The Startup Gurus or In Defense of Jason Calacanis

Last week, in an attempt to make a point, and in a lame attempt at humor, while making said point, I took cheap, but funny, at least funny to me, but probably not quite as funny to Jason, shots at Jason Calacanis. Let me apologize for one thing, as Startup Gurus go, Jason Calacanis is one of the best.

The reason I took issue with Jason in that blog was questioning the value of a $500, four-hour meeting promoted to teach people how to become professional angel investors (see post here). Jason good-naturedly engaged in the dialogue and showed his metal. He displayed a sense of humor, a sense of self, he acted consistent with his public display of ego. He didn’t cower and pretend he was above criticism. He defended himself and didn’t block the messenger.

The difference between a Jason Calacanis and phony Startup Gurus like Jonathon Perrelli is that Jp’s self-image doesn’t match his public display of ego. He knows he’s a fraud. He knows his actions are indefensible so instead of engaging and responding to criticism he closes his ears. Jason’s value includes his network of contacts, success in investing, and thoughtful content which makes Jason the real deal while the Perrelli’s of the world are clownish pretenders.

Check out this list of Startup Gurus graded in separate buckets and listed in alphabetic order within categorical buckets:

  1. The Real Deal
    • Steve Blank – Thought Leader, Author, and Blogger – Blank is recognized for developing the Customer Development method that launched the Lean Startup movement. Blank writes and teaches about Customer Development and the Lean Startup method. He is an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford; lectures at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, and is a senior fellow at Columbia University.
    • Jason Calacanis – The founder and CEO of, a real-time mobile news app with the mission of being the world’s best news product. Calacanis is a serial entrepreneur and “professional” angel investor in over 70 startups, including the first round of Uber. Since 2009, Calacanis has been the host of the popular podcast “This Week in Startups.” Check out his blog here.
    • David Heinemeier Hansson better known as DHH –  is a Danish programmer and the creator of the popular Ruby on Rails web development framework and the Instiki wiki. He is also a partner at the web-based software development firm Basecamp. He contributes to the blog Signal V. Noise with Jason Fried and others. Check out his podcast, rework here.
    • Jerry Neumann – Love his Twitter bio, which reads simply, “Hacker, Backer, Slacker.” Jerry Neumann is the founder of the VC firm Neu Venture Capital. He teaches entrepreneurship at Columbia University’s engineering school. His blog is called Reaction Wheel.
    • Brad Feld –  Investor, Author, and Blogger – Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures. Brad is also a co-founder of Techstars.
    • Jason Fried – The co-founder of Basecamp (formerly 37signals), a Chicago-based software firm, and co-author of the book Rework, which was published in 2010. He also writes Inc.’s Get Real column.
    • Mark Suster – VC at Upfront Ventures and blogger at Both Sides of the Table. His writing style is very approachable and sensible. I’m told by many who work with him, in person he’s abrasive and egotistical… in other words, he’s the prototypical VC.
    • Fred Wilson –  a venture capitalist since 1987. He currently is a managing partner at Union Square.  His excellent blog can be found at AVC.
  2. The Real Deal but Not Active Enough
    • John Backus – Is the father of Fortran! Seriously, he invented Fortran while working at IBM but that John Backus has nothing to do with this John Backus. Our John Backus is a DC-based VC for over 20 years. John is a VC at PROOF VC, an innovative departure from traditional Venture Capital. John’s occasionally contributes to the New Atlantic Ventures Blog. and other business periodicals including PE Hub and the Huffington Post. Come on John, DC needs a guy to write consistently in one place where we can find it.
    • Fakegrimlock – Fakegrimlock is a robot dinosaur and he used to light up the tech world. Today, he’s going the way of all the dino’s… he’s almost instinct. To find out more about him, I’ve written about him here. Check out his twitter, his blog, and this:
    • Don Rainey – Don is a Venture Partner at Grotech, who used to be based in DC and left town for North Carolina three or four years ago. He stopped writing years ago because he felt that others did a fine job and his voice wasn’t needed. WRONG! Don! I miss your posts and these kids coming up in today’s startup world could use your wisdom and wit (find his old posts on Business Insider here, his personal Blog VC in DC here, and beg him to start posting again by tweeting at him here).
  3. Dangerous Clownish Empty Headed Self-Promoting Blatherers of Bunk
    • Evan Burfield – Failed Community Leader, Failed Founder, Successful Purveyor of Bullshit… no link. Just ignore him (check here for context).
    • Jason Feimster – A liar and a fake, this joker claims to be a VC… he’s not. He claimes to be an entrepreneur… if he is one he’s a joke of one. Plagiarizes from others. If Jason ever had a valuable thought it would die of loneliness (see posts).
    • Jonathon Perrelli – Failed VC, Failed Accelerator Operator, Successful Pretend-preneur. Jonathon has the unbounded imagination of a child, the discipline of a spoiled two-year-old and the ability to competently execute a simple plan like hunting wabbits as Elmer Fudd with a lobotomy on crack. Perrelli is the perfect example of the saying, it is easier to give advice than to follow it. Check out how well his 5-year old liquid Pez dispenser startup is doing. Five years and over five million dollars in funding and no revenue or product but some great parties!
    • Paul Singh – No longer a partner in 500 Startups for some reason and fired by his Limited Partners in his own fund, Crystal Tech Fund, hated by his investors in his crappy startup disruption that was based on his stupid theorem that startups were like baseball. Paul’s never made it to first base. He’s struck out and is now traveling the company to tell people who don’t yet have internet access that he’s the real deal (check this out).
    • Ross Blankenship – A know nothing multi-failed businessman and pure conman. Ross is the John Snow of Startups… You Know Nothing Ross Blankenship.
  4. Charlatan Hacks & Convicted Criminals
    • Kyle Sandler – Former founder and editor of Nibletz, possibly the worst of the Tech Rags. Nibletz made DCInno look like a Pulitzer candidate. But alas Kyle is serving a six-year prison sentence.