Sponsors Pull Out of Boston API Jam Over Sqoot’s Sexist Event CopyBY: Kathryn Hough | March 20, 2012
New York-based daily deal API service Sqoot may not be able to recover after the worst startup PR crisis in recent history. Sqoot just lost the majority of the sponsors for an event it is hosting called Boston API Jam. The event, which was supposed to take place March 31 – April 1, may not be able to happen as planned if all sponsors pull their support.
In the event copy, Sqoot listed the following perks to attending the event:
Adding “women” as a perk caused a firestorm of angry tweets by both men and women, with many urging sponsors to pull out of the event completely. Sponsors Heroku, CloudMine, LevelUp, and MongoHQ have withdrawn their sponsorship. WorkBar Boston has stated disapproval, but is still sponsoring the event. ConstantContact and SimpleRelevance have not responded regarding the continuation of their sponsorship.
Here is a snapshot of some of the more outraged tweets:
Sqoot issued an apology by creating this Google Doc and tweeting the link out to every person that was upset with their event copy.
Sqoot’s apology was not accepted by the majority of the tech community. Sqoot’s team could not be reached for comment.
The outrage over this sexist copy and the flippent reactions by the Sqoot team is a perfect example of why startup incubators need to offer charm school to their young founders. I wrote about this a few weeks ago. Someone needs to tell young founders that frat house behavior is not acceptable in the business world. If Sqoot’s business collapses for a few sentences of sexist copy, I hope that other young founders get to see the wreckage before following them off the plank.
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Kathryn HoughKathryn is a writer for Techli covering ecommerce, social, and the startup hubs of Portland, St. Louis, and Chicago. She is the CMO and co-founder of Huedio, a startup that is currently in stealth mode. Kathryn was an early employee at DailyBurn, a TechStars class of 2008, which was acquired by IAC in 2010. Prior to her foray into startups, Kathryn co-founded the New School Free Press at New School University.
"Women are people." Too often, anything which actually puts this idea into practice is dismissed as being "humourless!" or "feminazis!" an so on. The response to the event copy seems entirely appropriate. If the worst that happens to Sqoot is a hard lesson learned, they can count themselves lucky. (I found it interesting to note heroku's response: "Our sponsorships are handled by women..." Are we to infer that they would have responded differently if that wasn't the case?)
This is really crazy. People are completely lost sense of humour and take everything seriously. Very sad to see this happening... PS: I am almost absolutely sure, be it "Men" instead of "Women", no one would care at all.
Hi Loresh, thanks for your comment but I disagree. Women would never offer up men as a perk of going to a business event. We are smarter than that. The problem with the Sqoot event copy is that it points to a bigger problem in the developer community - women are not viewed as equals.
Hi Kate, What really matters in this situation is an intent, not how it looks like. And I refuse to believe that it was seriously intended to insult someone. I remember, they were many jokes about women in regard to development, but I couldn't remember any of them (women, I mean) who was taking this seriously, and I *know* that despite all jokes they were viewed as equals. So, it is all inside you, your perception. May be I am wrong in this particular case, I don't know - since I don't know people there. Our world is becoming too "politically correct", and while *sometimes* people do wrong things, most of the time they simply joke :)
That's an enormously privileged reply. It would be one thing to poke fun at the gender imbalance in the coding scene, but it's pretty rotten to state, quite directly, that women are only good for serving beer.
Jon, please quote the part where you found direct statement "women are only good for serving beer". I've read the article few times, I couldn't find it, sorry. What I see is that beer will be served by women. What is wrong here? What would change if it would be served by men? You would see it as "men are only good for serving beer"? Please, don't look for a black cat in a dark room, especially when it is not there :)
I have to agree with Loresh. I'm not saying it was right or even very funny, but this company doesn't deserve this bad of PR. It was a stupid mistake, get over it. Also why can't anybody accept a sincere apology these days!? Did this really constitute pulling sponsors and all the attention it got? I would say no.
Hey, I'm one of the co-founders of Sqoot. We're a small startup trying to do big things. Sometimes we trip and fall. This is one of those times. In hindsight, our language was reckless & immature. Please accept our apology: http://blog.sqoot.com/we-can-do-better-an-apology-from-sqoot
Thanks for posting, Avand. I think that it was a mistake and I appreciate your second apology, but a small startup is still a business and everything that you post is essentially marketing for your business. It's a hard lesson to learn. I wish your team the best of luck and I'm sure that you won't make this mistake again.
Hi Stephen. I disagree. If women listed men as a perk of going to a tech event, it would def. raise some red flags.
Can everyone just calm down and not be so uptight? Jesus Christ. Why aren't you mad at Hooters restaurants? Their slogan is "More than a mouthful". Seriously. It's more embarrassing that people want to jump at the chance to be offended by something. Like internet ambulance chasers. Take it for what it is, people. A weak attempt at levity. Over sensitive prigs.
Why do you assume people who care about this don't dislike Hooters? You're missing the (huge) difference between an objectifying environment where everyone involved signed up for it, and an objectifying environment where one of the groups was supposed to be being treated as an equal, not singled out as a "perk" and told they don't belong as normal attendees.