Bustle, the unfortunately named and ill-marketed woman’s publication launched by Bleacher Report founder Bryan Goldberg in August, has lost at least one prominent investor. Google Ventures has pulled its initial investment of $100K out of the company’s latest round of funding, divesting after deeming the startup out of touch with its values, sources tell us.
This past summer, Goldberg ham-handedly announced that he had raised $6.5 million to build what he considered to be a rare bird in the new media world, according to his analysis: A publication singularly focused on women.
His announcement post was quite possibly one of the most tone-deaf things ever published on a tech blog, the very definition of “mansplaining“:
“Isn’t it time for a women’s publication that puts world news and politics alongside beauty tips? What about a site that takes an introspective look at the celebrity world, while also having a lot of fun covering it? How about a site that offers career advice and book reviews, while also reporting on fashion trends and popular memes?”
It caused a cyclone of outrage, with most critics citing that his lack of market research almost inversely correlated with the amount of capital he had managed to amass. Yes, Bryan, it’s time someone built a woman’s publication that puts world news and politics alongside beauty tips. It’s about time someone built, well, Jezebel, The Hairpin, Refinery29, xoJane, HelloGiggles, Rookie, Bust and many more.
The best part about Bustle’s poorly-conceived launch and the resulting bluster is that Goldberg didn’t even know that “Bustle” meant a girdle, something that has traditionally kept women constrained, both physically and symbolically.
He revealed this in ‘The New Yorker‘:
“Goldberg told me they’d already proved his instincts correct by suggesting the site’s name—Bustle—which he loved. ‘A guy who’s successful, busy, cool, and popular—people would say he’s a real hustler,’ he told me. ‘A woman who’s successful, busy, living in a city—maybe she’s a bustler!’ He added, ‘It’s also a type of old-fashioned dress accessory. I did not know that. I know now.’”
As a self-proclaimed expert in “markets and audiences,” he should have known that.
Google Ventures, not wanting any part of this obviously, decided to pull its money out of the startup that launched a thousand “Well I’m going to start an online men’s publication called ‘Codpiece’” jokes. The share shuffling happened as part of a new (unannounced) Bustle funding round according to someone familiar with the matter, and is relatively rare in the VC world.
I'm going to raise $6.5 million to start up a company that keeps entrepreneurs from alienating people by announcing their funding. Oh wait.—
Sean Garrett (@SG) August 14, 2013
From what we know, the decision was not made because of the backlash specifically, but because Google Ventures and Bryan Goldberg were not on the same ethical page. I’ve heard that reports of Goldberg’s misogynist comments and his glossing over of San Francisco’s socio-economic issues in a PandoDaily guest post were the straws that broke Bustle’s Google backing.
“Throwing that kind of money at someone who has no real knowledge, understanding or respect for a space is an insult to the target audience,” Jezebel’s Jessica Coen, who was one of the site’s most vehement detractors at launch, tells me.
So if you’ve ever caught yourself asking, “How is it that people give people like this guy money while you’re are still working at, oh I don’t know, Aol?” consider this some sort of karmic reparation. Google Ventures has declined comment and I have received no response from Goldberg.
Update: Sarah Lacy has written that the Google Venture shares were bought back by Brian Goldberg and possibly sold to Time Warner, who will lead Bustle’s Series A round.