Everyone has a right to their opinion…unless, of course, their opinion is absurd and ignorant.

by Jeff Hilimire on April 24, 2014

I remember vividly one time I was arguing with my father about the space station. I can’t remember the exact argument but I do remember that I didn’t know what I was talking about and was going only on my perception, but there was no way I was going to back down. I was dug in and had my opinion and be damned with the facts. That’s the feeling I got when I read Michael Tavani’s Creative Loafing interview. The only difference is, I was five years old. Michael knows better.

I should start by saying that I consider Michael to be a friend. He’s one of the advisors on my Advice For Good initiative and I’ve been a big supporter of his and David’s efforts at Scoutmob. Everything I’ve ever written about him on this blog has been supportive. So, I’m a fan and a friend. And I hope we still are after this. But the things he says about the Atlanta Tech Village and the people busting their asses there are just flat wrong. Sorry Michael, I can’t let you make these statements without a rebuttal.

In the article, Michael says:

“…if you went to Atlanta Tech Village, 60 percent of the people there would be exactly what I think what you were trying to describe with me. They wear a blazer with their t-shirt underneath with the company logo and they’re like, “Hey man, let me tell you about my SaaS application.”

“I’m not like, “Hey, lets build this SaaS app, I see an opportunity to build this thing and sell it in two years and make a ton of money and we’ll either start another one or go to the beach and retire.”

“…you kind of used me as the example of the cheesy startup guy that’s like pitching their business to sell, getting real big and sell and the passion for the company isn’t there.”

“I want to start an consumer incubator that is only focused on the brand and the passion of the product and the craft of the product. Not, “Oh, we saw an opportunity to exploit a market, let’s make a ton of money real quick,” which I think is maybe the bad nature or the negative nature that you were trying to portray. You’ll see a lot of that at Atlanta Tech Village.”

Wow. Let’s take this one at a time.

60% of the people at the Atlanta Tech Village would be wearing a blazer with their t-shirt underneath trying to tell you about their company. Ok. While I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone at the Village wear a blazer with their t-shirt under it in the eight months that I’ve been there, who the F cares? That makes them a douche bag I suppose. Now we’re judging people based on how they dress (when they don’t even dress that way)?

And seriously, they want to tell you about their business…oh, the horror! You’re damn right they want to tell you about their business. They’re putting everything on the line to try to make it a reality! Last I checked, you are the king of talking about your company. I’ve even come to see you speak about your company many times (and written about it). You’re great at it. I guess you’d fit right in with us blow-hards at the Village ;)

They see an opportunity to <GASP> build a business and sell it in two years (no one says they can do it in two years, btw) and make a ton of money and <DOUBLE GASP> do it again or go to the beach and retire. Yep, I’d make fun of people who want to be successful as well. Only, think about this for a second Michael, you’re criticizing the guy who sold his company after FIVE+ years of grinding for $100 million and then put over $20 million into building the Atlanta Tech Village to help the startup community in our city. And if you think he did it because he likes real estate or because he’s making huge margins, well, actually you can’t think that because you’ve been exploring real estate for the last few years and know that couldn’t be the case.

You refer to the people at the Village as “the cheesy startup guy that’s like pitching their business to sell…and the passion for the company isn’t there.” Who are you to say that the people at the Village, or anyone who starts a company, isn’t passionate about it? Yes, you probably care more about the brand of your company than most. So do I. But that doesn’t mean I’m any less or more passionate than anyone else. Why would you, someone with a respected – and loud – voice in our startup community put down such a large group of entrepreneurs? What do you have to gain by doing that?

And are you really putting down someone that starts a business “to exploit a market?” At this point its like you’re just grasping at things to try to mock about the Village.

I just don’t get it. You can talk about the biggest problem in Atlanta’s startup community being that there aren’t enough consumer focused companies, but the reality is that you’re being a great example of the biggest problem with Atlanta by making these statements. For such a small, close-knit city, our startup community is mostly fractured and unsupportive of each other. Instead of constantly mocking the Village and putting down the 500+ entrepreneurs in the building, why don’t you be supportive the way that other people have been with you. Like Jon Birdsong, who recently wrote a great, supportive post about your new initiative even after you had just days before put down the Village where he has his startup.

I’m not going to make assumptions as to why people are throwing stones at the Village. I’d just ask you, why? Why would you continue to attack something that isn’t harming you and is only doing positive things for the Atlanta startup community? And that you haven’t even spent time understanding (and no, as you’ve admitted to me, this doesn’t count)? You have a huge microphone and you’re using it to make a good percentage of our startup community feel like they’re somehow not real entrepreneurs.

  • David Felfoldi

    [grabs popcorn to watch the show]

  • Guest

    Tavani is just another bozo who failed on his face and can’t keep his mouth shut

  • Parker

    Contradicting yourself in the title may not have been the best start to calling someone’s opinion irrational, just sayin

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    This is funny. So I’ve talked to Disqus and this was someone who tried to impersonate another person and stir stuff up. We’ve changed that name to “guest”. However…

    I’m going to leave it up because some people might actually think that I also believe this. I DO NOT. Tavani is great. He’s been a great entrepreneur and someone I enjoy. While I think he’s wrong on his feelings about the Atlanta Tech Village, I don’t want people to think I’m somehow trying to put him down. I just want to change his mind ;)

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire


  • jack

    Now this is Irony. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/failcon-atlanta-2014-tickets-3479397973 Tavani scheduled to speak at ATV 4/26…lol

  • Guest

    Although Tavani comes off very clueless and quite a bit jaded/jealous in the article but it still holds some truth. Atv is about to experience a mass exodus. The chatter in the halls is all about who is leaving and when. The vultures (real estate brokers & ROAM guys) are circling as they have heard of all the problems at ATV about parking issues translating in increased fees of almost 30%+ for some tenants with no parking for guests or visitors. David Cummings goal stated that his goal is to cash flow the building but in commercial real estate that simply is not possible for the first few years unless you take over the building and don’t complete rehab it. David choose to completely rehab the building and build a godforesaken roof deck on the building….like the place needs that. David states that the reason for the high rents are the abundance of open space (almost 50%) in the building which simply does not make sense. As a ATV’er the event space is on a pay to rent basis and most all other areas are for hot desks and kitchen areas. The logic and math just don’t jive. At what cost will this need to cashflow the building take as it will get harder and harder as people get more and more jaded. David clearly has his pet companies and ATV does not promote any ongoing networking within Atv with any structure at all. Surprisingly, for a guy that cares so much about the community, I have yet to see David stop and ask anyone…what does your company do?….maybe thats because he is trying to figure out how to transfer more costs onto the tenant with his ever present slight smirk. It truly is sad that ATV has taken this path and the goodwill is quickly evaporating but in life things change. I know over a dozen firms actively searching for space outside ATV so all that glitters is not gold and the majority of ATV’ers feel as though they have been sold a bill of goods. The timing of this article could not be more on point as ATV is in major crisis mode doing damage control. Just ask anyone at ATV if they are happy and you will soon know the truth. BTW. Does cashflowing the building include having Atlanta Ventures companies paying their fair share or is the goal to have a net zero cost overall. I am sure this post will generate some counter posts but take it from me simply ask anyone from ATV if they are happy and if they are thinking of moving out. Maybe Tavani is trying to turn the knife and score some tenants albeit not a very good way to do so.

  • http://davidcummings.org David Cummings

    Many goods point in here as well as a few pieces of misinformation:
    – Fees for members with offices or suites go up 15% to the Village and the remainder goes to other parking decks (if they choose to drive)
    – The Village is now paying the majority of the cost of MARTA passes for members that choose to ride the train
    – Common area factor includes a number of things you don’t normally think about including phone rooms, conference rooms, community rooms, board rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, elevator shafts, elevator lobbies, hallways, atrium, gym, game room, lounge, rooftop, etc — we’d love to share our floorplans and financials with you so that you can write a blog post about how the math does work out
    – Visitor and guest parking will be available starting in September when the construction vehicles are no longer present (we believe it’s very important to have guest parking in our deck)
    – I believe more than a dozen companies will leave the Village due to charging for parking, and we understand that we’re not going to be the best fit for everyone
    – All members of the Village have no contract through June 1st, so they can leave for an opportunity that’s a better fit
    – All Atlanta Ventures companies pay standard rental rates and are subject to standard parking space rationing (feel free to talk to any of them or come look at our financials)
    – My goal isn’t to engage with every company and understand what each one does. My goal is to help the overall startup community and engage with a small number of members in the building.

    Let me know how I can help and what information I can clarify.

  • Kevin Sandlin

    David covered most of your (“Mr. Guest”) erroneous points in his reply. I’ll take one that he didn’t address: “ATV does not promote any ongoing networking within ATV with any structure at all.”

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Startup Chowdown is every Friday. They just hosted a LIVE video meetup with Brad freaking Feld. The week before, they coordinated a pitch session with the AT&T Foundry. Every other Friday, they invite the Southeast Investor’s Group (SIG) to hear any Village company’s pitch.

    Those are just the ones I can think of, but even if none of these happened at all, guess what? It’s not ATV’s job to create opportunities for YOU to network. That’s YOUR job. You want to network? Create, launch, manage, and deliver your own networking or startup group.

    OK, I’ll take two: “ATV is in crisis mode”? Wow. Because to go there you *might* have to pay for parking? Call the WAHmbulance. Their waiting list begs to differ.

  • AtlantaTechVillage
  • Guest

    Tavani: “I want to start an consumer incubator that is only focused on the brand and the passion of the product and the craft of the product.”

    A lot of good that did Scoutmob. I think Tavani is a great guy as well, but this line of thinking is simply naive, and he should have learned his lesson with Scoutmob. Instead of being ONLY focused on the brand and the passion for the product, perhaps he should have been focused on creating and maintaining a steady stream of recurring revenue so he and Dave Payne wouldn’t have had to lay off 40-50 hard-working people over the past 18 months.

    For three years, Scoutmob turned down numerous opportunities to grow the daily deal part of business in terms of corporate partnerships with well established brands like Moe’s, WholeFoods, and many others. Payne and Tavani scoffed at the idea of “selling out” and partnering with nationwide brands that would help grow the business because it wasn’t good for the “brand”. Well protecting the “brand” cost the company big time because I’m getting weekly emails from Scoutmob to “dust off” that Scoutmob app and get back to eating out!

    In all honesty, if you’re providing a service versus selling a tangible product, do people really give a shit about the brand? The service is what matters, not the brand. In my opinion, the sustainable brand recognition and is dependent the level of service that company provides, and Scoutmob just couldn’t provide that to it’s customers. That’s why the average Scoutmob user used a deal once every 90 days. 90 days! A lot of good protecting the “brand” is doing because they are no longer selling daily deals.

    On top of that, everyone ought to ask Payne and Tavani about the filtering process for determining which businesses are eligible to be on the daily deal app. Eh, I’ll just go ahead and tell everyone…. it’s Yelp. That’s the criteria. In order to be a Scoutmob partner, a business in ATL must have 10 reviews and 3.5 stars. For years I never understood why this was the case. Why would you want to alienate newly opened businesses that won’t achieve 10 reviews for months? Why make Yelp the sole source of truth for a restaurant’s overall success? It’s ludicrous that Payne and Tavani were too brand conscious that they forgot to focus on what it really takes to grow a business…REVENUE!

    Tavani is a great person, family man, and friend. However, I’m sick and tired of hearing this kind of crap. I spent significant time in the ATV, and think what David Cummings is doing should be heralded and followed, not scoffed at…especially by narrow-minded entrepreneurs like Tavani and Dave Payne.

    Funny thing, Groupon started just a little over a year before Scoutmob. They have 10,000 employees while Scoutmob, Shoppe, or whatever the hell they’re calling themselves now has less than 20. Tavani’s scatterbrained ideas should be well thought out before taking action. Is it going to be BeltLine & Co., Switchyards, or “Naiveness”….

  • http://www.We-Get-Around.com Dan Smigrod

    Here are my top 10- reasons why I love Atlanta Tech Village. (I’ve been a member since 10 January 2014).

    1. Serendipity – the Village tag line is Creating Engineered Serendipity (It’s SO true!)

    2. Curated Community – it’s a curated community of passionate, tech entrepreneurs pursing their innovative, big ideas that embody the values of the Village: Be Nice. Dream Big. Pay It Forward. Work Hard. Play Hard.

    3. High-Speed Wi-Fi – rock-solid 150+ up/down with no dead spots in the building

    4. Super-Charged Staff – Village staffers are let’s-make-it happen people

    5. Positive Energy – Village members are super-positive people

    6. Speakers/Education/Workshops/Presentations/Peer Groups – lots of ongoing opportunities to attend Village events and tech events that take place in the Village

    7. Startup Chowdown – every Friday, free lunch for all Villagers. See Serendipity

    8. Mentors – I’m surrounded by a community of seasoned professionals mentors that like helping emerging tech companies.

    9. Fun – it’s simply a fun, energizing place to be a member

    10. Hot Desk Membership – I like paying month-to-month with no deposit nor long-term lease commitment. It’s a brilliant approach to how commercial real estate can work. I enjoy working out of a Village “community room” spaces with others.

    11. Bonus: Introductions – It’s exciting how many Village members offer to make introductions

    David Cummings has given the Greater Atlanta community a huge gift. I’m thrilled, lucky and proud to be a Village member.

    360º Photo Sphere Selfie (wearing a sweater) working out of a community room. I do not own a blazer.

  • Dave Williams

    Everyone pretends too much and what success is about is being real, true to yourself and humble. No one will get you to the top other than yourself but it is great to have the help and support of others vs people pulling you down. The world has enough of them and that is what Atlanta doesn’t need now.

  • http://joshaust.in Josh Austin

    On slashdot.org: Guest = Anonymous Coward.

    There was a lot of negative talk after the parking announcement, but I can not understand how anyone who has actually priced office space in Buckhead can really think ATV is “very expensive”. None of the buildings in that area offer free parking, so it was a nice gesture for ATV to offer it during construction.

    Further, go check the price on the chairs you are sitting on: http://www.knoll.com/product/regeneration-by-knoll

    You could do this sort of research for all the other stuff in the building too (Internet, HIDs, etc..), but the point is that the price of all this stuff starts to pale in comparison to the cost in an entrepreneur’s time. I didn’t think I was going to get into ATV and the costs (time and money) of setting all this up were overwhelming so it was a huge relief to just pay one bill and not have to spend any of my time on it.

    The irony of this nitpicking is that the primary value of ATV is not the office space. If you are going to go out of business because you have to pay for parking, you’ve got bigger problems and lashing out at people isn’t going to fix anything.

    As for networking, I’ve been a member for 6 weeks and in that time I’ve been introduced to every VC in town, several customers, Fortune 500 execs, and the Mayor. I had no prior connection to any ATL Ventures people and my company is just 2 geeks with a very unsexy product.

    You said to ask anyone at ATV if they are happy so I’ll go ahead and tell you that yes I’m happy. If you joined because you wanted David Cummings to kiss your ass, maybe a startup isn’t the best idea for you.

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    Boom: “I’ve been a member for 6 weeks and in that time I’ve been introduced to every VC in town, several customers, Fortune 500 execs, and the Mayor”. Well said.

  • http://www.digitalmarketingspeak.com/ Vlad Gorenshteyn

    Seems like there are two upset people here: Michael & Jeff.

    To Michael, I say: “hey man, ATV are good peoples and they have the right to operate as they want and if they don’t know what equity is, maybe they should find out. Or maybe they do know what equity is but cannot risk trading equity for cash income to feed their family.”

    To Jeff, I say: ” Jeff, take a deep breath. I think Michael didn’t realize how upset you were going to be, otherwise he would have bit his tongue. If I had to ‘guess’… I think Michael is saying that ‘the market’ is saturated with companies that mostly care about making money quick and less so about the consumer. I’d have to agree with Michael. I don’t like it when there is no long-term value plan for the consumer from day 1 of a startup. This model kind of reminds me of real-estate flipping (where no value is added to the property before it’s sold again). That just my opinion but I respect the market, consumer choice to take part in the market, and entrepreneurial freedom to do whatever their MO is.”

    To answer your question why are people “throwing stones at the Village?”…because people like to cut the twig they’re sitting on (refer to Don Sterling comments). Just human nature I guess.

    ~my two cents

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    Thanks for the note, Vlad. The good news is, Michael and I are old friends and thanks to Michael and his video crew, we filmed a make-out session last night at the Village to be aired sometime soon I hope. All is good…

  • http://www.digitalmarketingspeak.com/ Vlad Gorenshteyn


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