Angry, Hostile, and Bitter Is Not A Winning Strategy

We are sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas in a country that is recovering emotionally from two disasters named Sandy – one natural (Hurricane Sandy) and one man-made (Sandy Hook). Our politicians in Washington are playing a zero-sum game around the Fiscal Cliff. The CEO of the NRA just held a press conference and said “we should be able to afford to put a police officer in every school” and he called on Congress “to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school in this nation.”

I get 500 emails a day – sometimes more. Many of them are from people I don’t know looking for advice and funding – I try to respond to them all. Every single day at least one of them goes off the rails as a result of my simple and direct feedback, often that I’m not interested in what they are doing. Here’s an example from a few minutes ago.

well if you ever come across investors who give a fuck the business plan is there online, recently updated this morning.

I did clicked your link, it’s just internet plays, you can’t swing a cat without hitting an investor investing there. Like I said if that meant anything there would be no talks of a fiscal cliff. We been investing in the internet for decades and worst for it.

If you in a hole you stop digging but if you are an internet investor you invest in an app that digs a bigger hole.

Brad you live in the same country I do, so where ever you are on the socioeconomic ladder, you in the same fucking hole. Except you investing in shovels and telling me you an expert in that. Oy vey.

This was in response to me passing because the business was something outside software / Internet and I stated that it was outside my area of expertise and pointed the person at our themes.

If this was a once in a while thing I wouldn’t call it out. But it happens every single day. I suppose if I ignored all the random emails I got, this wouldn’t happen, but then I’d be “one of those VCs that isn’t responsive.”

Fortunately this is 1 out of 500. The vast majority of stuff I get from people I don’t know is positive. The ad hominem attacks I get – either from people I don’t know or people I try to be responsive are part of the drill. But every time I’m on the receiving end of one, I think to myself “that’s not a winning strategy.”

Everyone is allowed to feel how they want to feel. But recognize that if you are an entrepreneur, trying to create a business, raise money from investors, sell products to customers, and hire employees, thatΒ angry, hostile, and bitter is not a winning strategy. And – if it hasn’t been working for you, maybe try something different in 2013.

  • Angry, hostile, bitter AND with terrible grammar. Who could this person possibly expect to impress with that steamer?

    • I tried reading it twice and couldn’t be bothered trying to decipher it.

    • I see this pattern regularly. The first email is reasonably well written – clearly something that has thought and energy put into it. Many feel “canned” (e.g. I know I’m on the receiving end of an email that was sent to a bunch of VCs.) But then the next one looks like it’s written by a drunk, illiterate 15 year old.

  • MHSzymczyk

    That sucks you have to go through that Brad..I guess the price you pay for being responsive. I’m not sure I would’ve taken the high road here and would have replied to his reply with a link to πŸ™‚ Have a great holiday!

  • nilayp

    Perhaps it is therapeutic to write *AND* send such emails when being rejected. If so, the key to success is to send them to yourself.

    • That’s a great strategy!

      • Brad, I’ve often written emails to you looking for advice, thoughts, etc. I usually find that by the time I finish I’ve collected and organized my thoughts enough to have an answer without needing to send it. So thank you. πŸ™‚

        • Awesome! The best kind.

  • The really frightening part is when such angry, hostile and bitter people are so easily able to obtain weapons of mass murder in this country. Also, some might say that both Sandy events this year involved elements of human impact, for those who believe that climate change is happening. Ignoring overwhelming evidence is an important factor in both the gun control and climate change “debates” along with many others.

    • Yeah – it’s really frightening when you step back and think objectively about it.

      Ironically, it’s one of the reasons I’m not worried about the machines killing us. The idea of humans killing other humans is a human construct – we’ve been doing it since the beginning of humans.

      I get really sad sometimes when I realize that so many humans are wired to be hateful.





        • That’s my hope for the machines. Society exists to teach them not to be bad. Hopefully they’ll learn a lot faster, and more consistently, then us feeble humans.

  • Brad… you are one heck of a patient/kind person.

  • Jeffrey Hartmann

    Its funny the timing of this, I just had a long conversation with some folks about adversarial attitude and how it prevents things from getting done. I grew up in a family where my parents adopted 7 kids from around the world, we were breed to not have an “us” vrs “them” attitude. There was no “them” for my family, we were taught we were all in this boat together. Unfortunately it seems that many people in this country were taught that if their not with us, the are our enemies. This is so not a winning attitude, all we can do as a society is reward those who do not act this way.

    I want to personally thank you for what you do Brad, you inspire a great deal of folks out there. No matter if you directly are involved or not with us, your point of view and willingness to help and share are sincerely appreciated. Please don’t let those that poison the well discourage you from sharing and being open. Your stance and open invitation to help makes a positive impact to those who will just stop and listen. We lead by example, and your willingness to share and be positive changes the world in a significant way. I know you won’t, but don’t let someone who is combative let you forget that.

    • That’s a great strategy!

    • Thx for the kind words and great attitude. Don’t worry – the haters, trolls, bitter, angry, and negative people don’t get me down. Sure – they sometimes harsh my calm – but that passes quickly.

      • dvasefi

        I second Jeff completely, please continue Brad. Nothing that a good run can’t evaporate…

        • Worry not – I am happy.

          • dvasefi


  • Personal relationships are hard to spark, slow to build, and easily destroyed. It’s often easier to destroy relationships that both sides have only invested a few emails in, but the results are the same.

  • Wow. Frightening. Weird that a handful punish you for responding. Many VCs don’t even respond to cold emails





    • Powerful rules, those are.

    • That not just rule of internet. Rule of life.

    • RBC

      Been just catching up on things after a crazy December and relaxing Christmas. Great to see some Fake Grimlock wisdom for 2013!

  • The sad part is how many people think that it’s all about the immediate “yes”. I fought through that with a former salesman – he was great at first impressions, but when someone said “no” he could get downright surly. His attitude seemed to be that, once you said “no” to him, you were worthless.

    As I was building my own business a few years back, I really started to see how wrong-headed this approach was. So many opportunities came, over time, from people who initially weren’t very interested, seemed to brush me off, or even flat out said “no”. The simple fact is that I still made an impression on that person, and there was a ripple effect over time. If they said no for practical reasons but generally thought I was an intelligent, friendly, interesting person, I still had relevance somewhere, in the corner of their mind. If I freaked out over every “no”, then I’d just be another asshole to them. Get enough people to think you’re an asshole in the corner of their minds, and the opportunities magically start to disappear.

    • So well said. The number of companies I’ve ended up investing in “a year later” is significant. And – it’s a two way street – I try really hard to be helpful and constructive even when I’m saying no. Building a long term relationship is so much more powerful and satisfying than anything transactional.

    • RBC

      Yes, great lesson for sales people everywhere!

  • KyleBazzy

    Great post. My saying when I get these kind of emails is always, “Some people just like to throw rocks.”

    Thanks for sharing.

  • I like this post.

    He should spend less time berating you and more time finding people that want to actually engage around his idea and business. Should you live all your life that way?

    Being angry and bitter doesn’t work in any avenue. Isn’t that just Life 101?

  • First: I’ve been this guy. When I had nothing to give especially. I learned, personally, that that shit doesn’t work. It’s not where you start, it’s how fast you iterate.

    Second: Supporting a product requires dealing people that start out this way. We made a product after being in a service business, and people start routine support emails with things like “what gives….” This is how people ar.e

    Third: Derek made this. Sending this to people may be a helpful thing:

  • DaveJ

    Nor is illiterate a winning strategy. Let’s write in complete sentences!

    • Fragments, Helpful are not.

  • Jim B

    Brad, thanks for everything you put out there and sorry to hear this. You deserve better.

    • Thx but it doesn’t really bother me. It’s more of an object lesson for everyone else in the world. At this point I’m pretty immune to this kind of crap. It just makes me sad for humans in my dark moments.

  • This is my favorite part: “well if you ever come across investors who give a fuck the business plan is there online” I sometimes respond to emails like this with some corrected spelling/grammar, but they tend not to appreciate my helpfulness on that front either.

  • Johnson Cook

    Is it bad that I had the thought: Wow it would be really entertaining and funny to have a site dedicated to “Nasty Letters I received as a VC”… but maybe better not to focus on such negativity. πŸ™‚

  • I think you’ve written about this before…I recall another person irked you somehow similar to this a few months ago. The way I see it is that it says a lot more about them than about you. That’s their issue. Hasta la vista to them.

    • Mac

      You’re right. Earlier in the year someone flew into Denver without a scheduled appointment and expected Brad to take a meeting. Crash and burn has never worked
      in any context. Staying clear is the best policy…regardless of themes.

    • Yup!

  • No good deed goes unpunished. Keep doing them anyway

    • deepwatrcreatur

      I’ve taken as much punishment as I can handle.

      • I like to think of myself as rebooting to a new version on every birthday. I just booted up v47. Whenever I do that, I wipe the memory of all the bad deeds.

        • Thats a good idea! I find myself doing that kind of garbage collection (to repurpose a programming term) at least that frequently. Saves a lot of time and energy.

          • I let a lot of stuff go on a regular basis. As I get older, it’s getting easier to garbage collect and dump all the bad stuff.

    • It is my nature.

  • When we carry the pain that comes from some real or perceived injustice, this is how we react to disappointment.

    The challenge is to either not carry that pain, or to curate the feelings we allow to develop from it.

    • Or just let the pain go. β€œIt’s not that I don’t suffer, it’s that I know the unimportance of suffering. I know that pain is to be fought and thrown aside, not to be accepted as part of one’s soul and as a permanent scar across one’s view of existence.” … John Galt, Atlas Shrugged

      • that’s what I meant to not carry the pain, but “letting it go” is a better framing.

  • Dear Brad,

    You have always been responsive and very kind even though we never met.

    Thank you and Merry Christmas,

  • Wow! I get some doozies myself, but not every day and nothing like that. AND I probably deserve some of them – I’m assuming you don’t. Keep up the good work.

    BTW, I’m sending you an email later today myself – but I’ll be nice. πŸ™‚

    • Big smile – looking forward to yours!

      • Just hit send. I was as nice – and as brief πŸ™‚ – as I know how to be.

  • You’re missing the important thing here: He sent an email to a VC. The more emails you send to VCs, the better your chances of raising money are.

    • I completely disagree with this. Sending cold emails to VCs is a very low probability strategy. Then, following up with a “you suck you asshole” type of email shifts it to zero.

      • I’m sorry you have to encounter this kind of thing so regularly. I’m glad you are able to keep up what looks like a very positive attitude despite it.

        I also hope you don’t have to encounter it much in person, although I recently met somebody who worked for a startup in Boulder sometime in the last several months. Innocently remarking that I read your blog, I was taken aback by his vituperative response that included a recounting of the last time he spoke to you in person, which apparently featured language something like the email example you give here. I really hope you don’t have to encounter that kind of thing very often. The person I am talking about will not be in Colorado again for a while yet, at least.

        • Yikes! There’s part of me that wants to know who it is and part of me that doesn’t. Oh well – I guess that part of me that doesn’t just won.

          • Good. I only know his first name anyway, and I don’t think he’s the type to bother you any further.




  • Bizarre.

  • That very well may be the worst email I’ve ever seen, and I’ve read/gotten some pretty bad ones. When there are so many amazing people/entrepreneurs in this world, no one wants to work with a grumpy/negative/angry individual.

    • It’s definitely NOT the worst I’ve ever gotten. It’s tame in comparison to some.

      • I guess I’m thinking grammatical structure mixed with anger. In terms of pure anger, I’ve definitely seen/gotten worse.

  • James Mitchell

    How many hours a week do you spend on email?

  • Vinod

    While it is easy to say ..”Ignore the mail”… the fact is… such negative energy. stays in the mind (atleast for me) for atleast 2 days. and like oil feeding fire… it builds the negative energy within yourself…..I guess the strategy is to develop a thick skin for mails (or ignore people) such as this…but it is easier said than done…

    I am trying to find my own way out on this issue..and have not been successful

  • This is the internet. For good or worse it gives everybody a voice and that includes many idiots such as this guy! Also why people would burn bridges with others is mind baffling. There is chance that a VC might ignore your first project but would be interested in a future one but by writing such hostile and unwarranted replies, you basically destroyed any hope of this happening!

  • DJ

    Sorry you have to face that so often. In a way it’s sort of a gift because you find out someone’s character. If they react with such hostility to just a simple “no,” how will they behave to their employees, customers and partners?

  • That’s why email is becoming more and more broken. I wish “cold emailing” someone would not go straight to an inbox, but present the soon-to-be sender with a few guidelines from the soon-to-be-receiver,allowing to also enforce a max text length that you’d be willing to read, as well as attachments or not, etc. It’s like when a stranger comes to your house, you have a door, you also may have a visor, or can post a warning for trespassers etc. It would make your life much easier from this aspect.

    Regardless, it’s a big deal you’re doing it and you know it. You literally donate time when it’s such a scarce resource. Have a few VC/investor friends and frankly don’t know of anyone being so accessible as you are.

    $5/cold email for first 100 chars, then SaaS pricing for more? πŸ™‚

    • Mark Gavagan

      Good thinking, Raul. You may have something in your last paragraph for extremely-in-demand people (enough cost to shorten email text and eliminate frivolous ones, but not so high as to be prohibitive for genuine, relevant inquiries from those with few $$.

      • I’d imagine Brad’s overall angle may be affected by something like this, in a way that he may or may not be comfortable with. I can still see perhaps allowing a small donation box next to questions and money could just go towards something special, a community or a cause.

  • That was so funny. To be honest, I think I may tried emailing you in the past, but no response. At least I’m not getting quoted on anything. happy holidays!

    • Sorry if I didn’t respond – I try to respond to everything. What was it about?

      • A project that I’ve been working on. I will send you another email to your foundry group address once it’s up and running.

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  • Can I get an amen?

  • Steven Benjamin

    God loves a sailor, Yet he still must row.
    –Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore

  • Mark Gavagan

    Brad, consider using auto text, since it seems you repeat yourself over and over again when replying to similar email inquiries.

    You could soften the effect of your direct feedback by including links to calming music and kitten videos…

    • In some cases, I use a Yesware ( template. Good suggestion to put some links to calming music in the mix.

  • jimlove

    Nice of you to spend the time to answer despite the occasional attack. I devote as much time as I can to entrepreneurs and start ups as well. Money is nice but good feedback from those who really know is also important.

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