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Rejection Letter - Too Harsh?

I just replied to an email thusly -

> You may fit, or know someone who does,
> the profile of my search for a cofounder.
> [lots of “ideas” snipped]

[name withheld],

I wrote a blog post a while back that you should read:

As far as I’m concerned, good ideas are a dime a dozen, and I find requiring any kind of NDA before talking about them to be mildly offensive. As someone who can execute on software, I have people looking to “partner” all the time, and I find very few of them have anything to offer other than an “idea”. If I’m going to partner with anyone they’re going to have to pony up some tangibles up-front – an existing customer-base, money so that I can feed my family while working on their idea, deep domain knowledge of the target market, a complementary skill (such as graphic design), etc.

Also, I find software patents to be extremely offensive, and will not work with anyone associated with them. Thus, I’m betting our personalities and motivations aren’t a good fit.

Finally, you should read this post by Guy Kawasaki:

Your proposal had at least a few of these.

Sorry to be so harsh, but I’m just not impressed. To be constructive, here are three suggestions:

1. Stop worrying about ideas so much, and instead focus on building tangibles you can use to make them a reality – skills, money, etc.

2. Embrace the open source mentality, starting with learning why software patents are an awful idea, and then staying far, far away from them.

3. Don’t publish things in Word format. It’s a complete turn-off to any geek worth his salt.

Was I too harsh? Are other people getting “offers” like the one I’m sure you can extrapolate from this email? How do you reply?


Amy Hoy

I don’t think you’re too harsh. Really, you’re doing the guy a favor by telling him these things, whereas I am totally impolite and just ignore them totally. :)

Especially the guy who started off his pitch by talking about “how expensive it is being a woman,” with all those hair appointments and bottles of “product” and crap, and then pitched a “tripadvisor meeting citysearch mashup”. That one made me equal turns puzzled and furious.

Of course, now you’re making me feel guilty instead of feeling snide as I have before. Could I, uh, repurpose this blog post as a template so I can be almost as polite as you instead of a silent jerk? ;)

Nathaniel Talbott

Wow – and I thought I got some weird ones… hair appointments, huh? Where do people come up with this stuff?

The thing that really gets under my skin a lot of times is that folks approach me very confidently, as though they know what they’re doing, and yet it’s so obvious that they don’t. But I think we all go through that stage of not knowing what we don’t know, and so I try to firmly, gently attack the ignorance and not the person. And sometimes I wonder if it’s worth my time, but then I think of all the folks who’ve spent time on me that I didn’t deserve, and go ahead and do it.

And yes, you’re certainly welcome to repurpose this – I would love it if the meme of spreading cluefulness took off :-)


Good attitude; I commend you. Hopefully people like this will catch on…

I know what you mean though; unwarranted confidence seems to be a necessary precondition for entrepreneurship.