With over 26k followers, Twitter persona Startup L. Jackson is a shining star in Silicon Valley’s Twitter constellation. He (she?) often tweets out pithy commentary on investor inside information, tech culture and funny startup minutiae.
Since it started tweeting in August 2011, many in the tech community have tried to guess the infamous parody account’s real identity, but up until now there have been scant clues as to whom it might be. But today, thanks to Planetary developer Joshua Gross, we’ve seen one of strongest, most obsessive investigative efforts yet.
Gross has quantified the similarity between Jackson’s tweets and a host of other tech luminaries by pasting 300 – 400 tweets from each individual into this NLP-powered Document Similarity engine. Here are the results of his semantic analysis, when matched up against @StartupLJackson:
According to the analysis, Gross’ top linguistic match for Startup L. Jackson is Svbtle founder and YC alum Dustin Curtis. While we, through information independent of Gross, know that Curtis has some connection to the account, like Gross, we can’t 100 percent prove it’s him. Or him entirely. (He gave us a “no comment.”) And then there’s this …
When asked if he were actually Curtis via DM, Startup L. Jackson said, “I would be much more surprised than you of [sic] that were true.”
A16Z’s Benedict Evans, who holds a near 89 percent similarity to the personality, has also denied manning the account. Evans suggested that whomever it might be was more operational than himself. While Gross did not include Box’s Aaron Levie in his initial analysis, he did look into it after the fact upon request: Levie’s tweets were 81.2 percent similar.
Dave McClure, mentioned as a suspect at the bottom of Gross’ list, swears it isn’t him. And to prove it, he bought the “I Am Not Startup L. Jackson” T-shirt.
Gross’s analysis reinforces this, showing only a 31.3 percent similarity in tweets between McClure and Startup L. Jackson. According to a Quora post however, McClure does know who it is.
European VC Paul Jozefak thinks it’s Ben Horowitz. Maybe it’s his alternate personality? But then, maybe it’s Marc Andreessen’s alternate personality? He does favorite a lot of the tweets mentioning Startup L. Jackson. And he retweets the account lot.
Startup L. Jackson shares an audience with other entrepreneur parody accounts. But most couldn’t hang. Both abandoned handles Series A Crunch and Startup Shakespeare popped up around the same time as he did. Series A Crunch was created at the end of 2012 and lasted less than a year.
Then there’s the Twitter tech writer parodies. The sporadic Fake Alexia Tsotsis attempts to imitate TechCrunch co-editor Alexia Tsotsis. Grammar errors give it away (and that it calls itself “Fake Alexia”). Some PR person also started a Nice Ryan Lawler account a number of years ago (real Ryan Lawler is also nice).
Others have even claimed they are Startup L. Jackson, though we’re skeptical.
And we’re also skeptical about taking the results of Gross’ analysis to their inevitable conclusion. Correlation isn’t causation: It might just be coincidence that Curtis has a linguistic similarity to the account. The real Startup L. Jackson might be some untested unknown, chuckling at the inaccuracy of this article somewhere.
Whoever it is knows enough to hold court in the tech community and knows how to play the inside baseball that sometimes feeds this beast. Maybe it’s Ashton Kutcher or Hunter Walk or none of the people on that list? Maybe Startup L. Jackson is a woman. Or maybe this account is a collective of many loosely related insiders, like Anonymous? This is a very likely explanation. Perhaps we are all Startup L. Jackson?
(Also, whoever you or you guys are, thanks for the tip!)