Hey, startups: If you want to get our attention, please don't do this - Technical.ly Philly

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Nov. 4, 2015 10:33 am

Hey, startups: If you want to get our attention, please don’t do this

A case study in how not to pitch the media — and a few helpful pointers, too.

JR, not pleased.

(Photo by Tony Abraham)

We get it: pitching the media can be intimidating. But there’s no reason to be super shady about it.

We got an email Friday morning from a supposed Silicon Valley investor, asking us if we had heard of a Philly social app built by two college students called Lalo.

“I tend to express interest in very early stage ventures (pre-seed, high risk), and saw a prime example of this over at Lemur Labs (www.hellolalo.com),” the person, who called himself “Jim McMeil,” wrote. “If you haven’t interacted with them yet, keep your eye out, I know we are.”

He said he was an associate at Redpoint Ventures and a TechCrunch contributor who was in town.

But when we checked Google for the man, no dice. Redpoint spokeswoman Hadley Wilkins confirmed to us that no one by that name worked at the venture capital firm.

When we asked, “McMeil” sent us this LinkedIn account, which says he works at Redpoint and graduated from Stanford. Just to make sure, we checked with Stanford. Spokeswoman Kate Chesley said they couldn’t find him in the school’s records.

We’ll say that it’s slightly clever. The email piqued our interest. But when we found out that it was a hoax, obviously, we were annoyed.

If you want to get our attention (and not piss us off), what you should do is tell us why we should care about your startup. Do you have a lot of users? Do you have an interesting back story? Did you just quit your job to pursue this full-time and do you want to talk about how the whole situation makes you nervous but you’re making it work? We love this stuff. We’re all ears.

Let’s call this a teachable moment.

Think of us as investors in this way — you have to win us over. If you’re completely new to us, we’re going to be looking for some sort of traction or caliber of “real-ness” to to write about you, whether it’s funding, office space or paying customers. If you don’t have that, you can still convince us with a personal story. Or, like you would with an investor, get someone in the tech scene to intro you. Still: cold emails work, for sure. You just need to give us something more than “My product is going to change the world.”

And don’t pretend to be someone else.

Come on.

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes became Technical.ly's associate editor after reporting on the Philadelphia tech scene for four years. She's co-president of the Asian American Journalists Association Philadelphia chapter and a two-time Philadelphia News Award winner for "Community Reporting of the Year." The Bryn Mawr College grad lives in West Philly, likes her food spicy and wears jumpsuits often.

  • ambiguator

    … but you linked to them anyway

    =P

  • Someone’s been reading one too many “growth hacking” listicles. LOL.

  • I guess it worked because you wrote the article and included the name and link to the website? So i guess it wasn’t a complete fail.

  • jmaj

    They probably should of come cleaned when you guys came back to them but if their goal was press then they achieved it.

    I don’t know what kind of emails or press releases you guys are getting but there’s a lack of coverage on some stuff and it’s weird. The last Startup Roundup was in February 2015 and there were no articles about the 2015 Philly Codefest. I see a few of startups, companies and cool projects at events, meetups and hackathons. Maybe Philly just needs a site focused on startups and tech.

  • Ed Ryder

    Funny!

  • S.Ramirez

    Clever, for sure… and it’s something the interwebs will not forget

  • JB-ZR1

    Morons – they kind of insulted your intelligence (or at least tried to) and didn’t think you were astute enough to check them out.

    I sure wish you didn’t mention their name or maybe redacted it somehow. I won’t be clicking on them, but I’m sure some will….

    • Andrew Roberts

      I clicked on them. As I’m sure most people will – then end up being entertained and interested. This is the “Trump” culture we live in, and it works surprisingly well lol

  • Andrew Roberts

    If what they were seeking is press, they got it from you mentioning their name. Embarrassing or not, I think they’re the ones winning here, not the media. What’s the adage? Any press is good press?

  • Angela Moyer

    I’m with the jury on this one. This is kind’ve genius in a way.

    You yourself say getting press is like going after investors – it’s hard work. It takes time. And it takes connections. As a small startup, they don’t have time and they don’t have connections. They’re in the thick of it all scraping for attention. Sure, they may not have a ton of traction, or office space, or paying customers….but that’s the issue with Technical.ly as a whole. You focus on the larger ventures in Philly and not the small creative ventures looking to make a large impact (I think I’ve read more articles about R.J. Metrics in the past month than startup articles in the two years I’ve been following Technical.ly Philly).

    This story has been shared 100+ times, and I’m 99.9% sure if they sent you a ‘cold email pitch’ you wouldn’t have wrote about them. As a reporter it’s your duty to swallow your pride, remain professional, and brush this off.

    So in my opinion, they won. They knew you’d trace back the sources and you fell for it. And they got what they were looking for.

    P.S. Maybe this is a wakeup call to Technical.ly as a whole. I agree with @disqus_WvYMuIobCQ:disqus , maybe it’s time to have a greater presence at startup events in the city and not cuddle up to articles on the almighty Comcast.

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