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

by jeffhilimire 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.

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