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Monday, March 01, 2010

A confession: I was the one who came forward about the Macbook Air

Daniel Brusilovsky recently asked the founder of a startup for a Macbook Air and offered coverage in exchange. That founder was me, the CEO of Divvyshot. I came forward to Mike at TechCrunch.

For the record, Daniel never received any compensation from Divvyshot.

While reading this keep in mind how easy it is to look back at the events that transpired and judge the participants. Hindsight is 20/20. Mike should have never hired Daniel; Daniel should have known better; I should have made it clearer to Daniel that this wasn't OK. Trust me, it's a lot harder to have that kind of clarity when all this is happening around you.

Alright, here's my story:

Daniel came to me about Air while writing this article. He wrote the article in "real time" while interviewing me. It was in this context that he told me a friend of mine (a guy I went to college with) bought him an iMac in exchange for an article. Daniel told me that the "cover story" for the iMac was that he had received it as a gift for his birthday. I don't know exactly what their agreement was as I wasn't there.

When Daniel told me about the iMac, he mentioned that he needed a new laptop and that he would cover Divvyshot's upcoming announcements in exchange for a new Macbook Air. I was stunned and responded with something like "Haha, we'll talk about it later." I hoped the issue would be dropped after that interview but over the coming weeks Daniel continued to bring up the Air.

My reaction was always "we can do this, but not right now." That was a mistake - I should've just said no. Instead it took me over a week of struggling with the issue before coming forward to Mike at TechCrunch. I'm the first to recognize that I should've handled this differently.

After each conversation I hoped Daniel would drop the idea of an Air. This did not happen. Daniel was very persistent. Every time I came up with a reason why I couldn't do it now, Daniel had an answer about how he could make it work.

At this point, it was clear to me that I was in a tight spot. I felt like I had to bring it to Techcrunch's attention but I didn't want to make an enemy out of Daniel. Since I did not want to go public about this, I feared that he would disparage me to others without them realizing his true motivations. To Daniel's credit, he has not done this (to my knowledge). I think Daniel recognizes his mistake and is simply trying to put this issue behind him. I regret that this post might make it more difficult for Daniel to do that.

I decided that I had to bring this to Mike's attention and that I would ask him to be as private about the matter as possible. I asked him to only bring up the iMac (which Daniel had already received) and to keep my identity confidential.

I have great respect for Mike and Heather at Techcrunch. Of everyone involved in this issue, the guys at TechCrunch are the only ones who are beyond reproach. It is easy to hate on TechCrunch for a lot of things but this is not one of them.

By coming forward to Techcrunch, I put myself in a very vulnerable position. They made it clear to me that they appreciated that I came forward and gave them a chance to handle the issue. They treated me with respect, kept my identity confidential (at my request), handled the situation immediately, and, probably most important of all, were as honest and public as possible (despite knowing the "knee-jerk" reaction many of their haters would have).

Why are you coming forward now?

On February 5th, Jason Calacanis posted some thoughts on the Techcrunch "extortion" story.

I found his article insightful and well written. Wanting to reach out to someone about the issues I've been struggling with, I emailed him and confessed my involvement. That was a HUGE mistake.

Jason Calacanis forwarded my email to Loren at 1938media. It has come to my attention that Loren seems to hold some sort of grudge against TechCrunch. Not exactly the guy you can hope will provide unbiased coverage.

I don't know why Jason would forward my email to Loren given its private nature. The more I learn about Jason and Loren, the clearer their malicious intent becomes.

Loren has not responded to my attempts to reach out to him. Instead, he now seems to be threatening Divvyshot and the other parties involved in this ordeal; forcing me to go public with my story:

Did you mess up?

I should've made it immediately clear to Daniel that this was not OK. Instead it took me well over a week to finally bring the issue to Mike's attention. That was my mistake - I definitely messed up here.

There is no way I would've been able to actually buy Daniel an Air if for no other reason than the fact that I had consulted my brother and girlfriend and they would've simply prohibited me from buying it. I am very lucky that I had them in my life to make sure I didn't do something I'd regret later.

For those of you who are judging me, know this: I have thrown my life into Divvyshot for the last year. I've personally invested close to $100,000 into the company. I would probably give anything I have to see it succeed. Other than a happy and fulfilling relationship with my girlfriend, there's nothing I want more. This has probably been one of the most difficult situations I've ever been in. I let my passion for this product cloud my judgement. Again, I'm very lucky to have loving and supportive people in my life that helped me do the "right thing."

Why do you know Loren learned about this from Jason?

Simple, Jason Calacanis is the only person who knew the details that Loren now knows.

Why are you standing up for Techcrunch?

I'm sure Loren will accuse me of defending Mike in order to protect my own interests.

I have no real reason to defend anyone at Techcrunch. Techcrunch has written two articles about Divvyshot and does not regularly cover us. I don't ever expect to ask Techcrunch to write about Divvyshot again.

I have no reason to portray TechCrunch in an unnecessarily positive light.

Honestly, the way they handled the situation sharply contrasts with the way Jason and Loren are handling it. My sole advice for other startups: deal with them at your own peril.
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