Monday, October 22, 2007

what reddit taught me about startups: fuck facebook, make real friends

I've already explained how fortunate we were to get that email from Kourosh back in Feb 2006, but I'm often asked how that email ever made it into my inbox.

Was it some savvy marketing? Advertising trick? PR scheme? Pure business acumen? Illicit activity?

None of them (although some days I wish my life were interesting enough to include illicit activity for the purpose of increasing business).

Through another YC startup founder, I became friends with a NYTimes reporter. She was this founder's guest to a Halloween party we threw that first Halloween. I was just sober enough to make a good impression. We hit it off and although she never wrote about reddit, she did me the much bigger favor of lending her sofa whenever I'd visit New York (I had a small rotation of very understanding friends whose sofas I slept on; I haven't forgotten their generosity -- a gentle reminder to all those friends of startup-founders-needing-a-place-to-crash).

On one of those Fung Wah journeys to NY, she introduced me to a freelance tech reporter who I met for coffee and cannoli one night in Little Italy. We became friends too, and it didn't seem right to write an article on reddit since we were friends. Understandable. But unbeknownst to me, she mentioned a cool site called reddit to one of her editors. This editor happened to work at Wired. And go figure, she was also Kourosh's wife.

So it wasn't long before the director of CondeNet biz dev was hearing from both this freelancer and his own wife that a certain social news site with an alien mascot might be worth contacting. And we know how persuasive women can be (see: MacBeth).

Then this showed up in my Gmail:

I'm a friend of [aforementioned freelancer]. I'm also the director of biz dev for CondeNet, the internet arm of Conde Nast [...] I'm intrigued with your technology and was hoping to set up a time to talk about possibly working together. I'm open the rest of the day today and Thursday, but will be traveling for a week starting Friday. Do you have time for a phone call? Also, are you based in Boston?
Go ahead and make a few new friendships (read: not facebook friends). Just don't think about these relationships through the lens of "what can you do for me?" -- not only will it doom you from the start, you'd never even guess what might happen anyway.

*Updated to add some more detail to the story. And link to a photo of Steve and me that first Halloween. He's the one dressed as Paul Graham.