Pyramid Pitching

Posted: September 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Startups | 8 Comments »

Everyone knows of the mythical elevator pitch. You find yourself in an elevator, rocketing towards the penthouse suite of a downtown office edifice, when you realize that the person standing next to you is a powerful and influential investor. She asks what you do, and you calmly deliver your pitch. Just a sentence or two, properly chosen.  The doors open, the conversation continues, the IPO is near at hand.

I’m here to tell you that the elevator is real. While you may not be trapped in a small ascending room, the potent entrepreneur’s life is full of inflection moments: brief opportunities to shift the destiny of your company. And a proper pitch is essential to take advantage of them. But contrary to what you might have heard, the solution isn’t the 60-second elevator pitch.  In fact, the elevator pitch is only a simple, basic example of a much more powerful tool: the Pyramid Pitch.

The Pyramid Pitch is based off of a simple and fundamental principle: startups are dictated by randomness and chaos.  Sometimes this is obvious, as in the elevator case.  Other times the situation appears controlled, for example when you have 5 minutes allocated to speak at a pitch event.  But minds wander, distractions beckon, bladders fill… if you don’t grab your audience immediately, you may never get them back.

Read the rest of this entry »

(You might want to subscribe or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss new articles)


Tacocopter Basics

Posted: September 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: RC | 17 Comments »

The Tacocopters are coming. Sure, the original pitch was a clever troll aimed at credulous and impatient fast-food junkies. But the numbers don’t lie – a typical taco weighs less than a pound, and aircraft that can autonomously fly a few dozen ounces of payload to your doorstep are already available for around a thousand bucks. Amazon Prime is cool, and I can’t wait for self-driving delivery cars – but there’s a reason they call a beeline a beeline. Flying autonomous deliverybots are coming.  Fast.

Lest you doubt the logistics, the Hong Kong based hobbyshop of wonderment, Hobbyking, recently sponsored a contest called Tacocopter T-shirt design“Beerlift 2012″. While the contestants mostly used water as a standin for the bubbly, the winner, Romanian pilot Muresan Alexandru Camil, lifted over a hundred pounds of liquid – meaning that deliveries of entire beer kegs are not out of the question.  While his massive octocopter looks like quite an endeavor, American David Ditch lifted a respectable 50 lbs with a 2-foot-square quadcopter – enough for quite a few Taco Bell Doritos Locos to your door.  279 of them, if you’re counting.

Read the rest of this entry »

(You might want to subscribe or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss new articles)


Livesheeting YCombinator Demo Day

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

I was fortunate enough to be invited to check out the 70+ companies of the current YCombinator batch. With that many companies to keep track of, it helps to take notes! I did this in a public Google Docs spreadsheet, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. A few hundred (at least) people joined in, and there were questions and additions from all over (including some of the YC partners and the companies themselves).

If you want to see what YC was like this year, here’s the spreadsheet (still editable, if you have questions or thoughts). Here’s the original spreadsheet of Ycombinator demo day pitches.

 

(You might want to subscribe or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss new articles)


Why Investors Won’t Talk to Competitors

Posted: August 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Startups | 8 Comments »

Whenever I’ve been involved in fundraising, I’ve hit a frustrating rejection: “Sorry, but I have an investment that could be competitive.”

As an entrepreneur, this drives me nuts. I always marshal the same counterarguments:

  1. I know what they’re doing, and we’re COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!
  2. Let’s have an initial conversation.  I won’t disclose any ‘secret sauce’, and you can be better informed and decide whether or not there’s a real conflict.
  3. I don’t mind if you invest in both companies.  I trust you to keep information confidential.

I didn’t actually grok what was going on until I sat on the other side, looking at investments.  Now I understand the problems with each of these, and the real, underlying problem that I missed completely.

Read the rest of this entry »

(You might want to subscribe or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss new articles)


How to Help Startups

Posted: July 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Startups | 9 Comments »

It’s been seven years since I started my first company.  My successes over that course have had a great deal to do with the generosity and wisdom of the startup community, particularly in Seattle – countless meetings, meetups, blog posts, backchannels, and a mind boggling number of cups of coffee.  Since the very beginning, I’ve been thinking about the question in the title – what’s the best way for me to pay it forward, and really help the startup community?

I’ve always known that the greatest way to help startups is by building a great startup.  Success breeds success, injecting talent and cash in to the ecosystem.  It rejuvenates the optimism and bank accounts of investors and startup employees alike.  It begets positive press, which begets optimism.  It demonstrates to people that success is possible, and shows them a way to achieve it.

But I wanted to help more.  For karmic reasons – to pay back the people who helped me – and for selfish reasons, in that I love helping companies succeed.  It’s just incredibly, deeply, personally rewarding.  So each week I average about five to ten meetings with startup founders or executives, and usually do one speaking engagement for a large group as well.  But how to make the most of that time?

Here are the principles I’ve found so far when trying to help startups.

Lots of People

Try to find opportunities to help as many companies as possible, at once.  Like mentoring for great organizations (I love Techstars and Founders’ Institute).  There’s an opportunity to help a lot of companies at once.  Further, you get to have a bunch of short conversations to get an idea of what they’re up to, and dive deep with a few companies that are a great fit.

Help Companies That Help Themselves

The greatest impact on the startup ecosystem is helping companies that have already demonstrated commitment and traction.  If someone’s working a day job and wants advice “about startups”, that conversation is less likely to result in a successful company. By comparison, in a conversation with someone who’s committed fulltime and trying to add a cofounder, or negotiating terms with an angel, or stuck on their B-round financing there’s a real opportunity to make a difference at a powerful inflection point.  The further down the funnel the startup is, the lower the chance that good advice will be rendered moot by one of the many random quirks that strike down entrepreneurs, sending them back to the clutches of Big Companies.

Time Management

Being short and blunt sucks.  It’s uncomfortable to skip small talk.  But when a startup needs help and time is constrained, talking about a founders’ kids or hobbies is time that either comes out of their help, or out of helping someone else.  For me, the former is better than the latter, and I schedule most startups for 30 minute meetings.  I personally hate the rushed agenda, but it’s usually enough time for me to be able to try to provide some help.

If You’re Not An Expert, Shut Up

I sat next to a guy on a panel who was pontificating to startup founders about qualities to look for in a cofounder.  The speaker was a former consultant who mostly invests in real estate and restaurants. WTF.  It’s easy to have an opinion, but if there’s no experience behind it, just explain that it’s not an area of expertise and move on to a new topic.  I’ve sometimes had to drive this home. “Why are you asking me how to marketing your social network when I’ve never done it before either?  Let’s focus on questions I’m actually qualified to answer for you.”

Directness

It’s hard to be direct with people you don’t know very well – at least, I find it so.  And being direct is just a thin grey line away from being an asshole.  But nobody wins if the conversation just goose-steps around, and 30 minutes isn’t enough time to be soft and circumspect.  These my three favorite phrases when time is short:

  • “How can I help?”  This is my favorite phrase.  If there’s a succinct answer, everyone benefits.
  • “Sorry, but I can’t.” At least one of the things a company asks for are probably not possible.  But if the requests are out on the table up front, everyone can focus on the “yes”es instead of the “no”s.
  • “Here’s my reaction to what you just said.”  Sharing a quick gut-take reaction is crucial to companies that are trying to polish their presentation – after the 25th pitch, details and nuance get ground down.  The pitch is an art form, and a tight feedback loop is crucial to improvement.

Help People Help Others

This is the last principle, and a new one.  It may not be popular.  We’ll see.

As a part of my effort to make a difference in the broadest way possible, I’ve signed a contract with O’Reilly to publish a book about startups.  I’m ridiculously excited about this because it’s the ultimate application of the “Lots of people” principle. Part of this book is going to be illustrating problems with stories from real startups.  And that’s hard, because most entrepreneurs are pretty tight lipped about what they’re up to.

So from here on out, I’m going to be asking one important thing from companies that want to meet with me to get advice: let me use the contents of our conversations and emails to help other startups by writing about them.  If there’s something that must remain confidential – for example, a trade secret, or the name of a sensitive party in a negotiation – that’s fine.  But I think the startup community suffers from a little too much secrecy, so I’m going to prioritize helping companies that are willing to ‘pay it forward’ over companies that are not.

So that’s my new thing.  Continue to help people, and ask that they allow me to use their situation for my book, so together we can help even more people.

What Do You Think?

I don’t normally solicit comments, but I’d really like to hear reactions to this in the comments below.  Am I asking too much, that startups be willing to share with the world?  Is there a principle missing? Are there better ways to help?

 

(You might want to subscribe or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss new articles)


Of course this company is for sale

Posted: June 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Startups | 19 Comments »

I had recently left Microsoft after five years of slaving away as a program manager on various facets of Windows.  I’d departed to take a job at Wildseed, a company producing an over-the-top funky handset running Linux, targeted at the teenage market.  Yeah, that’s it on the right.

If the bizarre appearance and strange feature set doesn’t sound odd enough to you, I should mention that it was 2002.  The state of the art was the RAZR handset from Motorola, and Andy Rubin wouldn’t found Android for another year.  We were actually forking Red Hat, writing our own drivers, and all sorts of other flavors of insanity.  That was part of the fun.

But I digress. There was a rumor floating around the company, and in my very self-important 26 year old mind, I believed it was up to me to get to the bottom of it.  I took a deep breath and stepped up to the porthole of Eric’s office.

Eric Engstrom was our CEO.  He had a peculiar office.  It was big, but it was in an inner corner of the building, without much of a view.  It was kitted out with tall, spring loaded, bouncy stools for guests.  He told me once that he bought them so guests would get annoyed and not stay long.  He was dismayed when a few of his VPs found them comfortable and ordered them to sit on as their primary chairs.

Eric was (and is) a mad genius. I could fill an article with Eric anecdotes: The fascinating book about his time at Microsoft. The $40,000 bet that I could find an entire sealed barrel of St. Magdalene scotch two decades after the distillery closed (I won; he bought the barrel; I got a bottle).  His desire to create a film in which I would have a cameo as Evil Spock. But I digress, again.

On that day, I marched in to his office to get to the bottom of a strange rumbling I heard, and have him set things straight once and for all.  There was a rumor afoot that we might be looking to sell the company, and I was going to confront him about it.

I sat down, bounced a few times, and met his gaze.  He gave me a trademark Eric smile.  You’ll be familiar with it if you’ve ever seen a Nature channel documentary on alligators.  I steeled my nerve and asked him point blank: “Eric, I heard a rumor.  Is this company for sale?” Eric’s smile disappeared for a second.  He pursed his lips and laced his fingers, staring at the floor.  Then he looked directly at me and said, very slowly: “Dan, we’re a startup.  Of course we’re for sale.  This fucking plant on my desk here is for sale, if the price is right.  What do you think we’re doing here?”

Not everyone thinks about their company this way.  I have a good friend who is running a very successful startup with a fantastic future ahead.  He told me – and I quite believe him – that he would sell the company for a billion dollars over his dead body.  He was extremely clear that anything less than a multibillion dollar IPO was a pathetic failure, and he’d resign before he’d let such an abomination happen.  So his startup is not actually for sale.

But the rest of us startup types, the story is simple: just about every startup is for sale.

(You might want to subscribe or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss new articles)


What if you could only speak once a year?

Posted: May 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Who’s been a part of a mailing list that’s suffered from poor-quality posts drowning out an otherwise-useful conversation?

OK, hands down.  It seems like it happens to just about every worthwhile mailing list I’ve ever been on: the quality of the posts goes to hell.  And in fact there are a few sub-problems:

  • A small number of posters, who may or may not have anything useful to say, that monopolize the conversation;
  • A series of arguments whose rapid back-and-forths make up the bulk of the list content;
  • The list drifting from a narrow purpose to a wide ranging discussion of everything from the Greek debt crisis to ‘what I had for dinner last night’.

I was watching this happen yet again, to yet another list, and it got me to thinking.  The classic solution is moderation, but that tends to turn in to a dull dictatorship, not to mention cause a lot of work for the moderator.  What if there was some sort of “game mechanic” that could cause people to self-regulate the quality of their posts in a simple mailing list?

As with many ideas, I started complicated.  The idea revolved around a points system, where people could up- and down-vote participants.  Submissions that got more upvotes would be disseminated to more people – the most popular posts would go to everyone; the lousy stuff would just go to a dozen random subscribers and die out.   If you liked something you read, you could reply, and it would go to the author, plus everyone else who had replied or “liked” the post, so you could have a more in-depth conversation about topics.  And as an afterthought, there would be some sort of cool-down period so that people couldn’t get in to flame wars – once you replied, it would take a while before you could post again.

At that point, I realized that:

a) There was no way I was ever going to implement something this complicated, and

b) I had pretty much just reinvented Hacker News.

I was about to shrug and abandon the idea, but one tiny bit stuck in my head – the cool-off period.  What if mailing lists had a limit to how frequently you could post?  This seemed like an interesting idea.  It would let arguments cool down between replies, plus – if it was a little longer – it might make you think twice about if your writing was good enough to warrant a period of enforced silence.  Self-moderate, that is.

And what if you took it to an extreme?  What if every utterance contained within a vow of monastic silence, digitally enforced?  Wouldn’t you think twice before invoking Goodwin’s Law over a comic book?  Hypothetically speaking, of course, not that I would be involved in any such argument.

And so I created “The Best Thing This Year” around the idea of a mailing list with an enforced 1-year quiet period after every post.  Created is a bit generous, actually – I threw up a launchrock page  and waited to see what would happen.

And what happened was  surprising.  First, a lot of people signed up.   It started when I shared the idea (still just a launchrock page) with John Cook over late night karaoke, and he wrote up a quick article. That got my butt in gear to actually build something to, you know, deliver emails.  The result was a terrible hybrid of Amazon SES, PHPlist running on an EC2 micro instance, and some custom PHP courtesy vworker.com to replace the signup page and pump directly in to the mailing list.  I also threw up a phpBB discussion board on my Dreamhost account for good measure.

My friend Elan kicked things off with the first piece about his new, augmented-reality sitcom (!) at rides.tv, and Pando Daily and Mother Jones Magazine jumped in, talking about the post and the list.  And here we are, two weeks later, and the list has nearly 2,000 subscribers… and a surprising lack of submissions.

Not a total absence, mind you.  There’s been an epic piece about parenthood that came out for Mothers’ Day.  Yesterday was a unbelievable story about the first man to do a commercial bungee jump off of Corona arch in Moab, Utah.  But the pace has been slow.

And I’m afraid not all submissions represented the best thing a year had to offer.  The first submission was mostly shit – not metaphorically, but literally; the primary topic of the post was human feces.  While I hope to keep a light touch, I decided that did not need to wind up in a few thousand inboxes, and did not allow that submission to post.

But in general, there have been few submissions to this rather incredible audience.  I won’t out list members, but I’ve looked through the email signups and there are a lot of awesome people listening to what gets said.

So the rules continue as before.  You can sign up at thebestthingthisyear.com and you will get new posts immediately.  Over at discuss.thebestthingthisyear.com you can read previous posts and chat about new ones when they come up.  New signups have a cool-down period before they can submit, to ensure everyone doesn’t post at once – in retrospect, probably not solving for the right decision, but the policy is two weeks old and this is the internet so that makes it a tradition.

The posts will be, it seems, mostly excellent.  And if current trends hold up, fairly rare.

And I have the answer to my original question.  What would people do on a mailing list if they could only speak once a year?

Mostly just shut up and listen.

(You might want to subscribe or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss new articles)


Vesting is a hack

Posted: April 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Startups | 26 Comments »

Vesting in general (and founder vesting in particular) is an oft-misunderstood tool that has a tendency to really screw up young companies.  There are some deep misconceptions at work here that often cause founders all sorts of grief.  Most of it comes from the simple fact that stock grants are, at their heart, a crude hack to avoid taxes.  Vesting is a hack to the hack – and one almost every founder needs.

Let me explain with a hypothetical.

Imagine AcmeCorp, a new startup.  Jack and Jill are the founders.  They incorporate and give themselves each a million shares – in other words, splitting the company fifty-fifty.

The next day, Jack has a change of heart.  Startups are a lot of work!  He quits AcmeCorp and takes a cushy executive gig at a fortune-500 tech firm.  Jill’s left solo.

Years pass.  Jill first works without salary, then pays herself a pittance.  She bootstraps the company, starting with consulting and moving on the develop a highly successful web service.  As she brings on staff, she issues stock to new employees, ultimately handing out a half-million shares of the company.  Eventually she’s the CEO of a 50-person firm, pulling down a respectable $200k per year as the CEO; nearly as much as Jack’s pulling down at his gig (not including his benefits and bonuses).

When the company is finally sold, it’s a great success – $100mm exit.  And here’s what happens.

For her million shares, Jill gets $40mm.
The employees’ half-million shares net them $20mm.
And Jack?  He gets a call one afternoon that, for sitting on his duff for the past five years, he’s worth a cool $40mm, same as Jill.

Obviously something’s wrong with this picture.  The crux of it is that, with stock grants, value is awarded in a big block at the beginning, even though the contribution is (or isn’t) provided over a long period of time.  It would be like if you paid someone four years worth of salary in a lump sum on their hire date.  The obvious solution, of course, is to not issue all the stock at once.  Instead, treat stock like salary – give it out in small chunks over time.

Unfortunately this is a terrible idea.  As time goes on, the stock gets progressively more valuable, and the tax impact to the founders gets worse and worse, plus the strike price (if they’re options) gets higher and higher.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, the solution is – vesting!  The founders get their stock at the beginning in a big whack, but the company has the right to take it back for a negligible amount of money (the “repurchase agreement”).  As time goes on, that right erodes.  So the net is the same – the founders’ stake grows over time – while still letting the founder keep ownership of the stock from a legal standpoint as it appreciates, allowing long-term capital gains treatment, favorable initial tax treatment, voting rights, and all that jazz.

“But wait!” the novice founder cries out.  “If I build lots of value and sell the company, I get the shaft! My stock may not be vested, and I’ll lose out!”  Yes you will, young padawan, unless you include acceleration in your vesting schedule.  Acceleration is the final hack to the hack, which brings the force back in to balance.

Acceleration comes in two flavors.  Acceleration on change of control (aka single-trigger acceleration) means that if the company is sold, some or all your stock vests.  Yay! Double-trigger acceleration means that if the company is sold AND you’re fired, then some or all of your stock vests.  Sort of yay!

The former is obviously better for the acceleratee, but keep in mind that a deal may be hard to get done if the acquirer knows that all the stock incentives to stick around disappear when the deal closes.  Double-trigger, or a mix of single- and double-, is often a nice compromise to keep the company marketable (a few years down the road) while rewarding people for their hard work.  This is often more of an issue for employees (who join later, and will still be vesting when a transaction happens, and who can’t leave en-masse if the transaction is to go through).  For reasons of company lifecycle timing, founders are usually fully vested already by the time a deal happens.

Regardless, the important thing is this: founder vesting is founder friendly, the exact opposite of what most people think.  You want it.  Don’t fight it.  In fact, don’t wait for an investor to tell you that you need it – get it done when you incorporate.  Just remember to pair it with acceleration on change of control!

And now, some suggestions for vesting schedules.

  • Use a four-year vesting cycle for founders, the same as you eventually will for employees.
  • Put founder vesting in place before you start to raise money.  Investors will be impressed that you know what you’re doing.  If your vesting terms are reasonable, they’ll be accepted without argument.  And when you’re negotiating terms, it’s better to have fewer things that matter to you on the table.
  • If there’s a “trial period”, for example people working part-time for a few months, then consider a cliff that expires after the trial.  That means the first vesting doesn’t occur until the trial period is over (and then you vest a lump of however much you would have received anyway).  Stock is best used for people who are totally committed, so the stock accumulation shouldn’t kick in until the commitment does.  The obvious exceptions to this are strategic advisers who will only ever be partially committed, but where that level of commitment is all the company wants and needs.
  • If there’s a meaningful commitment of resources in advance of the vesting agreement, it’s reasonable to “fast forward” the agreement by an appropriate amount.  For example, if you’ve been working full time for a year before vesting is in place, it’s not unreasonable to start with 1/4 of your stock vested already and put the rest on a 3-year schedule.
  • Stock that’s in payment for resources doesn’t need to vest.  For example, if the company is split 50/50, but then one founder puts in $100k in exchange for 10%, then the 10% that they get should not vest.  Since the value is delivered up front, the stock should be too. (Obvious corollary: investor stock has no vesting terms)
  • For founders, accelerate 50% of the remaining unvested stock on change of control (single-trigger), and 100% of the rest double-trigger. This is totally reasonable and fair, and makes it very unlikely that you’ll leave much value on the table.
  • It is generous, but not unreasonable, to consider double-trigger acceleration for some or all of your employees.  However, you may cause yourself problems during M&A down the road – check with your lawyer first.
  • Try to avoid single-trigger acceleration for non-founders whenever possible.  Not only is it sure to cause issues during M&A (the acquirer will be worried that everyone vests & leaves after the transaction), but an acquirer may make changing these terms a condition of a deal, which just leads to ugly.
  • Get the legal paperwork for your stock agreements sooner rather than later, to start the capital gains clock ticking.  This can easily be a seven digit difference if you happen to have an early exit (ask me how I know).
  • Edit: File your 83(b) elections the day your incorporation goes through. You have 30 days to do it, and then you’re screwed forever.  If you’re not sure if this applies to you, ask your lawyer.  If they’re not sure, fire them and hire someone else.  This is one of the most common, avoidable, and expensive mistakes founders make (thanks for the reminders about this in the comments!).
  • One last thing: the founder vesting arguments assume multiple founders.  If you’re a solo founder, you might skip founder vesting, and hope no one notices…

Founder vesting may sound terrible , but when paired with reasonable acceleration, it’s a good thing for everyone.

(You might want to subscribe or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss new articles)


The most awesome startup I have ever seen

Posted: March 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Startups | 9 Comments »

I just got a very nice email from Danielle Fong, the 25 year old middle school-dropout, cofounder and chief scientist of Lightsail Energy.

That’s not the amazing part.

Lightsail makes regenerative brakes for the power grid.  You know how your* Prius takes the power from the brakes when you don’t need it, and dumps it back in to the engine when you do need it?  Lightsail does the same thing for energy plants that can’t scale their production quickly with the needs of consumers, not to mention greentech like wind and solar that creates power when Willard Scott says so.

Still not the amazing part.

So where are the startups you know headquartered?  Someplace cool and funky, right?  We put Ontela in the Smith Tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi (until the disrespectful hooligans in the midwest built the Kansas City Power & Light Building in 1931).  It was fantastic!  But Lightsail?  Forget that.  Check out where they call home.

 

The Lightsail Firehouse

Oh yeah.  Remind you of anything?

The Ghostbusters Firehouse

And you know what?  We’re still not at the mind blowingly awesome part yet.  Because you know what they have in the basement?

Oh yes.

The Lightsail RAES-V1… ectoplasmic containment unit

Bravo, Lightsail.  Bravo.

Urgent Addendum:

Danielle informed me after publication of this article that they have vacated the Ghostbusters firehouse and moved to a chocolate factory.

I rest my case.

 

*(I’m assuming you have one, because everyone else seems to.  Personally, I drive a 2004 Scion Xb, in which the only thing regenerating is the dirt on the floor mats.)

 

(You might want to subscribe or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss new articles)


Startup dudes: Cut the sexist crap

Posted: February 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Chitchat, Startups | 260 Comments »

Last week I was speaking on what would have otherwise been a terrific panel.  It was Frank Artale from Ignition, Tom Duterme from Groupon M&A, Andy Sack from Lighter Capital & Founder’s Co-op, and me talking about funding & exiting.  The only thing that spoiled it was yet another guy in the tech scene putting forth yet another objectifying/patronizing treatment of someone with two X chromosomes.

In this case, the recipient of the bogus intro was the panel moderator, Rebecca Lovell. Just in case anyone out there in startupland has not  met Rebecca, she’s one of the best-connected people in the Seattle tech scene, with a resume that includes leadership roles at the Alliance of Angels, NWEN, and now Geekwire.  These would all be appropriate topics to use when introducing someone, man or woman. Here’s what the man introducing Rebecca chose to say instead (you can listen to the full audio of the introduction for context):

Rebecca’s one of the smartest ladies I know, and I thought that she was a perfect pick for the role of moderator.  When we selected Rebecca and she said yes, she was a sexy single woman. And since that time, she’s become a sexy married woman, and so I wanted her lucky new spouse to stand up.  So we’ve got not only a very talented, but a happy moderator.

Come on, people.  Really?

This has been bugging me for a while.  I was coaching one team for Techstars Demo Day, and they had a photo of scantily clad women (that had nothing to do with their pitch) that I convinced them to strike.  Two months ago, a company I was coaching showed up for a meeting with me at Google and made a comment about the receptionist’s appearance.  Within earshot of her.

Everyone has a reason.  One person was older.  One person was from another country.  It just doesn’t matter.  If we keep this bullshit up, we’re going to crap all over another generation of women tech entrepreneurs.  And it’s just a rotten thing to do. Think before you open your mouth.

And if you see someone doing this, call them on it. I didn’t… that was my nervous laughter in the background of the recording.

Better late then never.

(You might want to subscribe or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss new articles)