That dreaded first impression…you only get one shot

14 Jan

Brad Feld penned a quick post recently on the inanity of certain wanna-be (or, perhaps, shouldn’t-a-been or never-will-be) entrepreneurs who insist on sending out ‘hey, I’m leaving my job at BigCompany to launch my startup and change the world’ emails…….from their BigCompany corporate email accounts! Hello? Is the caller there?

Brad lays out his case for the abuse that should be heaped upon said offenders, so no sense rehashing it here. My only rejoinder in this space is that I wish to go one better. Mr. Feld and others have opined that with the proliferation of free email accounts, sending any sensitive emails from corporate accounts is positively inexcusable. Little argument there. However, if it is the sender’s intention (as is often the case) to be taken seriously by a possible future investor, partner or employee, a free email domain just doesn’t cut it anymore in 2008.

The truth of the matter is that investors (and, to a similar extent, partners and potential employees) want to see real commitment. Let’s face facts: free domain email accounts are pretty lame. There, I said it. Like it or not, we are painted with the brush of the email domains we use. What, it’s 2008 and you are still sending out email from an AOL.com account? What are you, a grandmother with blue hair and a busted hip from Toledo? And, to add insult to injury, you are trying to persuade me about your technical savvy….from your AOL.com account? Really?

The Yahoo.com and Hotmail.com offenders are a little better, but not by much. A Yahoo.com or Hotmail.com account tells the recipient you either just got fired, just quit, are chronically unemployed, or are just really lazy about getting something more permanent for yourself. Also, the old excuse that Yahoo and/or Hotmail accounts are web-based and, thus, more accessible doesn’t wash anymore — not since most everyone is getting POP3 email on their phones nowadays and/or can easily access that POP3 email by going in through a Gateway from any terminal with an internet connection.

Do I have a Hotmail or Yahoo account? Sure, I do. What do I use it for? For sweepstakes promotions and registering new products I buy, purchasing things on eBay, Craigslist postings and responses, Evite stuff, and other things that I know will result in a torrent of new spam. But that’s it. No serious personal or business stuff is being transacted there.

So, if you are starting a company drop the $19.95 a month and register a domain name with 5-7 mailboxes. Go ahead, it’ll be OK. You don’t even need to get a website going just yet; just the email account in the name of your company will suffice. Got that? Great. Now, get down to Kinko’s and have some cards done. $60 should get you about 500 four color jobbies. Ok, not exactly the watermarked, embossed cardstock the Sand Hill Road guys are using but they are functional and look a lot better that the old former employer corporate cards you were handing out with all the contact info crossed out and written on the back in Bic pen blue.

There, now you’re an entrepreneur. No, I won’t fund your company any faster, but I will think more highly of you as will (I would suspect) most of my colleagues who are all similarly afflicted with short attention span disease when it comes to clearing out email inboxes and, unfortunately, passing judgment on unsolicited messages from those seeking to meet me and/or my partners. In this time compressed world we inhabit, when there is so little information to go on, the information that does exist has that much more influence. Make sure the impression you make is the right one; if it isn’t, make the fix and make it promptly.

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One Response to “That dreaded first impression…you only get one shot”

  1. ian nieves January 29, 2008 at 5:10 pm #

    This tickled me pink. I totally agree. Proper email address are part of the reality check.

    So im working on a little side project in the food industry… waffels. And one late night I was sitting at my desk, making logos, business cards, etc… at about 3 or 4am.. the night before the official launch at Ebb Tide in Half Moon Bay. And im stressing out about the quality of all the stuff im producing… im a perfectionist, and I was not meeting my own standards…

    Thats when my friend walks into my room.. yes, i have friends over at 4am. And he reminds me that my operation is an experiment… most importantly, its grassroots. Grassroots.

    So I figure, thats a good reason to let all this perfectionist hoopla fly out the window.

    And when it came to choosing an email address… of course i had waffleboy@waffelicious.org ready to go… but i chose to jump in with waffelicious@gmail.com

    For the point Im at, i think the email address is well matched to the relative immaturity of the organization. And as a grassroots beginning, i think people prefer that sincerity. hehe, im not trying to fool anyone, least of all myself.

    But to be honest, im going to migrate to …@waffelicious.org pretty soon…

    I cant tell you how many times I’ve seen legitimate businesses with yahoo and gmail addresses… faux pas.

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