On Reviewing Startups, Telling The Truth And Firing CEOs

As we woke up to the news of Carol Bartz being fired the other day, not in a very friendly manner, we couldn’t help go back to the Techcrunch interview where Arrington made her spew the F word by asking her too many hard questions. That interview and some recent developments have made some of us think if we can ever have a “no holds barred” reporting and relationship that TC has with the larger startup community in the US.

Will we do a good job for Pluggd.in and the Indian startup community if we say only good things about them or urge you to try them by yourself? Do we become a mouthpiece for PR agency shit? Dbuddhao we have the balls and the will to write scathing reviews and not care about the repercussions?

This thought brings us to two most probable reactions that readers might have

  1. Write the truth but back it up with facts.
  2. Always write goody goody stuff and let the reader decide.

Let us take up the second point first. Most of our readers are adults who are interested in, read up on or employed with technology companies. They have toiled their way through engineering school (or medical and law schools) and are now doing relatively well than their previous generations. They are not idiots (and we do not intend to treat them as such). Goody shit doesn’t help anyone. Not the readers – for whom it is an insult, not the founders – who do not get any real feedback on their product and lastly not this site because we do not add any value to the 10 minutes you spent on reading the shitty goody post.

We have faced some flak on (1) as well on a particular post we had written. Most of them are personal insults to the author – which are duly ignored. But some of them were regarding the blog, writing style, mode of analysis (judgmental or otherwise) and finally on not being specific or a startup not being ready for review.

Let me cut paste an internal email thread that we had on the mentioned startup


Author – These guys are pitching a very good thing in the wrong way. They are actually offering a hosted site to local retailers with feature to showcase products/ deals etc. Have written to them with feedback. The product is not ready to review now. They will gain nothing. should we still review it?

Editor 1 – I personally think that if a company does a PR, they think its good to release. Our feedback in that case should be in terms of the review. The decision to review / not review is a different one – but I found your point below extremely relevant and by itself worth a review

Editor 2 – good point. Here is the thing: If not us, others will profile them. If we want to be relevant, we shd profile them and actually share the feedback in the post. That adds value (others will only do PR).


That is the thing guys. We REVIEW. We are not mouthpieces of your PR agency. If you want to hear good stories – hire a nice PR agency, make them write up about your startup in glowing words and mix it up with some Koolaid or Bhang (depending upon where you are from) and drink it (Recommended Read: Fuck the Accolades. Seek the Criticism).

We have reviewed and showcased a lot of startups in the past – many of them critically. But some of them (to quote one example) – e.g. Flipkart has been mature about it (ref: the Flipkart story). They have taken pains to call the aforementioned author and clarify their point and actually take notes on points where they can improve. And that’s just one example of many.

As far as critics are concerned, maybe we should have ignored it – as Nikhil suggests and as the author himself suggested. But we are not in the business of ignoring.

That is, we are not your PR agency and will never be one. We are a site that gives you an unbiased feedback on your product (we aren’t journalists). We will review startups. We will give credit where it’s due and pan a startup when necessary. Getting feedback, getting discouraged, failing and trying again are part of being a startup. If you can’t take it – well too bad.

But the reality is world isn’t going to be fair just because you are doing a startup. So stop drinking your kool aid and brace yourself for the road ahead.

It ain’t easy.

Ashish/Pratyush/Team Pi.

[Image credit: h.koppdelaney/Flickr]

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