On Founders Being Unprofessional

Published 4th July 2014

A word to the wise (looking at you, startup founders and co-founders especially), don’t start getting bitchy with people online. You never know who might be an existing (or potential) customer.

Nick Francis (co-founder of Help Scout) had a go at me today for “ripping off” the design of the Help Scout docs which I used in my open source project Raneto. While I’m not going to argue that I didn’t take inspiration from Help Scout docs I will say that the layout is standard for KBs and the design is very generic anyway. All of the code used for Raneto is my own and I used Bootstrap to create the layout. I’m not a designer so I tend to “take inspiration” when it comes to design for my open source projects.

Now we see these kind of issues (and much worse) all the time at Dev7studios and ThemeZilla. “Copying”, “inspiration” and the blurry line inbetween is commonplace on the web. However what we don’t do is jump on Twitter and start having a go at them. Immitation is the sincerest form of flattery right? It just isn’t that big a deal.

Anyway there is a far more important issue at the heart of all of this. I’ve been a paying HelpScout customer for several months now. So how do you think I felt when out of the blue the co-founder jumps on Twitter and starts having a go at me? Not cool. I don’t know if Nick knew I was a customer or not, but that is the point. Is it really worth losing customers, and hard earned cash, over?

So startup founders and co-founders, I’d urge you to be very careful the next time you think about having a pop at someone in public. It will make you look unprofessional but worse than that, it may lose you money.