Tomfoolery

Betabeat Punks a Panel

catwalkr logo Betabeat Punks a Panel

Dear readers,

As some of you may have suspected, Betabeat’s altercation with the zealous founder of Catwalkr.me at last night’s New York Entrepreneurs Business Network panel on Media and Start-Ups was staged.

It started when, in a weird moment, I agreed to sit on a small panel about how start-ups should deal with media, along with Ramon Nuez from Huffington Post/Examiner, John Biggs from TechCrunch/CrunchGear and Mitchell York from About.com/techweb.com.

I’m not a big fan of panels in general. It takes superhuman powers of moderation to keep them from being boring and scattered. My lamentations to coworkers over Gchat soon led to a realization: It was time for Betabeat’s first panel bombing.

We put our heads together and came up with the lamest start-up idea we could think of with the goal of convincing the tech writers on the panel and entrepreneurs in the audience that it was real. Nate Freeman, a culture writer for The New York Observer, took a break from his normal coverage of Kate Middleton, Sam Sifton and post-4 a.m. New York debauchery to pose as a deranged start-up founder obsessed with Betabeat. Here’s Nate.

Nate: Upon recognizing that reporting a media and start-ups panel straight would be of little interest to the readership, Adrianne suggested I come and pretend to be a disgruntled tech guy with a stupid startup I had pitched her, repeatedly, to no avail. The dumbest possible idea we came up with was CatWalkr.me. It hit that sweet spot, that combination of absolute inanity–it’s about people who walk their cats–and a tiny bit of believability. The internet, cats, etc.

This totally fake startup is called CatWalkr.me. To my astonishment, writers for The Huffington Post, TechCrunch and About.com thought this was real. Think on that for a second. A location-based, pre-alpha launched, social networking site–for people who walk their cats. I tricked a roster of heavy-hitter tech writers into thinking I had a social network devoted to people who walk their cats and want to walk their cats with other catwalkers!

At the event, I passed through various clusters of cubicles I reached this mass of men and women–but, yes, mostly men–gobbling down Domino’s pizza and shilling business cards like blackjack dealers to anyone within shouting distance. I signed in with my chosen nom de startup (“Christian Lorentzen”) and slapped a nametag on my lapel. Who are these people, I thought. They spoke with utter sincerity about their dreams of start-up glory, the day when the world wakes up and realizes, ‘Yes! I do need a place to find people with like-minded opinions about studded jeans.’ Or the guy who shakes his fist and proclaims ‘All those men and women skating by lonely in their jobs as toll booth attendants–I’m going to have a place for them to find love.’ I spend my days hungover and my nights at parties with free drinks and socialites. That makes sense to me. But here? How do people hopscotch from one of these panels to the next, throwing out the same stale ideas?

For a half hour, people asked these writers how, exactly, they could write the pitches that lead to that holy grail: a post on TechCrunch! Your favorite writer extolling to the masses the virtues of your niche coupon social network microblogging iPad app that buys URLs according to the latest algorithmic stats indicating which urls are “hot” now! Or something like that. I wasn’t paying attention.

Anyway, Adrianne started reading examples of the “worst pitches she’s ever gotten.” She read two real pitches and then indicated the next one, from a “Christian Lorentzen,” was the worst ever.

Then I stood up and went to town on her. Watch the video below.

Note: Mr. Freeman enters around 4:30. But if you start that late you’ll miss out on the context for a later joke.

Here are the emails from Mr. Lorentzen pitching Catwalkr.me to Betabeat:

To: “Adrianne Jeffries” < adrianne@betabeat.com >

From: “Christian Lorentzen” < founderuknoit@catwalkr.me >

Date: Mon, May 2, 2011 at 12:07 AM

Subject: Disruptive new start-up

Dear Anrianne,

Nice to meet you. My name is Christian Lorentzen: entrepreneur, Duke University graduate, social media addict, proud member of the New York tech scene and a black belt in business development to boot. I’m writing because I have a story that I think will be of great interest to your readers at Betabeat. How would you like to be a part of a disruptive movement in the online social networking space that’s about to venture fearlessly into a market that is literally an open battlefield of naked opportunity?

I wanted to extend my feelers to find out if you’re at all interested in the next big thing to hit progressive pet owners on the internet. Think Twitter meets Amazon.com for a passionate and deep-pocketed audience in a multi-million, possibly billion-dollar market.

My company is in stealth mode for the next month. However, I’m willing to share our story with you once we agree to a timeline for when the story and any follow-ups will publish.

Let me know if you’d like to hear more and we can arrange to meet.

Sincerely,

Christian Lorentzen

*

To: “Adrianne Jeffries” < adrianne@betabeat.com >

From: “Christian Lorentzen” < founderuknoit@catwalkr.me >

Date: Thu, May 5, 2011 at 06:21 AM

Subject: Disruptive new start-up

Dear Anderanne,

Christian Lorentzen, entrepreneur and Duke graduate with a black belt in biz dev here. I just wanted to circle back and touch base with you about my company, which is about to radically change a multi-million dollar industry forever–and that’s just in New York. We got pretty far into the TechStars application process but ultimately they decided it was too edgy ;) I’ve gotten some interest from Business Insider, but since we had connected first I wanted to give you first dibs on the scoop.

Let me know if you’ll agree to embargo the news until June. Let’s talk. You won’t regret it.

Yours truly,

Christian Lorentzen

*

To: “Adrianne Jeffries” < adrianne@betabeat.com >

From: “Christian Lorentzen” < founderuknoit@catwalkr.me >

Date: Sat, May 7, 2011 at 4:44 AM

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Disruptive new start-up

Dear Anidranne,

Chris Lorentzen, founder/biz dev ninja here. Just pinging you because I hadn’t heard back from you regarding my company, which is shaking things up in a wide open corner of the social networking space and poised to take hold of an approximately $460 million market.

I was hesitant to reveal the idea at first to a tech blogger before the site is ready to launch–we’re in stealth alpha at the moment–but since I trust you, I’ll let the cat out of the bag. Once I tell you what we’re working on, you’ll want to sink your claws in right away. See what I’m getting at? ;)

You may not be aware of it, but there’s a feverish trend among cat owners on the footpaths of Park Slope and the avenues of the Upper East Side, and my start-up is going to be there to lead the way to monetizing this wave of demand. Ready? The company is called Catwalkr.me, a location-based social network for forward-thinking cat owners who want to link up with other like-minded furry-friended ambulators.

It’s estimated that there are more than $93 million domesticated cat owners in America, but the practice of walking your cat on a leash is still relatively undiscovered by many. Catwalkr.me lets passionate catwalkers find each other and easily recruit their friends to join in the fun. As a native Manhattanite, my mother was a committed catwalker–she recognized that the cramped indoor space in the city is suffocating and unhealthy for felines, and took our cat Rugby on morning and afternoon walks. (Did you know cat obesity and the accompanying feline diabetes is a growing epidemic in this country?) Only problem was, she didn’t have the supportive network that many dog owners have–although there are hundreds of thousands of committed cat walkers in the city, they can be hard to find. My mother didn’t know anyone who could join her for a jaunt with Rugby or provide a friend for Rugby to play with at the park while the owners sat and chatted. Once Catwalkr launches, this lonely catwalking phenomenon will be a thing of the past.

We’re starting with catwalking in New York, where kitties are starved for exercise, but have plans to expand next to Tokyo (catwalking is par for the course in Japan) and Hong Kong and on from there, evangelizing the practice of catwalking to the world. We’re starting small, but once we start scaling the potential of this market is virtually limitless.

Just wanted to gauge your interest in this revolutionary new product. We’re launching in June and I would be happy to tell you more under the agreement of strict embargo for the site launch day.

Help me make my dream come true,

Christian Lorentzen

*

To: “Adrianne Jeffries” < adrianne@betabeat.com >

From: “Christian Lorentzen” < founderuknoit@catwalkr.me >

Date: Sun, May 8, 2011 at 11:30 PM

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Disruptive new start-up

Dear Adrienne,

I would be happy to let you try out the alpha version of the site as I’m sure you must be intrigued by my mention of the possibilities in this market. Remember, curiosity didn’t *really* kill the cat. Can I send you an invite to our pre-alpha? It’s not purr-fect, but it’ll give you an idea of the power this social application will have. We have a fully-functional mobile site and an iPhone app in the works–it’s location-based, as I mentioned, and I’ll tease you a bit by saying there are also game mechanics (catnip, anyone?). We have plans to feature flash deals and seamless Facebook and Twitter integration.

I’ll assume you agree to the previously-discussed embargo.

Cheers,

Chris

*

To: “Adrianne Jeffries” < adrianne@betabeat.com >

From: “Christian Lorentzen” < founderuknoit@catwalkr.me >

Date: Mon, May 9, 2011 at 3:25 AM

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Disruptive new start-up

Dear Adrainne,

Just checking in to make sure you received the pre-alpha invite to Catwalkr.me, the social networking application that’s about to turn an entire market’s world upside down, starting right here in New York. This is a very innovative new social product launching soon that your readers won’t want to miss. Not to sound like I’m overreaching, but this could be bigger than Groupon and you’d be foolish to ignore it. It’s like Myspace meets Twitter meets Amazon.com–but for catwalkers, a dangerously neglected segment of the population. We’ve got a long wait list for these invites from people who have been waiting a long time for this, so I hope you use yours wisely to check out the application for inclusion on Betabeat, post-embargo.

Sincerely,

Christian Lorentzen

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com

Comments

  1.  That’s pretty funny

  2. You must watch the video. Crass IT media lady gets owned by faux catwalkr.me startup guy.