Start-Up CEO Tweets Stiletto in Mouth

cortellheels Start Up CEO Tweets Stiletto in Mouth

The PR Verdict: F (“Full Fiasco”) for tech entrepreneur Jorge Cortell.

Another week, another case of a tech start-up CEO going full Neanderthal on Twitter with witless, sexist comments – and tweeting from a business conference with hungry VCs, no less. This week’s Caveman award goes to Jorge Cortell,  CEO of healthcare startup Kanteron Systems and a self-described “privacy hacktivist” who doesn’t seem to see the value in keeping his private opinions to himself.

At an event in Manhattan last week, where high-powered venture capital firms were pitching their quals and services to entrepreneurs, Cortell tweeted a pic of a female attendee in stiletto heels with the comment: “Event supposed to be for entrepreneurs, VCs, but these heels (I’ve seen several like this)… WTF?” and the hashtag “#brainsnotrequired.” Amid the ensuing uproar, Cortell said he was simply commenting on the unhealthy height of the heels and the wearer’s ignorance, not gender. “Perhaps a man was wearing those.”

Rrrright. And lack of “culture fit” is why there aren’t more women in tech. Cortell defended and repeat-tweeted his nonsense argument until Twitter temporarily suspended his account. Valleywag and The Wall Street Journal picked up the exchange, assuring Cortell his place on the Tech-Sexist wall of shame.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Cortell, who has done his industry no favors in breaking from its frat boy image.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep personal opinions out of your business dialogue. You are what you tweet. Never tweet anything you wouldn’t be prepared to say publicly before an intimate audience of, say, several thousand people – one that includes potential investors and customers, the media, your competitors and detractors, people who don’t look like you. Silicon Valley and its enablers are still a long ways off from penalizing “tech-bros” stuck in a frat-boy mindset of their college years, but that day will come. Better to stay ahead of this curve. If your product promises to change the world, aspire to do the same.

Tech Founder’s Top 10 List Hits Bottom

pshih Tech Founders Top 10 List Hits Bottom

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for start-up founder Peter Shih.

In this week’s edition of “Rich Tech Start-up Founders Behaving Badly,” enter 1) Peter Shih 2) a micro-blogging site and 3) a really bad idea. Shih, who co-founded Celery, a well-funded payments start-up, decided to take to his Medium page with a Top 10 list of what he dislikes about San Francisco, where he moved from New York at the request of his backers. Among his pet peeves in the City by the Bay: the public transit system, the weather, homeless people, cyclists, and women who don’t measure up to his standards of pulchritude. (Shih eventually deleted the expletive-laden post, but it is viewable here.)

All in derisive fun, Shih claimed, but San Franciscans didn’t see it that way. They unleashed a Shih-storm of criticism at the startup “bro,” who managed to showcase in his listicle just about every abhorrent stereotype of the Silicon Valley parvenu – bratty, entitled, self-involved, and tone-deaf.

To Shih, the blowback hit below the money belt, with attacks aimed also at his start-up. “Hate all you want,” he wrote in his first attempt at damage control. “But please stop bringing my company into this.” His proper mea culpa came over the weekend. Contrite to a fault, it did little to quell the ire, reading as if the prevailing cooler head was someone other than Shih himself.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Peter Shih, for running his mouth like a high schooler on the playground, not an entrepreneur with a business he’d like to see succeed.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Sarcasm rarely fits a business model. And when that business is your start-up, forget that you ever had an identity of your own. Shih embarrassingly lost sight of these two imperatives, as well as a third (at least): Have a good idea? Run it by someone. A brainstorm? Run it by three. And please, if you want to write something that shows you’re funny, do it on a napkin and put it in your pocket. Shih proved once again that 1) PR advisers and 2) grown-ups belong on the Top 10 list of “Things a Start-up Needs.”