For years, I have been a big fan of Business Insider (BI). I think they have been able to distinguish themselves from the majority of news sites with a very unique voice and a brilliant way to present stories. I am such a fan that I have made it part of my daily routine to read BI (together with other tech news publications) before my day starts. This is why I was so disappointed yesterday morning when, in the same day, I read BI’s stories lavishly attacking ex-Digg founder and now Google Ventures partner creator Kevin Rose and Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer.
Showing an astonishing lack of knowledge of how companies are built, BI reporter Matt Lynley explains why Kevin Rose has never had a “big hit” (not sure what this even means but assume that he is referring to a multi-hundred million dollar exit) by presenting Kevin as an unable to focus entrepreneur that regularly quits on his efforts and frustrates his colleagues. I’ve never met Kevin Rose, never used Digg and, for the most part, disagree with a lot of the points I’ve heard him express in different conferences. However, I can’t avoid feeling a lot of respect from what Kevin has accomplished in his still young career.
As a product designer, Kevin is one of the brightest minds of our generation creating beautiful and simple to use products such as Digg or Milk. As an angel investor, Kevin is simply a natural hitter by identifying startups like Twitter, Zynga, Square or Path without even having the resources or large VC firms. In those two roles, Kevin’s contributions to this industry have been nothing but remarkable but somehow BI believes is more important to try to pain a psychological profile that explains why Kevin hasn’t created a “big hit” company.
Knowing that BI reporter Matt Lynley has never built a company before, you can understand how he believes we can attribute the eventual “failure” of Digg or the sale of Oink to Google exclusively to the lack of Kevin’s focus and passion. I suspect that the root causes of those stories are a little bit more complex. If you haven’t gone through the stress and pain of building a successful company, put the log hours and sleepless nights, sacrifice your friends, family and your own interests in order to protect your company then is really difficult to understand Kevin Rose’s decisions.
Paraphrasing Robin Williams in one of my all-time favorite movies: Good Will Hunting: “You can’t pretend to understand how it feels to be an orphan just because you read Oliver Twist”.
Continuing with the sensationalist stories, BI reporter Nicholas Carlson published a piece on which he portraits ex-Google and Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer as a workaholic tyrant that likes to humiliate people in order to accomplish her goals. At a time when some of the most respected voices in the software industry are cheering for Marissa to bring Yahoo back to its days of glory, BI feels compelled to, yet again, pain a psychological profile of Mayer by citing a number of obscure declarations from some of her ex-Google colleagues.
Again, if you haven’t been under the pressure of leading tens of thousands of people and dozens of products in, arguably, the greatest software company of the last generation, its really easy for you to pretend to understand and oversimplify Marissa’s actions.
People can’t avoid reading these stories because of its sensationalism and, somehow, manages to trigger a lot of egos and frustrations that are so common in this industry. Journalism is one of the most admirable and difficult professions of our times and one that has become a pillar of America’s society. However, good journalism has to be balanced and objective and not focus on creating sensationalists stories in order to increase readership.
These are exciting times for the software industry. Great things are being created these days, stop focusing on the wrong stories.
Now is time to go read Business Insider 😉