What Could Guo Wrong?

Jerry Guo: What I Did Was ‘F-ed Up’ and I Must Leave for Grouper to Survive

Jerry Guo and the Dalai Lama

Jerry Guo, international rules-bending journalist turned startup CEO, just issued a public apology on his Tumblr. The apology is addressed to the startup world and to the CEO of TechStars company Ignighter, Adam Sachs. Mr. Guo told Mr. Sachs he was a journalist, visited Ignighter and asked lots of questions about the business. Mr. Guo wanted intel on the competition because he was starting his own company, Grouper. “I didn’t tell Adam this, and met him under false pretenses,” Mr. Guo writes.

In the wake of the sudden attention after Betabeat’s article earlier this week, and Gawker’s subsequent interest, Mr. Guo has left Grouper in what he says was a mutual decision with his co-founder and CTO Michael Waxman. Read More

What Could Guo Wrong?

How Newsweek’s Most Notorious Fellow Got Caught Conning Silicon Alley

jerry guo puppy

UPDATE: AOL Editor who fired Mr. Guo in 2008 writes to say he regrets not doing more to warn others. Story here.

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Jerry Guo considers himself a modern nomad. The 24-year-old Chinese-American stays in a different apartment each month, couch surfing or subletting, whatever works best. “Moving around makes it easier to find cool new venues,” Mr. Guo explained. His recently launched startup company, Grouper, sends six users on platonic group outings to lux hotspots around New York, so maintaining a fresh supply of trendy locales is key to Mr. Guo’s success.

“I like to keep moving,” Mr. Guo told Betabeat, hunching down into a leather chair at our Midtown offices. He wore a purple sweatshirt, jeans and yellow-trimmed topsiders with no socks. Over the last two years the rakish Mr. Guo has touched down in exotic locales on practically every continent on earth. There was a rare trip inside North Korea, which Mr. Guo wrote about for the Washington Post. And the time he spent running with the rebel forces in Iran during the summer of 2009, which he chronicled in The New York Times. It was his Chinese passport that allowed him access to nations typically hostile to America*.

“Jerry is…I think the best word is irreverent,” said his co-founder at Grouper, Michael Waxman, who met Mr. Guo when the two were freshman at Yale in 2005. “After all the crazy shit he has done, he’s lucky just to be alive, so he kind of brings that to the table as an entrepreneur.” Mr. Waxman is the CTO/CEO of sorts, while Mr. Guo handles partnerships, operations and marketing. “He has the kind of charisma you can’t learn.”

Check Out Our Slideshow Adventure Around the World With Jerry Guo >>

Mr. Guo’s charisma—and his irreverence—were on stark display in the spring of 2011, when he reached out to Adam Sachs, CEO of the very successful group dating site, Ignighter. He told Mr. Sachs that he was a freelance journalist who had been commissioned to write a piece on Ignighter for The Atlantic Monthly, and sent along some of his clips from his time at Newsweek by way of credentials.

“It was really strange,” Mr. Sachs said. “He showed up to the interview with this other guy, who I later learned was his co-founder. They asked a ton of questions and we talked for maybe an hour.” A few weeks went by and Mr. Sachs heard nothing, so he emailed Mr. Guo to ask about the story. “He told me it was still being edited and that it would come out soon.” Another month or so passed. “Then all of a sudden I see Grouper.” Both companies relied on users’ social graphs to choose clusters of people they would send on group outings.

Mr. Sachs emailed editors at The Atlantic, who informed him that Mr. Guo had indeed pitched the story but that it had never been assigned. He emailed Newsweek, who told him that his complaint was just one of many they were sorting through involving Mr. Guo. Mr. Sachs was upset, but he didn’t feel threatened by Grouper, and he decided to let things go. We thought the incident warranted a closer look. Read More

Social Networking

Grouper Sets You Up With Three Facebook Strangers, But ‘It’s Not a Date’

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Co-founders Jerry Guo and Michael Waxman like to joke that Grouper is a Y Combinator-funded startup. That’s because they didn’t come up with the idea for Grouper–a social service that sets you and two friends up with three strangers based on your Facebook profile–until they got rejected from YC. “We took our $400 travel reimbursement check from YC and used that as seed capital for Grouper,” Mr. Guo told Betabeat via gChat.

Does that mean Grouper is a pivot?? “Lol,” he wrote, “It’s a completely new concept. We applied to YC with paperbuff.com. In the 36 hours before our interview, we ditched paperbuff and built qomments.com, were rejected, then decided to build a product people would actually want (*measured by charging for it).”

Indeed, Grouper, which just launched out of beta in New York today, was profitable after just 60 days. Read More

On The Calendar

Goooood Morning, Silicon Alley! Gary Sharma’s Picks for the Week of August 8

garysguide

This is a guest post from Gary Sharma (a.k.a. “The Guy with the Red Tie”), founder of GarysGuide and mentor at ER Accelerator.

Quote of the Week: “We’ll see if we can do hackathons every day so long as I don’t have to write code!” –Mayor Mike Bloomberg, at the Reinventing NYC hackathon winners’ breakfast at General Assembly last week.

Mayor Mike’s geek cred would have gone through the roof if he had decided to get down and dirty to crank out some code ;) but big props on committing support to hackathons. Speaking of hackathons, we’ve got a bunch of hacking-related events this week. Read More