A very bad awful way to ask for help with your startup

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

Because I have posted my cell phone number on my website, random strangers often reach out to me for advice about their startup ideas. 99% of the time they are very innocent and inexperienced, so I have no desire to work with them, but I am usually happy to give advice. Some of them seem reasonably smart, and others seem utterly clueless.

Last night at 2:30 AM someone started text me. This was our conversation:

THEM: Hi there. I found your number on your website

THEM: I want to offer you a chance to potentially work with me on the next facebook. Laugh now but you won’t be later

ME: That’s a bad way to start

THEM: Text me back if you would like to discuss further.

ME: Half threat but half weirdly boastful

THEM: No threat at all

ME: Social networks have been stable for awhile

ME: Friendster gave way to MySpace and then MySpace to Facebook

THEM: How good are you at programming?

ME: But Facebook has been steady for over 6 years

THEM: I have something that has been brewing for quite some time

THEM: But at this point it’s only in my mind

THEM: I need someone who can make this a reality

ME: I’ve done all kinds of programming. Read my blog, which is at smashcompany.com

THEM: I am not here to waste your time or mine

ME: You should talk to someone else

THEM: I am not here to waste your time or mine

THEM: Are you willing to hear me out some time?

ME: Do you realize how often people approach me and use all of the words that you are using now?

THEM: If you are good as advertised I am willing to have you be my partner

THEM: Are you sure about that?

ME: “But at this point it’s only in my mind” I hear this 5 or 6 times a year. People like you contact me often

THEM: You are not willing to even hear me out?

ME: Go ahead, talk. But you are off to a bad start

ME: Tell me your background

THEM: To be honest. I know nothing about programming

ME: I know

THEM: But I am probably the most creative person you will ever meet

THEM: I work in the investment field

THEM: I own real estate in the city

ME: Back in 2008 I wrote an essay for people like you. It is on my blog. It is called “How much do websites cost?” It makes the point that creativity does not matter.

ME: You might want to read what I’ve already written about websites and real estate

THEM: I want you to help make it breathe

ME: When it comes to a startup, what matters is execution

THEM: I could care less about real estate at this particular time

THEM: Exactly

ME: Not creativity , but execution

THEM: That is why I am reaching out to people like you

ME: Have you ever done a startup before?

THEM: I am willing to offer a partnership

THEM: I am the creativity and you can help execute it

THEM: To be quite honest no.

THEM: I have bought and sold many domain names

ME: Do you realize that you are using words that raise a big red flag?

THEM: I buy domain names for godaddy prices and have sold at an average price of 800 per domain

ME: Are you aware that the words “I am the creativity and you can help execute it” have become something of an industry joke?

ME: Ah, okay

THEM: Well, I’m no expert in talking

ME: So you have experience trading domains?

THEM: But, my mind is constantly turning

ME: So what is the idea for your startup?

THEM: I am just trying to say that I am a hustler

ME: That is a good quality for startups

THEM: Why dont you give me a few minutes of your time

ME: Yes, okay

ME: Can you summarize this idea?

THEM: I would like to discuss this in person

ME: When?

THEM: I just want to protect my ideas

THEM: No offense to you

THEM: Again, I am not here to waste your time or mine

THEM: I can meet you anywhere in the city

ME: Trust me; your ideas are worthless. The only thing that matters is execution. Not ideas.

THEM: All I ask is that you really hear me out

ME: I have time on Thursday

THEM: If at any point you think it’s not for you just say the word

THEM: And I totally agree

ME: But you need to give a summary of what this is about

THEM: Listen

THEM: I have told a lot of my friends about my ideas

THEM: And also some unbiased people

THEM: They all have really given me positive feedback

THEM: Ok summary

THEM: Before I tell you

THEM: I have bought the domain names

ME: That doesn’t mean anything

THEM: Whether you realize it or not

ME: How old are you? What is your profession and what is your idea?

THEM: This one I’m going to have to disagree with you

ME: Okay, I’m sure you know the value of a domain

THEM: Domain names is more important than you think


THEM: Let’s not talk background

THEM: I am college educated

THEM: No criminal background

THEM: Just a normal guy

THEM: I love sports esp basketball

THEM: I am Asian American

ME: I am not willing to meet you unless I know your background. If you have no business experience then you are wasting my time.

THEM: Ok what kind of summary would you like?

ME: Sell it to me as if I was one of your customers

THEM: I do have some business experience

ME: What is your business experience?

THEM: But my expertise are my ideas

THEM: I graduated with a BA

ME: Your expertise is not ideas. Everyone has ideas

THEM: Why do you say that one would be wasting your time if one does not have any business experience?

ME: In a normal startup people come up with 3 great business ideas every week

THEM: But my ideas are worthy of execution

THEM: Like I said, just hear me out one time and if it’s not for you then you can just leave

THEM: No hard feelings

THEM: What is 30 min to you?

ME: I have done a lot of startups. They are difficult. You have to bring something to the table: either money, or technical skills, or business skills.

THEM: Pretend its one of your long lost buddies you haven’t seen in a while

ME: Forget it

THEM: Money

THEM: I can help out with that

ME: When you write “But my ideas are worthy of execution” you sound either very innocent or very crazy

THEM: I am neither of that

THEM: I am a hustler

THEM: I am constantly grinding

ME: My email is Lawrence@krubner.com. Feel free to send me your pitch.

THEM: I just need someone who can work on programming

ME: You sound a lot like my ex business partner. We worked together from 2002 to 2008

THEM: Sorry, I like to meet people in discussing these ideas

THEM: How about a phone convo?

ME: He could hustle but he made bad decisions

ME: He was a good talker, but he couldn’t execute

ME: We burned through $2 million while he experimented with ideas

THEM: Did you have a 50/50 partnership with him?

ME: Yes

ME: I did the programming, he did the hustling and he put up some money

THEM: No VC’s?

ME: Angels

THEM: No kickstarters?

ME: In 2002?

THEM: I am at smashcompany.com

ME: We raised $1 million and he spent $1 million of his own, that he had inherited

THEM: What was the business?

ME: please read http://smashcompany.com/business/how-much-do-websites-cost

ME: We built many sites over 6 years. We experimented with a lot of ideas. Our only surviving success is https://www.ihanuman.com/

THEM: Very good info

THEM: How funny you show me this website

THEM: I just went to Dharma Yoga today for the first time

ME: My business partner had a girlfriend who was a yoga instructor, so we started selling yoga videos through that site.

THEM: Do you know any Angels?

ME: Sure, everyone who invested in us

THEM: It’s funny you say that ideas/creativity is worthless when it is that very thing is needed to create a successful business

ME: You are wrong

THEM: Ideas – execution – investment

THEM: Every business starts with an idea

ME: Boring ideas, when executed well, can make money, and the same is true of non boring ideas. Everything depends on execution

THEM: Sure, it doesn’t cost anything to formulate an idea but it is what creates people like angles and VC’s to come on board

THEM: Boring ideas eventually die

ME: No angel or VC will invest in an idea

ME: Collecting garbage from people’s homes is a boring idea. It is also a huge business and it will never die

ME: Growing wheat is a boring idea. It is also a huge business and it will never die

THEM: I am very confident that my “ideas” will amass a lot of audiences

THEM: That is a bad example

THEM: That is not a boring idea- it’s a necessity

ME: Awesome. Go get that audience. Then I will believe you

ME: It is not a creative idea, since it is several thousand years old

THEM: I’m never said it was a creative idea

ME: Did you read this paragraph

THEM: You are putting words in my mouth

ME: please read my essay. did you see the paragraph “In some ways the web is a revolutionary new medium with new potentials and new dynamics, but in many other ways running a website is exactly like running any other kind of business. You must have clarity about what you hope to achieve, and then you must have the discipline to stick to your plan. You should be able to describe the goal of your website in one sentence (and if you can’t, then how will your visitors ever understand what the site is for?). If you are unable to sum up your goals when you are speaking with us, there is a good possibility that you haven’t yet achieved clarity.”

THEM: It’s simply a necessity

THEM: Garbage needs to be collected

THEM: Why don’t we work together in creating a little site and see what happens

THEM: If what I think will happen happens

ME: You did say that your ideas were creative. I am pointing out that many non creative ideas are big businesses, and investors invest in them

THEM: Then we can go from there

ME: No thanks. Good luck

THEM: We can have quotas

THEM: If they are met then we proceed

THEM: If not then we stop

ME: You have managed to convince me that you are going to fail

THEM: Again, I’m not big on words. I am big on action

ME: You are innocent. You have no idea what you are trying to do

THEM: Remember this conversation

ME: I get offers like yours constantly.

THEM: Thank you for motivating me even more

THEM: One day I will thank you

ME: Okay. Good luck.


End Of Conversation

Since he never gave his name, nor any clue about his idea, I don’t think I’m violating his privacy by posting the whole conversation here.

Mind you, when I say he is going to fail, I mean he is going to fail for the next 2 years. He might learn very important life lessons during those 2 years. I am not suggesting that he is going to fail at life. I am not saying that 50 years from now he will be cold and lonely and sad and poor. I only mean he is at an early stage of his own education, and he will fail for the next 2 years. He might succeed 10 years from now, but he has a lot to learn.