“We’re So So Sorry”: An Apology Form Letter For Startups

Sometimes it really does seem like we live in the Wild West of the digital age, the rules of the Internet get made up as we go along.

Due to the newness, it seems like there’s a scandal per week in tech startup land, and, because of social media, the default way of dealing with it for startups has become the grand public apology — tweetable on Twitter!

I’ve always been a big fan of the “forgiveness not permission” philosophy (just ask Mike) but there’s something that doesn’t sit right about how automated the atonement process has become for young companies.

Do something bad > Get caught > Bad press > Apologize > All is right with the world. Maybe you even pick up some new users along the way ?…

When startups get into the mindset that any press is good press, how far are we from orchestrated PR strategery like, “Quick, lets start storing our users’ address books so we can get some attention!” And then handle the crisis well, of course.

After all, “the crisis” is almost entirely dictated by the machinations (and laziness) of the press. The Airbnb “trashed house” story was around for about a month before a rogue Arrington post turned it into a PR nightmare. And a ton of apps have been subtly uploading your contacts for a while now, Path just happened to be the most prominent one “caught.”

As investor Chris Dixon brings up, ““If you download a lot of apps, your contact list is on 50 servers right now.” It’s true. While they were reluctant to name names, everyone I’ve spoken to in the industry agrees that this uploading thing is a widespread phenomenon, basically any app that asks a user to “Find their friends” or notifies users when their friends are on the service is suspect.

(Btw. If anyone wants to send me a complete list of apps that upload iOS Address Books, unencrypted, to servers, please do here.)

In the meantime get ready for a lot more startups dramatically and publicly apologizing for their sundry infractions — It’s become such a phenomenon that we’ve created the form letter below (inspired by this and this) to make it easier on them.

Image/ Half Chinese 

Form via/ @Percival