[slight edits, sorry for the repost]
One of the best parts about being a private company is (drum roll) being private. You can do what you want to do and pretty much ignore the outside world's opinions, views, etc. Thanks to the spending of the U.S. Military, we all get to use (abuse?) the word "stealth" as it applies to companies working on something they aren't ready to go public with.
Of course, human nature being what it is, if you have a secret or are working on a secret project, the other guy just has to know. It's almost a genetic trait of our species that people gotta know what others already know so they can be part of the 'in the know' crowd.
Sometimes those two things (being private/wanting to know) clash and when they do, knowing how to handle it can make all the difference.
Let's dive in.
JLA and my partners at Growthworks have been working on a project which has evolved into a company we will launch called PlanetEye. We spent some up front money doing some research, acquiring some technology, patents, and code from Microsoft as well as building up a team of folks who can execute on what we collectively believe is a great business idea.
Okay, that's basically all there is 'officially' known about PlanetEye. Anybody who comes by my office and asks, gets more. Anybody who talks with an employee of the company, gets more. It's not really 'secret' and not really 'stealth' rather not public because the company isn't ready to go public. Nothing much more to it.
Along comes that human genetic need to know. It arrives in the form of Jevon MacDonald who writes a blog about Canadian Start ups. Being a slow Friday, Jevon decided to live out those genetic tendencies and write a blog about PlanetEye featuring all the normal buzz words like 'launch is imminent', 'stealthiest startup in Canada' and so on. This creates a massive flurry of activity.
TV crews descend on the PlanetEye world headquarters. Paparazzi swarm the employees, desperate for just a small, fuzzy photo. Helicopters hovered overhead waiting to see the lights dim as the 'imminent launch' causes a city block's electricity to get sucked up into PlanetEye's servers.
Well, not exactly. The CEO flipped me the blog link and said "what do you want to do about this", then went for a haircut and shoeshine.
I read the blog and was pretty surprised, entertained, and concerned all at once which makes situations like this tricky. I have a few guidelines/rules I use to determine if I am going to gain anything by actually reacting/responding to stuff like this.
- Rule one: Is there something written that is materially wrong about the business?
- Rule two: Is there a reputation at stake? Can some individual or group of individuals be materially harmed.
That's it. Those are the rules I use to determine what, if anything, should be done.
First, the surprised part.
"What is PlanetEye? Well, you have to do some digging to find out, so that’s what I did."
Jevon then goes on to describe, incorrectly, what he thinks the site is. He gets it wrong. The home page of the web site tells you what they are doing. Not in massive detail but you get enough information that you can pretty much figure out what it isn't. The company has a blog as well. Again, doesn't give you massive detail but you can tell what the company isn't doing. Of course, all of this is fine, it doesn't hurt the company because people will see what Jevon says and, if they care, click the link to PlanetEye to get the correct starting information. They might say, Jevon's a goof and got it wrong or they might thank the guy for sending them the link. And they might sign up for the beta. So, as far as the company goes, no biggie either way, clearly not worth responding to, clearing up, etc. Most people that care, will check it out for themselves. That's my opinion, PR people or others may disagree. But responding with some flames to the blogger? Nope.
Lesson for you: If it doesn't materially matter, don't respond. Facts like this generally self correct.
Next, the entertaining part.
"Planeteye first came to life out of a course at UofT.......He liked it so much in fact that he decided to put together a company based on their work"
Continuing his unblemished record of getting this story wrong, Jevon weaves a story together about VC firm coming to the University, plucking the unknown super star computer students out of anonymity, throwing bags of money at them, thus launching their start up career. Now, this part I liked! This makes my firm look good, the University look good, and the super star students look even better then already are. Everybody's a winner. So, here, I'm loath to let facts get in the way of a good story.
In fact, correcting this myth probably is more about ego. Does it really matter where the original idea came from? What was underway before the students got involved? What the original/actual mission of the team was? Actually, no.
What matters is that I have a team of amazingly smart people over at PlanetEye. Anytime I want to get a nice fix of pure brainpower, I ping the PlanetEye team on the east coast and my genius team at MusicIP on the west coast. And for entertainment, I read b5 blogs while playing with RFID tags from SIRIT bought via Truition services and reviewing my medical records with technology from HealthUnity. I think I've plugged em all. But I digress.
Lesson for you: Watch your ego. Resist the temptation of responding if that response is driven by some ego issues of who's idea it was, who thought of this or that first, etc. Do you really need to set the record straight to that level of detail?
Finally, the concerned part.
There is a big chunk in Jevon's post about the financing of the company. It's wrong and materially wrong. It's wrong in the timing, the amounts, the who, completely wrong. That would be fine since it isn't public information except that when Jevon goes on his fishing expedition, he bring a pellet gun and puts a shot into my partner, Growthworks. So let's set the record straight.
Since day one, Growthworks has been my partner in this endeavor. We are equal partners and have been since day one. Growthworks never passed on any round of financing because there never has been any additional round(s) of financing to pass on. Growthworks's paperwork was completed after mine because they are bigger, have a different process and it took longer. But, to be clear, they have always been my partner in PlanetEye.
There has been only one allocation of capital into PlanetEye to date. It is unfortunate that there was confusion with respect to the financing of the company to the extent that this confusion would imply Growthworks passing or there being additional rounds of capital. And it is also unfortunate that Jevon used that confusion in his speculation. He got it totally wrong.
Growthworks has been and continues to be right along side of JLA with respect to PlanetEye. (Cue the Barney Song)
Jevon got the amount wrong as well but that's not public and I'm fine with people thinking whatever re: amounts.
It is this part of the blog post where Jevon had an opportunity to simply pick up the phone and call me (or Growthworks). Given Jevon has been in my office before, the country is fairly small and I'm not hard to reach, he could have asked about the financial arrangements. At worst, I could say no comment, at best I could correct what he was going to write. Jevon chose not to do this. Jevon made the call to 'put it out there' and see what happens. That's fine, that's his call and he owns the results of what people think, care, etc.
Lesson for you: Correct it and move on. Growthworks doesn't need claims they passed/walked on a start up when it isn't true. Correct it and move on.
Jevon will tell you that he sent me 'heads up email." He did. After the blog posting. I view that process as, well, as not exactly an attempt to get facts before actually writing something. But, I want to be clear. I am in the camp that says bloggers can do whatever the heck they want. Everything a blogger writes gets examined, dissected, and put under the microscope of public opinion. Over time, a blogger's writings get examined by lots of people and those people draw conclusions both positive and negative about the individual. To me, that's exactly the way it should work.
Lesson for you: Let the blogger do his or her own reputation building (or destroying). Don't attack the person, stay with the issues that truly matter and ignore the rest.
As Doc Searls has told me a number of times when these things come up: Let the Wookie win.
So, there you have it. When your start up launches or while you are slaving away in your garage on that next super thing, remember everybody wants to be in the know, everybody wants to kibitz, and everybody will usually root for the rational, sane nice person or company.
Finally, sign up for the PlanetEye notification on the home page. The "kids" have worked really hard and I'm proud of both what they've accomplished to date and will continue to accomplish. Stay tuned.
"More tea anyone?"
-Captain Ramious aboard the ballistic missile submarine Red October