Worrying about the ethics of venture capitalists is a lot like testing the acoustics of outer space. But you'd think the moneyed white men of Silicon Valley would act with a little class when they get turned down—it's just business, right? Not this time.
It was clear which startup Andreessen was trying to scare us about, though never clear why. Still, the Think of the children! argument, apropos of nothing, grounded in mist and panic, took hold. Outlets like Recode covered Andreessen's screed, and suddenly Secret was in the middle of a hand-wringing session that stretched coast to coast, a frothing dish of cyberbullying, "broken hearts," and shattered lives. Other tech notables took to television to defend Secret. All the doom was hypothetical, of course—the app is only a couple months old, and has so far ruined no lives.
But it wasn't altruism that pushed Andreessen to keep tweeting and tweeting. He's not actually as worried about Secret ruining someone's life as having harmed his bottom line: we're told that only a few weeks before his rant, the startup rebuffed investment overtures from Andreessen Horowitz, before later taking millions from rival firms.
Repeated emails over the course of several days show strong interest in Secret by Andreessen Horowitz. Secret confirmed this report to me today. An Andreessen Horowitz spokesperson denies having ever made a formal offer.
This happens all the time. It's a given that investors and startups will reject one another, for entirely non-personal reasons and without bitterness, until the end of time. But trying to salt the soil for a missed investment opportunity is beyond petty—trying to pass it off as moralizing is even worse.
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