The Email I Sent Steve That Kicked Off reddit

(You can read more about this in my bestseller, Without Their Permission)

I spent a formative summer after my junior year abroad in Singapore, competing on behalf of UVA at an international Technopreneurship Conference (oh, bless the Singaporeans and their "technopreneurship" conferences).

One of my favorite teachers, Professor Mark White, invited me to go on this all-expenses paid trip. I even turned down an internship at Ogilvy because I like free travel even more than I like unpaid internships in the most expensive city in America.  It was there in Singapore on our first night that I pitched Mark the idea Steve and I had cooked up for our startup.  Mark’s was the first unbiased feedback I'd gotten on the idea (my parents had always been ludicrously supportive of whatever I told them I was up to) and he thought we'd be able to pull it off.

His optimism may've just been a combination of the jetlag and the Singapore Slings, but I was thrilled.

I wrote Steve this email the very next morning.  Here it is in its original form for authenticity. Please forgive all the typos; those keyboards in Singapore aren't QWERTY.  Apparently there's also a button on those keyboards that kept inserting "bro" everywhere -- sorry about that. In fact, imagine a great big [sic] around this whole thing.

hey bro,

i'm in singapore at this technepreneurial seminar, and am basically spending a week learning how to create a tech start-up.i spoke to Mark White (a professor in the comm school, the guy who took me to South Africa, and who recruited me to come here, as well as a generally good guy and technophile) over some drinks last nite, and pitched him on our idea...from his feedback—and let me remind you that he gets pitches every couple of months from students, and was very candid and honest with his thoughts, but basically said it was one of the best he's heard, period.

Not only that, but he wants to be on the board of directors, and already knows some people to hit up for starting capital...

I've got plenty of more details, but I am seriously considering putting off law school for this, but i need you, and we'll both need to be doing this full time for about a year to get it off the ground....but the potential he saw was in the millions my friend...we need to talkseriously.i am coming back the 20th so if we could have lunch around 1pm i could meet you whereever you'd like... let me know.

honestly, this is the kind of thing that could change our lives—and his motivation has really spurred me.but i need you and the same kind of commitment.

43 responses
Love it! I can sense the raw passion in your tone .. how long was it from the time you came up with the idea, to the time you pitched Mark White?
So far for not thinking about/being motivated by money when wanting to start a startup...
I'm a Singaporean and I cannot remember the times when we did not have a QWERTY keyboard. Either way, tech scene in Singapore has changed. Any thoughts on that?
Love your podcast. Q: Why does it say 7 responses and only shows 3? Maybe the others haven't been approved yet.
Delighted to know that there's a Singaporean slant to the Reddit story! Very cool.
That's awesome. How many people get a million $ idea and get their friend to quit college in an E-mail
Matias Fernandez upvoted this post.
So great.
I'm a student at Western Michigan University, and we are studying intently on Y-Combinator Startups. My team and I are focusing on the startup Hipmunk. I know that you were a marketing director of Hipmunk, and have been through the program through Reddit. If you are willing, could you answer some of my questions on how the process works, or how do you even start with the Y-Combinator program?
33 visitors upvoted this post.