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This article was published on November 21, 2008 Founder Puts Foot in Mouth Founder Puts Foot in Mouth
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Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos, designing, listening to good music and making lurrrve.

After the awful news of the suicide live on streaming site yesterday, there has obviously been much discussion across the web. Tom Davis, Founder of YCombinator startup TicketStumbler, took it upon himself to post what can only be called a highly inappropriate joke on YCombinator’s Hacker News site.

It started with this message (I have intentionally not re-posted here) which immediately caused large scale condemnation from other members of the site. For those of you who aren’t regular visitors to Hacker News, comments work similarly to how Digg‘s do – other members can vote comments or up or down. One member commented that they would not be using in the future and as you can see below, a number of other members agreed.

Approximately 7 hours later Davis makes a public apology, which can be read below:

I would like to take a moment to publicly apologize for what I said in the thread. If you’ve decided to hate me forever, haven’t read it, or simply aren’t of the opinion that it’s a big deal you may stop reading now.

Upon returning home, I read a message from Dan (my co-founder) stating that, in hindsight, he felt it was a bad thing to say and, quote, “I feel sick to my stomach.” I knew then that no matter how serious I felt the infraction was, I had try my damnedest to clear it up.

First off, I’d like to state that I take full responsibility for what I wrote. Even if it’s a single person, I do not want anyone to think negatively of Dan, TS, YC, or anyone else they may feel was tangentially involved.

I realize that I essentially made two mistakes here,

1. Instead of expressing my view of the article in question properly, I instead made an inappropriate joke.

2. I did this without considering how someone’s views of me could affect their views of those connected to me.

To those of you who were offended, I am sorry. I have a history of complaining about poor comments/submissions to HN and I have since made one that I should be complaining about. Not only did it contribute no meaningful dialogue to the discussion, it was not in the spirit of this community. I consider HN one of the last bastions of social news discussion and it was quite wrong of me to tarnish that.

In a frail attempt to justify my initial comment, I posted a follow-up. A couple of members got the point I should have made in the first place, but at that point I still considered myself in the right and I once again made a horrendous ass of myself. I should have realized by that point that I was obviously not in the right and an apology was in order. I wish I could apologize for my bullheaded nature, too, but I don’t think I’ll be fixing that anytime soon.

I hope that you do not feel negatively about our company; one that I work on each day because I want to make it better for our users. And, if nothing else, please do not think poorly of Dan, YC, or anyone else. If you want to hate someone, please simply let it be me; I’m much better adjusted to it. Seriously. If you want me to never contribute here again just say the word, if that will be sufficient for you to absolve everyone else.

P.S. I post this as a submission because it’s slightly less likely to be destroyed instantly.

I think most people will agree Davis was clearly joking – though it was clearly distasteful, inappropriate and far too soon. In addition, considering he presents himself as one of the two founders of the company, he should have known better.

I do have some empathy for the guy because we all say something stupid sometimes. I don’t believe he meant to cause offense and he probably thought he was being quite witty/amusing – clearly the joke was on him. Irrespective, if you believe that “all press is good press” then this may turn out to be a winner for the startup… in case you’ve forgotten.

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