Nathan Blecharczyk, the cofounder and CTO of a billion dollar startup called AirBnB was, at one point, one of the top spammers in the world, according to his freshman year roommate, Aaron Greenspan.We learned about Greenspan’s blog post on the topic after reading Ryan Tate’s excellent post on Gawker.
Greenspan says Blecharczyk ran a spam operation out of his Harvard dorm called Data Miners, sending out millions of messages each week.
These days, Blecharczyk helps run Airbnb, a room-sharing startup that is now worth around $1 billion.
He may not have left all his spammy ways behind him.
Competitors have said Airbnb farms online classified sites like Craigslist and sends out spam messages to renters. They receive nearly identical emails from different senders and email addresses all advertising Airbnb.
“When I initially read about Airbnb’s spam scandal, I could and could not believe it,” Greenspan wrote. “I thought that Nathan had learned his lesson — even if he wasn’t directly responsible for writing the code behind the messages, he clearly should have known better than to allow them. Apparently he did not.”
Here are some of the best bits from Greenspan’s post:
- “What most people don’t know is that during our freshman and sophomore years of college, Nathan was one of the top 100 spammers in the world.”
- “Nathan was clearly brilliant–he had designed both custom hardware and software to send these messages in bulk as efficiently as possible–and he paid his way through college thanks to these endeavours, but what he possessed in engineering skill he obviously lacked in morals.”
- “Though our desks were only a few feet away, I refused to have anything to do with his business, which was disappointing because he was just about the only other Harvard student I knew at the time who could appreciate what I was trying to do with mine.”
- “By our junior year, I remember learning that Data Miners had been shut down. Nathan told me that he had received threatening letters from the FTC, which made sense, because he had often been using insecure government servers (meaning taxpayer dollars) to route his illicit payloads.”
Airbnb also ran into some trouble when one Airbnb customer ransacked a house and stole information about the renter’s identity.