September 2009 Archive

GAUNTLET THROWN: IT'S SO ON, NASHVILLE!

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This is big news in my world. Peter LaMotte, an old college friend who lives in DC, has been visiting San Francisco for the last few days. (Pictured here on my DC book tour stop.) Apparently, he's been going around to mutual friends saying that Memphis isn't all that great and Nashville is way better. Now, for those who don't know, I'm a hugely proud Memphian. And for those who don't know, you only like one or the other: Memphis or Nashville. So these are fighting words. (Yes, Meredith, if you are reading YOU HAVE TO PICK.)

Mr. LaMotte and I had drinks tonight with Paul Carr who has not only never been to either, but has never been to the American South before. We decided the only way to settle this was have all three of us go to Nashville for two days, then Memphis for two days, pull out all the most awesome stops and let Mr. Carr decide which is better.

I am so sure I'm going to win that I gave Nashville New Years Eve advantage and the formidable first-city advantage. We'll be doing Nashville December 31 and January 1 and Memphis January 2 and 3. [UPDATE: A terrified Peter tried to weasel out of this whole thing by making seemingly unbreakable New Years Eve plans-- after committing. So we've moved the dates to December 27 and 28 for Nashville and 29 and 30th for Memphis.]

I have EVERY confidence I'll win. There aren't even any surprises. (Although feel free to email me suggestions at sarah(at)sarahlacy(dot)com. I haven't lived there for a decade after all.) Are we going to Graceland? Yes. Al Green's church Sunday morning? Yes. Raiford's? Yes. Rendezvous? Yes. Cozy Corner? Yes. Gus's? Yes. Alex's for late night burgers and wings? Um, yes. There's just no competition. In fact, I'm so confident that I'm actually worried Peter will back out-- hence this post to shame him into staying in and fighting for his city.

That smack talking done, I'm hugely excited about seeing Nashville-- a city I've never had much love for-- through Peter's very enthusiastic eyes. I promise to keep an open mind. I mean, it won't be better than Memphis. But I might like it. I have a feeling it'll be four days none of us will ever forget. Watch out, Tennessee.

Oh Great, Another Mob

As most of you know I was supposed to be Brazil right now meeting with start-ups and writing about them for TechCrunch and my book on entrepreneurs in emerging markets. Loads of South American entrepreneurs I've never met were excited about some Valley coverage and whole dinners and parties were arranged so I could meet as many people as possible. I'd planned this trip for a while, and even spent several months learning Portuguese. I was pumped.

Then, the Brazilian consulates in the United States installed a new computer system, and hundreds of visas that had been approved and promised got stalled for weeks, leaving hundreds of Americans looking to travel to Brazil to spend money and do deals with little choice but rearranging or canceling their trips. I rearranged mine first-- to great hassle and expense-- then when the visa didn't come by the second promised date, I had to cancel the trip.

Since I'd announced on TechCrunch that I was coming to Brazil, I wrote a post explaining why I'd canceled my trip. I criticized the computer "upgrade"-- just as I'd criticize any company that would bring its business to a halt in the name of improvement. And, let's face it, it's not like I haven't spilled tons of ink criticising the US visa system.

I got a ton of sweet personal emails and notes from people saying they were disappointed and hoped I'd come another time. Indeed, I said at the end of the post, I was going to come later in the year, and had started re-arranging my schedule to come in December.

And then a bunch of people went nuts.

I tend to have a knack for unintentionally inciting rabid mobs of anonymous commenters who make all kinds of threats and insults while other people wonder what just happened. But these things blow over, so the worst seemed to be that Arrington had to waste a day deleting disturbing hate speech in the comments and Paul Carr got fodder for his weekly column.

But apparently some of these people were apparently a special kind of crazy. They started targeting my husband. Someone even left a comment on his personal blog on a post about our wedding anniversary. This particular wacko seems to think that his heart-felt post about our married life was a sophisticated attempt at bolstering the "lie" that my visa was held up. I suppose the hundreds of other Americans who couldn't go to Brazil were also part of, um, the world's most boring conspiracy theory? Yeah, I spent thousands of dollars and wasted countless hours for months planning a trip that I never wanted to take all along. How'd you figure it out!?

I've been attacked in Austin, Israel, China and Africa for seemingly innocuous things I've done or written, but no one has ever gone after my husband. Now I'm in a position where he's incensed and scared for my safety and trying to convince me not to travel to Brazil at all, to cut the country out of my book completely. And if you've read some of the comments-- that's not necessarily an over-reaction.

Honestly, what is wrong with people? No one at TechCrunch has stood up for entrepreneurs in emerging markets and criticized the US visa system more than I have. Not only that, but I don't know any US business reporter who spends thousand of dollars of his or her own money to travel to other countries and give amazing entrepreneurs the exposure they deserve. TechCrunch is hardly the end-all-be-all, but a lot of entrepreneurs have wound up getting customers and funding from being written about there.

This whole thing worries me that maybe the premise for this new book is wrong. Not the core premise-- that the greatest opportunity to build the next wave of multi-billion companies is outside the US. I still believe that opportunity is there. And I've traveled enough to see that the talent is there. But when people's families are threatened over a post about burocratic ineptitude, a lot of potential investors, business partners or acquirers will decide maybe that opportunity just isn't worth it. There's a real risk that that opportunity never gets fully realized and that's bad for everyone.

Will I still go to Brazil in December? I don't know. I want to. I have my visa now. But would you go to a country where people were threatening to spit in your face and rape you as soon as you arrive in exchange for, um, you wanting to help their businesses? 

For obvious reasons, comments on this post are closed. Have the cojones to send me an email if you have something to say to me about this topic.

Sarah Lacy’s entertaining and informative tour of the world’s fastest growing economies undeniably proves what we’ve known at Endeavor for more than a decade: that impressive and inspiring Entrepreneurs can truly come from anywhere! In taking us on a whirlwind journey bursting with frenetic energy – matched only by that of the amazing entrepreneurs she meets – Lacy gives us an important glimpse into the future of the global economy – a place where the craziest, high-impact entrepreneurs from anywhere and everywhere set the pace.
Brilliant. Crazy. Cocky.

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An unforgettable portrait of the emerging world's entrepreneurial dynamos Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky is the story about that top 1% of people who do more to change their worlds through greed and ambition than politicians, NGOs and nonprofits ever can. This new breed of self-starter is taking local turmoil and turning it into opportunities, making millions, creating thousands of jobs and changing the face of modern entrepreneurship at the same time. To tell this story, Lacy spent forty weeks traveling through Asia, South America and Africa hunting down the most impressive up-and-comers the developed world has never heard of....yet.

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Srah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is an award-winning reporter who has covered high-growth entrepreneurship for more than fifteen years. She is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of PandoDaily.com, the site-of-record for the startup ecosystem. She lives in San Francisco.

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