/// When Is It OK To Bash A Founder?
I love entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs take risks. They don’t wait for the future they want. They create it.
Entrepreneurs are skydivers without the parachutes. They jump and try to build theirs while hurtling toward earth. Most don’t succeed. And splat goes their dreams – and investors’ money.
Entrepreneurs try to solve the most pressing problems in the world. Just look no further than the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Skoll Foundation or our very own Salesforce Foundation to see the power of entrepreneurs to change the world.
While I love them, other entrepreneurs don’t always feel the same about their colleagues.
Just this past week, Donald Trump called one of the original internet entrepreneurs, Mark Cuban, a “dummy”, and some of his business partners “stupid people”. And he continued his attack, tweeting, “There’s a reason @mcuban’s partners can’t stand him and on top of that, the team sucks!”
Let’s be clear: this is the business version of “you have no friends” and you “suck at sports.” Welcome to third-grade, Mr. Trump.
And earlier today, the self-titled “entrepreneurial investor” Keith Rabois attacked location app Foursquare and its founder, Dennis Crowley.
Dennis responded, “Keep hating… and while you’re doing so Foursquare will keep becoming the location layer for the Internet.”
Keith hit back “great use of jargon. Maybe Hail Mary Bebo-style acquisition will bail you out.”
While I don’t have the official stats, founder-on-founder verbal violence seems to be at an all-time high.
So why is it that some of my fellow entrepreneurs have no problem publicly attacking other business builders?
The answer comes down to one simple question – relevance. Many entrepreneurs don’t want to just be successful. They want to be relevant. And they want to stay relevant.
Being relevant means people pay attention to you, care about what you have to say and talk about you.
Money alone can’t buy relevance. If it did, Mr. Trump would have stuck to real estate.
The Donald is extremely successful. Even his failures are epic. But how has Mr. Trump stayed relevant over the years? By attacking others. From birth certificates to NBA trash talking, The Donald has mastered drafting on others’ relevance.
Likewise, Keith is known as one of the great entrepreneurial minds of Silicon Valley. But let’s be clear about one thing – he has never actually started a company (at least not one he was proud enough to list on his own LinkedIn profile).
His specialty is joining companies very early in their existence and helping them grow. I commend him for that. We need more professional operators.
Keith joined Square at the 25 employee. He joined Slide to manage strategy and business development. He joined Linkedin when the company had less than 2 million users. And he joined Paypal and Voter.com in business development roles.
What a run! Keith has had huge success. Massive. Most of us dream of having any one of his successes. But he has never been relevant to entrepreneurs, always hidden behind some of the giants of the internet – Jack Dorsey (Twitter and Square), Max Levchin (Paypal and Slide) and Peter Thiel (Paypal).
Keith was the Art Garfunkel to the Paul Simon of each of his companies. The Barney Fife to each of his Sheriff Taylors. Change Entourage to Entrepreneurage and Keith is Turtle to the Vincent that is Jack Dorsey.
Mark Cuban and Dennis Crowley are both trailblazers who pioneered entirely new industries – web audio and video broadcasting and location-based services. The attacks on them are just plain silly.
Instead of attacking entrepreneurs, we should be supporting them at all costs. They represent the future of our country. The government won’t create the jobs we need to thrive. Entrepreneurs will.
Let’s continue to debate issues and trends, business models and strategies. But let’s leave the schoolyard attacks at home.
LinkedIn – Michael Lazerow, Entrepreneur