this post, but I really support McClure's lack of civility here (my reblog of his post -- ).

    While unto itself, you neglect to mention that Fried's post title is "[Aaron Patzer] bends over." Fried's rhetoric has moved well beyond the threshold of reason and into an apparent attempt to talk down everyone who has chosen a path different from his. I agree with Fried that institutional venture capital is rarely an appropriate way to enrich founders or make a difference, but that's a long way from damning others for doing so.

    Fried's ignorant, bigoted homophobic imagery aside, accusing Aaron Patzer of being anything but brilliant and successful is deeply misplaced. Fuck him.

  2. hi Hank, nice to meet you on your blog. if you're sincere about the beer, would be great to take you up on that sometime.

    briefly: i'm a crude & unmannered hick with more bluster than sense. i apologize if my post was over the top, but that's just how i write when the muse takes me. i make no apologies for the swearing; i'm sure it makes me seem immature but i'd rather not edit out the passion. anyway, none of the above is an excuse, rather simply an attempt at explanation.

    otoh, jason's groundless, irresponsible, and inaccurate conjecture seemed quite a bit more offensive than my "fucks" and crazy fonts. beginning his post with an assertion that the Mint founder "bent over" doesn't exactly strike me as high prose. for me, his unfounded accusations hit with just as much force and power as someone yelling "fuck you" right in my face. just depends on your perspective i guess.

    ultimately i agree with you i could probably have made my point without swearing or the invective. it would also be nice if i were 6' 4", tall dark and handsome. unfortunately, none of those is who i am.

    so again, sorry if i come off as unpolished. i'm a rube and i know it, it's just hard to change.

    - dave mcclure

    (ps - the beer's on me...)

  3. "Dave is a little like that in person. It's a persona he grooms and which works for him. He's also a very worthwhile guy to buy a beer for."

    True, but Dave doesn't drink;-)

    Dave's online persona may come across as very, umm, sharp, to some. But Dave is a cool dude to know, and he's actually pretty solid at picking up on trends prior to a company actually "making it". I've worked with Dave more than once (SimplyHired, PayPal, Mint) & he is actually quite the reasonable fellow when you understand where he is coming from. He just shares his more vitriolic comments when something lights a fire under his butt re: something he is passionate about.

  4. Dave,

    Thanks for the comment. I did indeed mean it when I said I'd be happy to have a beer. I am thoroughly confident that the picture that your post paints of you is not reality. There is no way you could be as successful as you are if people didnt like you. Well I take that back... its *hard* to be this successful if people don't like you. And clearly people do. That is the funny thing about online. It often paints pictures of people that are not real. You can't see their face, and the sly smirk that lets you know to turn down the meaning of the words just a bit. I know this is true because even in trying not to go over the line, I sometimes find myself having written something in a way that I did not mean it to come out.

    Anyway, I am in NY but intend to be out on the coast by the end of the year, and I promise to get in touch.

  5. hank,

    for a little fun payback, check out

    Dave's having trouble getting to his blog due to his profanity. :)


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