There are two worlds of DC Tech, The Real World and the Bizaro World.
The press, are naturally attracted to the Bizaro World where up is down, black is white, and fantasy rules the day. At no time was this more evident than in this past Friday’s post by Washington Business Journal’s (WBJ), Bill Flook in which Bill glorified what many from the Real World called just another spammer. I can only hope that Flook's tongue was firmly planted in his cheek while penning this peculiar piece.
With Bill's article Bizaro World and the Real World collided. While the Real World, back channel emails went wild with laughter and scorn on the utter buffoonery of it all, the Bizaro World flit off like little tinkerbells with Facebook Likes and attaboys posted by wannabe business people and sycophants. Publicly the Real World was quiet, yet in Real World back rooms there was hysterical laughter, ridicule and scorn.
When the press write articles about a boring Real World subjects like Canvas CEO, James Quigley, who according to Crunchbase raised $11M from investors that include Osage Partners and Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, for some reason the story hardly resonates. It goes unnoticed in Bizaro World. While the Bizaro Folks are beating their chests and yelling at the top of their lungs, Quigley is doing and building. Quigley’s has built a rapidly growing, best in class mobile app builder in wide use by SMBs and Fortune 100 customers all over the globe. He’s not some little DC thing, he’s a global thing. He's not a wanabe he's an is.
While the Bizaro World brags about their big time community building, Quigley empowers the members of his growing team to donate software and time to intentional non-profits doing good in the world. Quigley's team does Real World good instead of organizing silly 900 person meetups where Bizaro World ideas are presented to Bizaro World fans as companies and everyone walks away saying that was fun, what did I learn?
While Bizaro leaders who have tried to raise money in this town and failed miserably talk, mentor and teach raising capital, entrepreneurs who actually know how to and have successfully raised capital keep focused on their fiduciary duty to put that capital to work building investor value instead of self promotion.
According to Crunchbase Tom Davidson of Everfi has raised $21M from top Real World startup business thought leaders like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google’s Eric Schmidt, DC’s own Michael Chasen formerly of Blackboard and currently of SocialRadar, and the largest Venture Capital firm in the world , New Enterprise Associates (NEA). Everfi is not one of the top companies of its kind in DC. No Tom and his team have built the top company of its kind in the world.
In less time than one leader of Bizaro world slow rolled his non-startup service company, Tom’s built a real company 10 times the size of the Bizaro Advertising firm that is all the talk of Bizaro World. Yet, you won’t see Tom on the yakity yak circuit. He’s got a company to run and investors to whom he feels accountable. And possibly he’s not as visible because when you are actually building something you don’t have as much time to be talking about building something. When you know your own self worth, you don’t need to seek the attention of adoring Bizaro crowds. Somehow earning the quiet respect of the business men and women from the Real World is enough. Plus his business doesn't do the sexy important work of using social media to open refrigerators of beer, it just makes the world safer for teens and women and families.
The problem with journalists (notice without quotes reserved for Nibletz or InTheCapital there Bill because I consider you a journalist) who cover DC Business like Bill Flook at the Washington Business Journal is the same for the hacks at Nibletz and PandoDaily and even major Network News. James Quigley and Tom Davidson don’t make crazy outrageous press-worthy boasts. They’re business people and not entertainers. The build profitable fast growing enterprises and yet their stories don't sell soap.
The issue with the tech press is the same thing that’s wrong with the local press, the big stories about Genocide in Africa taking place to people who don’t look or talk like us are not as ‘newsworthy’ as the gruesome murder on U Street. The national press and the tech press and the local press have a fiduciary duty to their investors and their advertisers to garner eyeballs and sell soup. And Bizaro garners a hell of a lot more eyeballs than real. Just like fiction does better in the box office than documentary.
When I write about a company like Canvas or Everfi, I get 200 hits, when I write the salacious story about the buffoonery at TroopSwap, I get thousands of hits. When I write about an Everfi that has grown since 2008 from zero to over 300 employees I get yawns compared to writing about a Peter Corbet of iStrategylabs who’s grown his little agency since 2007 from zero to 30 employees.
The conundrum for any news source is the simple question, should I write to make the world a better place or do I write to entertain and attract views. Do I write to make a difference or to turn a profit.
If you’re reading to learn how to run a business, perhaps you should concentrate on real business from the Real World if you’re reading for laughs perhaps you should read about the 30,000 spam mails from the mailbox zero-seeking leader of Bizaro world whose little advertising agency doesn’t even qualify for the Washington Business Journal’s own top 20 Advertising Companies List in a business backwater, non-advertising-hub town like DC.
Hey Bill Flook, you know I love your work, but I’ve heard Bizaro World’s cheezy self-promoting chest beating over and over again and while entertaining these stories are full of empty calories. I’d really like to learn more about Chris Laughlin who runs the top Advertising Firm in DC, the $81M per year LM&O firm. It’s ironic that there are at least 20 advertising firms, according to WBJ that out earn the lead cheerleader for Bizaro World. Perhaps that’s because they spend their time promoting customers and not themselves. Perhaps that’s why these firms are successful in the Real World because they don’t have time for Bizaro.
Perhaps we prefer entertainment to enrichment, empty calories to meat. Yet the Real World of DC Tech keeps going and growing... even if you don't care to read about it.