How to Burn Bridges with Bootup Labs and Other Investors

When Phoenix-based designer Jamie Martin’s blog post hit the front page of Hacker News earlier today, he realized what it’s like to burn bridges in a connected world. After his company and three other startups were dropped from the Bootup Labs program roster due to financial difficulty, Martin blogged about the unfortunate incident and put his site up for auction. While Martin at first claimed that Bootup Labs “had no money”, incubator cofounder Danny Robinson fired back with a reply.

Said Robinson, “This is not how it went down Jamie. After everything that we did for you and Steven, I’m shocked at how you have twisted the truth for PR reasons.”

Robinson then went on to issue a press release on closing Bootup’s 2010 round and bringing on WMedia Ventures’ Boris Wertz as a board member and investor. In the past, Wertz has been a Bootup mentor alongside Sun Microsystems’ Timothy Bray, NowPublic’s Len Brody, Garage Technology Ventures’ Guy Kawasaki and Infectious Greed editor Paul Kedrosky.

With a heavy hitting roster like this, it’s hard to believe that a startup might bite the hand that feeds it (or at least used to feed it). One of the biggest issues with Martin’s Hacker News submission was the fact that it was originally posted with the title “Moved to Canada to participate in a startup incubator that had no money.” The community debate surrounding the submission title made YCombinator and Hacker News founder Paul Graham take note and change it to the exact wording of the original blog post.

Now if TechStars, DreamIt Ventures, VentureHacks and LaunchBox would only weigh in, Martin’s post will have been seen by most seed-level investors in the country.

The Lesson

At this year’s SXSW, Paul Graham estimated that the YCombinator mafia might rival that of the PayPal mafia by the sheer number of incubator graduates in today’s tech companies. If this is true, then startup entrepreneurs should nurture the relationship they have with their investors even if it’s a tenuous one. While Martin’s post received widespread attention and responses from hiring companies looking to interview the designer, he’s definitely set the wrong tone to lure investors on upcoming passion projects. Before venting on a deal gone sour, consider the fact that you want every opportunity to close future deals without being labeled a liability.

Editor’s Note: We recognize that this is a contentious issue and the opinions in this post are controversial. Therefore we encourage you to read through the comments below and also read other perspectives via the Techmeme thread.

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