Sullivan Robinson, the co-founder of venture fund and startup incubator Bootup Labs, has apologized publicly for the failure of the company’s Y Combinator-style startup camp, which fell apart last week after the fund failed to raise enough money to back all of the startups it had accepted into the program. The story came to light when one of the entrepreneurs who had sold his belongings and moved across the country to join the Bootup Labs project in Vancouver, British Columbia was told his company could not be funded, and wrote a blog post calling out the venture fund for making promises to entrepreneurs that it couldn’t keep.
In a blog post of his own,
Sullivan Robinson admits that would-be startup founder Jamie Martin was right, that Bootup Labs didn’t have the money to fund his and several other companies when they were accepted into the program. “This was my gravest of errors and seems pretty obvious now,” he writes. “I sincerely apologize to the founders who were affected by this. It will not happen again.” He also admits that he and the rest of the Bootup Labs team made some serious mistakes, including:
- Getting defensive: “I should have done a better job responding to Jamie’s concerns on this blog. At the time, I felt everything we have worked for was being questioned, and I got defensive and it made things worse. Jamie didn’t do anything wrong, and I apologize to him in particular.”
- Failure to disclose: “I should have announced the downsizing of the cohort as soon as it happened. We actually tried to hide it, hoping that people wouldn’t notice and it would just go away. That was a big mistake that I should have known wouldn’t work.”
- Leaving startups hanging: “I should have done a better job listening to the personal concerns of the founders who were cut. If I had thought more about that, I would have worked harder to help them in other ways.”
The Bootup Labs co-founder adds that he feels a “stronger and better Bootup Labs 2.0 is emerging” from the wreckage of the entrepreneurship program, and that to help prevent any further such incidents, “new controls have already been instated at the board level with addition of [venture investor] Boris Wertz, and more announcements are coming soon.” He says he hopes that the startup community will give him the chance to “work hard to earn your trust and respect back.” Wertz’s addition and financing from venture fund Growthworks were announced shortly after last week’s blowup.
Some of the comments from users on Hacker News, where the link to his post was shared, show just how far he and the Vancouver venture fund have to go in order to do that. One asks: “Why is this guy any more trustworthy today after issuing an artfully written apology, that was clearly crafted by a PR professional skilled in crisis management communications? Startups, do yourself a big favour and steer clear of this underfunded, unprofessional slow motion train wreck.” Another writes: “Bootup Lab’s reputation has still been badly damaged. An entrepreneur’s commitment and sacrifice to their business is very serious and they took a very nonchalant approach to handling this situation.”