Tuesday, February 17, 2009


This is last week's news by now, but I wanted to give a big shout-out to YCombinator for putting on AngelConf, an event where people who'd like to be angel investors can learn from the experts and VIPs.

This is a good time to be an angel investor: There's no shortage of interesting startups, and valuations are much less frothy than they used to be.

I know that some of you, dear readers, have thought about investing before (you know who you are!). I recommend you attend AngelConf in Mountain View on March 5.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

"I Reject Your Rejection"

I'm reading Lucky or Smart, a book I mentioned here before, by Tripod founder Bo Peabody. It's no Pulitzer prize winner, but it sure has a couple of great anecdotes. Here's one about how confidence and determination go a long way:

I was determined to go to Williams College, one of the world's most selective institutions of higher learning. [...] I didn't have a prayer of getting accepted. I was, after all, a B-student.

And sure enough, I got the thin envelope: the one with no information about when the school starts, or what dorm you're in, or who your roommate will be. Instead, it just contains that nicely worded letter, the one that when you cut through all the flowery language simply says "no".

I needed a plan. The customer had said "no," and the sales process was just beginning. Figuring that the admissions committee of this elite school had probably seen and heard just about everything, I decided to take a bold, direct, and unorthodox approach. I got the telephone number of the assistant director of admissions, a man named Cornelius (Corny) Raiford. I called Corny up and told him:

"Hi, my name is Bo Peabody, and I reject your rejection."

There was a long silence. "Excuse me?" he said.

"I want to go to Williams College," I continued. "And with all due respect, I think the admissions committee has made a mistake. And I'd like to work with you to correct it. I am formally rejecting your rejection. I'm coming to Williams. Not next year perhaps, but at some point. I'm in no rush. I have all the time in the world, and I plan to send an application in to Williams every year until I'm accepted."

There was another long silence. At this point, I figure Corny is either going to play ball with me or transfer my call to the police. Corny cleared his throat and said, "I appreciate your desire to attend Williams. I'm not sure I've ever received a call like this, so let's see what we can do." For the next few months, I worked with Corny to build a yearlong program during which I'd remedy several of the deficiencies (read: B's) he saw in my application. That next year, I re-applied to Williams, and was granted early admission to the class of 1994.