Over the past few months Amen has been lucky to receive a lot of favorable, critical and honest German press coverage. We are very grateful to the amazing people at Spiegel, Welt, Zeit and the diligent bloggers at Techcrunch, netzwertig, deutsche startups, TechBerlin and Silicon Allee and to our amazing growing community of users.
However, I was recently irritated by the unprofessional negativity and “journalistic” methods of some others, particularly a guy called Joel Kaczmarek at Gründerszene who was willing to sacrifice good relations and journalistic standards for a cheap scoop.
Prior our launch at TechCrunch Disrupt in September, Joel called and threatened to publish screenshots of the service unless we gave him an exclusive interview. Joel was aware that we were under embargo from Tech Crunch and published material would result in our disqualification. Joel refused to back down despite our offer to do a background story and giving him a beta invite. His willingness to sacrifice a start-ups’s launch strategy that the team has been working towards for months and seriously hurt a company for a couple of extra clicks is outrageous. In 10 years of building companies I’ve never seen anything quite like this.
As his attacks continue until this day it seems clear to me that his personal vendetta against Amen sits on a level barricaded from the realm of rational discourse. Therefore I have to advise fellow entrepreneurs against working with this publication and with this individual.
Sure, we banged our own drum a bit - that’s what startups do, and have to do. We made a lot of noise about Amen, but it was never at someone else’s expense. We believe the attention we drew was a boon to the burgeoning Berlin ecosystem, attracting international investors and media.
As many reading this will know deeply, building a company is tough. It’s a lot easier to criticize a startup on paper than it is to live day-in-day-out, building, failing, learning, building. Entrepreneurs and small teams are constantly juggling never-ending to-dos and fighting to fulfill their own goals and deadlines.
The Berlin tech community is small and we need one another. My friends and fellow entrepreneurs at SoundCloud, Gidsy, Readmill, Team Europe, 6Wunderkinder and Rocket Internet have all been helpful and inspirational to us in different ways. All of these people are amazing entrepreneurs who have much more in common than they might think. Innovation happens on many levels and we still have a long way to go to establish a truly entrepreneurial climate in Germany.
To be forced to fend off senseless attacks in addition to running a company is a pointless drain of resources. It is also an embarrassment to the community and detrimental to the ecosystem. Journalists and startups are components in a symbiotic relationship. We don’t want to be at odds with one another, nor should startups harbor resentment for one another. We are all fighting on the same team.
Destructive behavior like Joel’s or debates about copycats are not helpful. Everyone should be able to bang the drum for themselves and their service, but not at someone else’s expense.
This whole thing reminds me of the state of the hip-hop scene at the beginning of the nineties in which people were killed over East Coast vs West Coast. That didn’t get anyone anywhere but with a cap in their ass or in jail. At Amen, we want to spend our energy on our awesome community and in building our product, not fight off malicious journalists or harbor grudges.
So let’s toss the negativity out the window, concentrate on kicking ass, help each other out and make Berlin the BEST startup city in the world.
- Felix Petersen
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