Why We Often Blindside Companies

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A couple of weeks ago I apologized to the CEO of AdMeld for writing about their acquisition without even contacting him to let him know beforehand or ask for a comment. He wrote back “the call would have been nice.”

I know how frustrating this is because news about me has broken more than once without me getting that call. But I understand. Sometimes a story is breaking so fast (the AdMeld example) or you don’t know/trust the entrepreneur, that you have to write without contacting them first.

The problem is they might just break the news themselves or through another blogger. It happens a lot. It definitely happens to our competitors a lot because I’m often the one getting that call.

Some entrepreneurs we trust a lot, and I’m comfortable talking to them beforehand so they can plan for the post, tell employees, etc.

And others I don’t trust so much. Caterina Fake just fell into that second category.

Late last week I learned that she was pretty far along on her next startup and that she’d raised a round of financing from True Ventures and others. Because I have a very long relationship with her, and respect her a lot, I reached out about the funding. And today she broke the news herself.

Most readers will think this is just fine. And in fact it is just fine. But this is the second time Caterina has done this, and so it’ll be the last time she ever knows we’re writing a story about her or her startups before it’s published.

Last year when she left Hunch it was an extremely sordid situation. Because of some very chatty people close to the company I had all the details about her leaving, and why.

And I never posted. All through summer 2010 and beyond, I let the story go, even just the basic details that she was leaving the company. In the Fall it was becoming clear that the news was going to break anyway, and I contacted Fake to find the tasteful way to write about it. Shortly afterwards she did the same thing she did today, just wrote a blog post with the news.

The blog post, which mentions me, was a fantastic lie.

I didn’t expect when I returned I’d be met with speculation that I’m leaving Hunch. Reporters calling me (Hi Mike!) asking if it’s true. But I’m a full time employee, and I just took a vacation. :-/

Then later on Quora she revised that position:

Technically I am still a full time employee at Hunch but am changing roles due to the pivot the company has taken. The press is pushing me to make a decision about what role that would be long before I’m ready to announce anything. Chris and I have talked about various options: I can stay at the company, stay on as an advisor, and I’m trying to figure out the capacity in which I can do the most good for Hunch.

I do not plan to abandon Hunch as they are my friends and colleagues and I want Hunch to succeed. Yes, staying on as an advisor is the most likely scenario.

Both stories were, well, lies. She’d stopped working at Hunch full time six months before she wrote any of this, and the reason she stopped working with the company had nothing to do with the press pushing her, or with “the pivot the company had taken.”

I’m still not going to write about why Fake really left Hunch, because it’s not something that should be written. But one thing I’m pretty sure about is this – Fake won’t be getting any calls from me in the future to give her a heads up that we’re breaking news about her startup.

Treat us with respect and you’ll get it back times ten in return. That’s all we ask.