Telling Like It Is

I told a Rob Kalin story yesterday and I am going to start this post with another one. When Rob left Etsy for the second time, it fell to me to tell everyone what was happening at the company’s all hands meeting. I asked Rob what he wanted me to tell the several hundred employees who would assemble to hear the news. Often there is a story concocted about the founder or CEO wanting to step back, take more time with their family, needing a break, etc. And so I wanted Rob to tell me how he wanted this story told.

Rob said “Tell them you fired me. They will know anyway. You might as well tell them the truth.” So that’s what I did, with empathy, respect, and appreciation for Rob and his work. It went well. The team was happy that I was being straight with them. I then handed the stage to Chad who took it from there and has been doing a great job ever since.

I don’t tell that story to bring up old unhappy times. Although it may for some. I tell it because Rob had the courage to allow me to tell it like it is.

And yesterday Chris Poole told it like it is. With a blog post that is simple, honest, and sad. He made the decision that our portfolio company Canvas has failed. Running out of money is always the thing that brings this moment of reality. But so often an acquihire is arranged, or the company is put on mothballs, or you just stop hearing about the company. The story of failure is buried.

I prefer the way Chris did it. We tried, it didn’t work, we failed.

The truth is, as Chris explained in his post, that the first product Canvas was a failure. The pivot to DrawQuest came too late, took too long, and now DrawQuest is a succeeding product inside a failing company. I know that Chris is going to try to find a way to keep DrawQuest going. It’s got 400,000 people who use it every month and 25,000 people who use it every day. But it has not monetized particularly well and the Company hasn’t found a good way to inject virality into the product so it can spread without expensive marketing dollars. If you know of a good home or a good steward for DrawQuest, email me. There is a contact link in the footer of this blog that will send me an email.

Chris says he is going to blog about the things he learned from this experience. Chris hates writing. But I think he will do this, as therapy for him, and as a post mortem for him and everyone else. So pay attention to his blog, subscribe to his RSS, or follow it on Tumblr.

Like his post yesterday, I expect Chris will continue to tell it like it is.