On the 16th of May, I was contacted by a guy I’ll call “M”. M emailed me a 300-word, no paragraph breaks email that went something like this:
Hi, blah blah blah seed funding blah tech startup blah blah blah no programming experience blah blah blah advertising platform blah blah you will be CTO blah blah blah blah blah*. Thanks, M.
I’ve obviously taken the liberty here to modify his wording slightly, but you get what he was trying to say.
I was a little upset because he didn’t do his research. So I emailed back in my best arrogant famous person impression:
Do you have any idea who you’re writing to?
To which he replied:
Yeah I think it was intended at you, that’s why the email was addressed to your inbox…
It was at this moment that my hand went to my face in a rather quick fashion. The next thing I can remember is only feeling half my face and laying on the floor. I picked myself up off the floor and wrote a longer email:
I am not “open minded to the possibility of also becoming CTO later down the track” because I already work at a company called Spree Commerce as the Community Manager. This email does not represent them, because it’s my personal email. I wrote a book too, called Rails 3 in Action. I’m actually writing the second edition now. Also, I’m 24. What makes you think I have any damn right being a Chief of any department?
Do not think that you can simply pull people away from a company with buzzwords and hand-waving. In today’s industry, you need to “court” people and make them want to work for you. Cold-calling them is at the exact opposite end of the “What to do and what not to do” scale.
He then asks:
In response to your statement “In today’s industry, you need to “court” people and make them wanting to work for you. Cold-calling them is at the exact opposite end of the “What to do and what not to do” scale”. How can I go about courting people in a way that I can gain their trust and attention without looking like some other annoying business guy? However I must say your advice is flawed in some ways because either way I can’t just wait for people to come to me, so there has to be some element of cold calling whether it’s emailing or approaching them unannounced.. Unless you have better advice and I’m all open to hearing it
Regarding the “annoying business guy”, he’s gone past this point at this stage.
I reply back suggesting things like user group meetings and Railscamps.
Anyway, this kind of goes on for a couple of emails and Mr. M does his research eventually. He then goes into full-sleazy-business-dude mode:
… but if you wanted to work with me full time I would give you a meaningful amount of equity (at the cofounder level) I would also make sure your rent, internet connectivity, beer and basic essentials would be covered;
You cannot buy me out with equity, suggestions that you’ll pay my rent, internet connectivity, beer (even though I don’t drink beer) and basic essentials. So I tell him that:
No, absolutely not.
You would be dealing a great blow to Spree if you did that, and honestly your work doesn’t interest me. I hate advertising, because most of it is pure crap. I’m actually considering paying $6.99 each month for Spotify not because I want access to new music, but because I want to get rid of the ads.
Your equity offer would be paltry, no doubt. Do you have any idea what I earn at Spree? Do you have any idea what I charge per hour for consulting gigs outside of my daily work?
Yes, you say you would pay for rent, internet connectivity, beer (although I don’t drink it) and basic essentials. That is, in combination with the equity, not even coming close to the emotional compensation I would need for selling my soul to an advertising platform.
The last part about “emotional compensation” is a joke, by the way.
He also said this:
In under just three months you would be able to figure out whether it would be worthy or not putting more of your time in this startup since from the launch date for the website to function we need direct money inflow.
So no direct money inflow at the moment. This is a huge red flag to me. “Yes, please work for a pittance but I promise we’ll be making money hand over fist any time now!”. I’m not a business guy, but I think this guy is a little crazy by this point.
Oh, he also said I could “influence millions of people”. I replied:
I have made my decision. I am sticking with Spree and no amount of equity, technical challenges, narrowest possibility of influencing millions of people or money will change that.
Then the biggest email from this whole saga arrives in my inbox. It begins with:
I’ll try to make this quick so that I don’t continue wasting my time as well as your time..
It’s nine-hundred-and-ninety-five words long. This many words is not quick.
I told him this in a previous email:
You most likely will not change the world. Fact
He replied with:
The fact that you added “most likely” infront of will not change the world, expresses that there might be a slight possibility of it happening, which contradicts the “fact” part at the end. But to answer your statement, I will be very happy one day when things do work out and that everyday when you are browsing the net, you will be faced with a constant reminder of how pessimistic and truly wrong you were, as well as receive an email from me saying “I told you so”… Thank you for giving me another reason to be motivated..
I honestly believe that he wouldn’t change the world with an advertising platform, so I said so. I would rather be honest with people than to support their broken dreams. For him to reply in such a passive aggressive way threw up the biggest red flag of all of this so far.
Then he leads with this doozy:
Plus I think I’m starting to agree with Tyler Menezes, I do think that the Ruby on Rails community is run by a bunch of arrogant narrow thinking developers who are too important to show any optimism or support for outsiders..
Up to this point, I have been as nice as I can be to somebody who cold calls me. Which is actually really nice. I was being painfully honest with this guy, and he took it as arrogance. Oh well.
Then he drops this other bombshell:
Therefore I’m choosing python, I’ve already started to learn the basics, I think it has so much more potential in terms of quality and scaling capabilities than ror.. Plus i’m finding it a lot more fun to learn (but it’s still very challenging and definitely not easy, but who cares, within six months I’ll be good enough to lead a team of developers, even by learning part time).
HOLY SHIT. This guy is going to learn Python in 6 months and then lead a team. If I were a self-respecting programmer (hint: I am) I don’t want to be in a team that’s led by someone who’s got only 6 months experience in my programming language. And by only learning part-time? Please.
He also claimed that I drink beer:
You don’t drink beer, oh ok well I didn’t know that you just said false things for the fun of it, why would you make multiple references to drinking beer at railscamp if you don’t drink any beer? Or do you just put out a different appearance in public then you do in private?
Not once in our email correspondence did I ever mention drinking beer. He later brought up and said that in my RubyC talk at around 14:53 I mentioned drinking beer, but this is not true. This whole passive aggressive tone of the email was extremely off-putting, and exactly the opposite direction of how you would go about hiring someone.
He finishes off his version of the Iliad with this:
Ps. this isn’t over, within a year you can expect an email form me saying “I told you so”….
I’ve actually put a reminder in my calendar for next year to remind me to go back in my inbox and find his email and ask him how it’s going. I’ll be genuinely curious to see how far he’s gotten with this idea.
I was extremely offended by his bravado and passive aggressive tone. I replied over two emails. The first was:
I am bored of this game. Never email me again.
Also, I never mentioned anything about drinking beer. Just thought I’d clear that up.
He replies with a single line:
I’m pretty sure you did
I am still extremely frustated at this:
And now you’ve just devolved to basic trolling. Fucking long sigh. Seriously dude, look through the emails. Not once did I mention drinking beer.
He replies back:
I don’t know why you’re only focusing on this one beer drinking thing, that was the least important comment throughout my email… I’m not saying you mentioned beer drinking in our emails, you mentioned beer drinking during your how to be awesome at rails presentation [at RubyC]…
I was never trolling, I reached out to you for help and advice and the entire time your responses have been filled with criticism, dream crushing statements, profanity and just fucking plain hypocrisy.
Not filled with criticism at all, besides the mentions that I would prefer if he used paragraph breaks and didn’t cold call people. I suggested alternatives, like Railscamps and user groups. You know, actual actionable, effective advice. My statements weren’t intended at all to be “dream crushing”, just my traditional honesty. The only time I used profanity was the word “Fucking” in my email before. I was also never a hypocrite in my emails.
And then a little later on he replies for the final time:
Nah but I seriously wish you all the best, Hopefully there aren’t any lingering hard feelings. That is that last thing I would have hoped for…
I wish no ill feelings on this guy. The tone of his emails was exceptionally off-putting and I can’t believe that people think that they can get away with things like this. A little bit of courtesy on both sides of these types of discussions goes an exceptionally long way.