Tech's armada of PR professionals can be their own worst enemy. But their protective shield occasionally hides the chauvinism of tech founders. Otherwise you get dudes like Blake Francis, founder of the question and answer app Need, who tried to buy favorable press from a female reporter with a wildly inappropriate gift basket.
A few weeks ago, a startup founder showed up in the lobby of The Chronicle after hours. He told me I hadn't responded to his e-mails. And he wanted to get my attention.
He delivered his pitch, along with a wicker basket filled with sexually suggestive gifts: the sex toy, a tube of K-Y Jelly, raw oysters and Tequila.
This is standard fare for lame pick-up artists: take a girl out for oysters in the Mission District, load up on margaritas at Latin American Club, and take her back to your creeper van. But lurking around and gifting this nightmare to a woman at her place of work and then expecting to get glowing coverage in return? This is a new low even for tech bros.
I e-mailed Francis and asked him to explain his thinking.
At first he was defensive. He said he was sorry I felt uncomfortable with his choice of swag, but also appeared genuinely surprised at my discomfort. He didn't want to offend me, but also didn't understand why I would be offended in the first place. Francis didn't seem to grasp that sex — or a woman's sexuality — isn't a topic appropriate for a professional setting.