Tinder’s Sean Rad made international headlines with his pre-IPO interview disaster, but even that was not the worst blunder of 2015
Before we get to the fun stuff, it is the holiday season and while I do not mind being a Grinch, this week does offer a moment for positive reflection after what has been, in a geopolitical sense, a difficult year.
After the Internet trolled like only it can, people can be forgiven if they believed Lei had made an error — they would, of course, be wrong.
It was a moment of both bravery and humility and should be lauded. I hope more people follow in Lei’s footsteps and work to communicate their product in second or third languages.
To quote Lil’ Wayne: “They drag my name through the mud and I come out clean.”
OK. Enough time spent in Whoville, let’s get our Grinch on.
1. Former Housing.com CEO Rahul Yadav’s vicious email
“Dear board members and investors, I don’t think you guys are intellectually capable enough to have any sensible discussion anymore.”
Sometimes, in sports, there is one superstar, and then everyone else.
In the arena of making an ass of oneself in public we have the ex-head of Housing.com Rahul Yadav followed by, well, nobody.
He displayed a level of arrogance I honestly cannot completely comprehend. It almost reached a point of deserving some bit of celebration for sheer bullheadedness.
First, I think the man deserves a round of applause for taking the time to write it out. This was no off-the-cuff comment said in the throes of passion that immediately ends the fight. No, Yadav sat down and thoughtfully wrote out a vicious email to the people that are, in some respects, his bosses.
The letter is grammatically well put together implying he took the time to copy edit this masterpiece of venom.
The best part? That letter did not get him fired. Sort of. He was allowed to withdraw the letter of resignation but was fired in July anyway.
And as one would expect from a man who signed off that letter with ‘Cheers’, Yadav was anything but contrite afterwards.
At FlipKart’s annual technology event, he scolded the VCs for having the audacity to use Blackberry phones and said startups should not hire married people.
2. Tinder CEO Sean Rad and ‘sodomy’
“’Apparently, there’s a term for someone who gets turned on by intellectual stuff. You know, just talking. What’s the word?’ His face creases the effort of trying to remember. ‘I want to say ‘sodomy?’”
If it were not for one factor — astonishingly bad timing — Rad would get a pass, and the media should take a look in the mirror.
In mid-November, the day before Tinder parent company Match was set to IPO, an interview with Rad was published by the London Evening Standard.
It was an unabashedly terrible interview. Rad’s earnestness towards reporter Charlotte Edwards led to a host of blunders and awkward comments.
But the real hole Rad dug for himself was a story about how a ‘supermodel-hot’ woman wanted to have sex with him and he said no because he is attracted to a woman with brains. Which ended with the unfortunate misuse of the word sodomy.
His interview with London Evening Standard actually elicits a certain degree of sympathy and including Rad’s unfortunate ‘sodomy’ quote was a practice in ‘gotcha journalism’ by Edwards.
Rad was clearly fumbling for a different word and Edwards could have reasonably asked for clarification but decided the quote was too good to pass up.
That being said, even the CEO of a dating-app synonymous with casual sex needs to avoid certain topics ahead of an IPO – and an awkward story about turning down supermodels is certainly on that list.
But the Match IPO popped and the story unlikely to harm Tinder’s user numbers so the real takeaway from the interview is Rad needs a new publicist.
3. Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins’ ruthlessness
“I’m going to be ruthless. I feel we have to move faster, faster, faster.
If someone says they need 30 days to complete a project, I’ll say they’ve got three weeks. They say 18 months, I say nine. I dunno why – it just feels good. We have to move faster, we have to simplify things, and be clear about what we’re doing. It’s hard being simple in this complex world.”
It is fine to have a brutal management style and demand more from your employees — but good luck finding quality talent.
The actual reason this quote is so terrible is the “it just feels good” sprinkled like garnish on a Nightmare Before Christmas decoration. It turns the quote from ‘having high standards’ to ‘being a sociopath’.
While the Yadav and Rad quotes are worth a good tease, Robbins’ willingness to sacrifice his employees’ well-being because “it feels good” is dark.
It is fine to push oneself to the limit. Startups are notorious for long hours and gruelling work, but the lifestyle is fuelled by a mix of passion, lack of resources and teamwork.
Robbins has the feel of a man who would make an employee work on Christmas on a whim.
If a developer or business manager has the talent for Cisco he/she should have no problem getting a job elsewhere. As an employee, if I read that quote, I’m walking into the office of the latest, greatest startup and dropping my resume.
4. Everything that comes out of the mouth of Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart
“I have not set foot in a grocery store in years. Nevermore will I bumble through endless confusing aisles like a pack-donkey searching for feed while the smell of rotting flesh fills my nostrils and fluorescent lights sear my eyeballs and sappy love songs torture my ears.”
To be frank, I can’t tell if I love this or hate it.
Rhinehart is a master of hyperbole. It took me some time to find four moments worthy of “worst gaffe of 2015″ but Business Insider has a list of “31 controversial quotes from Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart”. Thirty-one! It probably took 15 minutes to compile. Rhinehart is a gold mine.
Some fantastic moments of Rhinehart rhetoric include:
- “I think the best technology is the one that disappears. Water doesn’t have a lot of taste or flavour, and it’s the world’s most popular beverage.”
- “I was 6 or 7 and I guess my mother was serving salad. I was looking down at a plate with these leaves on it. I could look outside and see leaves on the trees, and it just seemed a little weird. It seemed a little primitive — like something an animal would do.”
- “Eating, to me, is a leisure activity, like going to the movies, but I don’t want to go to the movies three times a day.”
The substance of what he says speaks to the ‘can tech go too far?’ debate.
If Soylent was the perfect product, and guaranteed an extra 10 years of life, would people choose it over traditional food? I imagine some would, but for a foodie like myself, a lifetime without spicy, sweet or savoury is not worth 10 years of living.
I am not inherently anti-Soylent. It seems like a great health and dieting product and could work wonders for the sick and elderly. But Rhinehart’s quotes are so over the top it turns me off to the entire company.
When he says, ‘the smell of rotting flesh fills my nostrils’, he is talking about a grocery store. A bleeping grocery store. Sometimes, in life, it is OK to relax a bit and accept the fact that a grocery store is a grocery store. Nothing more. Nothing less.
So, Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year from e27. Hopefully 2016 brings a host of interesting tech developments and revolutionary ideas. However, most importantly, let’s all cross our fingers that Rahul Yadav finds, and leaves, another job.
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