(pic, Joi Ito)
I have read so much B-S- about Michael Arrington’s supposedly displaced integrity as a writer that I thought I should set the record straight.
Mike has been an investor in my company Seesmic since day one, here are some of the posts Mike wrote about Seesmic:
“Don’t Screw Your Partners Over A Marketing Promotion”
“Developers In Denial: The Seesmic Case Study”
Both of those posts were discussed during Seesmic board meetings with my main investors wondering how I could deal with Mike as an investor attacking his own investment like this in public. Seriously, “he could have told us off the record”. Yes, he could have, but he chose to write about it in public on TechCrunch instead.
I was well aware of that risk when I took the investment and I was sure it would happen and it did, as expected.
What is everyone trying to say about Mike, that he would pimp his investments in TechCrunch? Sure, read the above posts again and put yourself in the CEO and board shoes when an investor writes such posts. We took TechCrunch down because of too much traffic with Steven Spielberg, Harisson Ford and George Lucas on Seesmic, that post was well deserved.
The post about Twitter going after developers buying them proved to be 100% right and the best advice an investor could give to his investment, “those guys don’t want you to build what you are building anymore this way”. It was very instrumental in us pivoting into a business app and my board to accept how fast we needed to react.
I bet most CEOs would have preferred to get the message in private, it wouldn’t have had the same impact though, and surely wouldn’t have put so much attention in both cases to Seesmic, and that’s always good. I have to admit I got really upset at times by how hard Mike went in public on us, -almost like he had to- just because he was an investor. I was wrong, it was just the same as he would have been regardless of the investment.
If Mike invested in your company, don’t expect a better treatment, don’t expect more posts, don’t expect negative news not posted, on the contrary. You will get less posts as Mike always thinks about that investment as a problem and many negative ones when they’re deserved.
Oh yeah, you get some good posts too, but even then, the title has to be negative: “Thank You Seesmic for Sucking Less”
I am sure some of you will read me saying “right, but he asked his team to write about Seesmic”. Yeah, right, if that’s what you’d think then you don’t know MG, Erick, Leena, Alexia, Jason, Sarah, Butcher, Robin and all the members of the team. Sure thing, they wrote a lot about Seesmic, but so did many other sources when we launched hot products and did not write, as they should not, when we did not.
Look at Sarah’s title on this post “Seesmic: From Near Death…”. Nice title, right? And look at the disclosure:
This “may come as a surprise since Mike is so hard on Loic” but he is an investor. Yep, it does come as a surprise to most people each time he writes about Seesmic so hard, it doesn’t come as a suprise to me.
Oh, and when we were in feature war with Tweetdeck before Twitter acquired them (and ended the competition) Twitter clients were very popular in tech news for a simple reason, the tech bloggers were using them all day long and were very interested by all the innovations we were providing. They were covering sometimes some very small new features and we were of course enjoying the coverage not only from TechCrunch, but many tech blogs.
I know Mike actually sent an internal email to all at TechCrunch to “stop covering every feature we were launching” “just because they aren’t news” and the posts literally stopped. The team wasn’t posting because it was one of Mike’s investment, just because they were excited by the features.
One day I was discussing some confidential ideas about Seesmic with Mike and I joked “Mike, am I talking to the investor, the friend, or the
He answered “it’s always
reporter blogger first”.
I still shared with him the confidential data and he never released it or threatened me in any way to release him, in other words he always had access to investor only information in my company but never used it unless I released it in public.
Oh, and I have read a lot of B-S- about the supposed “give me exclusive news or we won’t ever cover you again”. You can ask the TechCrunch competition I have always briefed more tech bloggers than TechCrunch when we had news, under embargo, and TechCrunch never broke an embargo they accepted (as the other tech bloggers I trust) and never complained. Sure, sometimes they did not cover it, that’s their right.
Anyone who doubts Mike’s integrity doesn’t know him or did not take the time to look at the facts. You can say what you want about Mike, like him or not, but he’s done more than anyone else for the startups worldwide. It’s indeed a sad day that he leaves his baby TechCrunch, for him, for his team and for the entrepreneurs.
I am sure Mike will do well and TechCrunch and his team will also do well, there is too much talent there. AOL’s new challenge is to keep them without Mike, and that won’t be easy. I think that the TechCrunch brand is big enough to survive many departures. AOL will likely keep it a success regardless. Good luck to all, it would be a shame to break TechCrunch and Disrupt, I trust AOL won’t screw it up.
As far as I am concerned, I would take other investment from Mike in heart beat if he would want to invest in anything I do, and I would also invest in his new fund if I was investing (but I’m not, I just focus on Seesmic and LeWeb).
If Mike was that terribly dishonest and biased person some writers like to think, he would not have created such a success and be trusted by so many Silicon Valley legends. Watch what LinkedIn’s founder Reid Hoffman has to say about him leaving.
Oh and before I forget, if you are a startup entrepreneur and can get any funding from Mike, take it, but make sure you know about the possible consequences, because Mike won’t stop blogging and sharing. Great advice and attention on your company will come at the price of not screwing up, but you should still take his money, I can explain more why in a future post.
Would you take his money?