I remember early this summer, when the founder of Umbraco went on stage at their brilliant and very beloved conference CodeGarden, in Copenhagen, and told all the attendees that the Umbraco company had chosen to kill and bury the version 5 of the product. Remember, that this statement was said before any customers, any partners and so on had a chance to make a move or prepare for what was coming. The story blew up a bit, some say it was a bold move Umbraco did, some say it was straight up stupid and others say it was the only right thing to do. Bottomline is that Umbraco was propably saved from a catastrophe and from what I see they still are doing a great piece of work. The next couple of days after Umbraco’s somewhat confusing conclusion of killing Umbraco 5 (the communicatoin was not thought of I think, but that’s the beauty of it as well) people from all kinds of places started to tell the internet what they thought of the story, why they thought about it like that, and so on and so on. All the so-called experts on open source, CMS’ and customer relation etc. they all had something to chip in with, letting us know that they also had a say. One can wonder why people are so anxious sometimes to tell others what they think, even before they know the outcome, people just go “BLAUW, listen to this…”. I certainly think it seemed a bit strange back then, but heck I am no so saint and I do too sometimes, and I don’t have a conclusion for why that might be. Frustration maybe.
So yesterday…or a couple of days ago, an Amercian startup, which I think started here in Denmark, named AppHarbor, went bankrupt. They only turned the key at their Copenhagen based office though, and is alive and well in the US. The story is, presumably, that they had no money to pay the salary for the Danish employers and therefore had to lay off the 3 developers. No matter what, laying off somebody is not a very cool feeling, for any of the parts, but when you hit the bottom there is really not a lot you can do. It’s just a small fact of life. That’s how it works around here. In the big world of capitalism :). Companies go bankrupt everyday, there’s nothing new to that. It’s 101. You make money or go be a benchwarmer somewhere. But just like the Umbraco story, the media was quick to publish a handful of articles which that led to small panicattack for some of the other startups and known people inside that community. It was nearly the same pattern, though a different story, that happened with the Umbraco story this summer. People..and not just people, but other startup’s, other companies, network and followrs, started talking about AppHarbor on twitter, commenting in the press and even writing their own blog posts about how they felt. The thing is, i think that those people and those companies are missing the point. Totally!
The AppHarbor founders, and I only know two of them, and not very good at all, are, from where I sit, some intellignet and respected men. Personally I respect them very much for their courage and entrepreneurship, and frankly I think they deserve a lot more credit than what has been giving to them. All startup’s do, it’s a real tough game and that’s part of why I am not working for a startup company, it’s simply too stressful :)
One of the things that all of us should respect dearly, because we are circled into it by your doings in the field of software, by passion, by selling the products that we believe creates value and because we’re all working fucking hard on getting things done, is honesty and some loyalty amongst us equal. The AppHarbor founders have been more loyal than a lot of you guys, they have also shown more willingness and stamina than a lot of you guys. They might have been pushed gently to come forward (i don’t if that’s the case) and tell us what happened with the Danish “harbor”, but remember that it’s a 3 man army and they propably try hard to manage their small business. Why is this such a big deal ? Some of the people coming out against AppHarbor have mentioned the bankruptcy as taking advantage over the salary fund (lønmodtagernes garantifond) and somewhere between the lines claiming AppHarbor for leaving the employers behind. It’s a bad drama movie. If you really are proclaiming that AppHarbor is running from some kind of social responsibility, fine then, but I think it’s nonsense. It doesn’t take a very far look to spot huge challenges around social responsibility regarding some software companies, put you energy into that instead and give AppHarbor a lending hand if they need it!
Keep going Rune, Michael and Troels, you’re going to get there!