A Startup’s Nightmare First Experience With The Press

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When Brad Hargreaves was in college, he cofounded a company called GoCrossCampus.His startup got press most founders only dream of: an above-the-fold feature in The New York Times. 

Titled, Storming the Campuses, it was a shining profile of Hargreaves’ company. It was published in March 2008, just before Hargreaves left for spring break.

There was no relaxing on the beach or celebratory drinks for Hargreaves though. Soon after arriving he received a phone call from TechCrunch founder and former Editor in Chief, Michael Arrington.

To this day Hargreaves has no idea how Arrington got his number.

Hargreaves recalls the conversation going something like this:

“A competitor of yours contacted us and told us all this terrible stuff about GoCrossCampus. We’re going to publish an article in a few minutes. Do you have any comment?”

The subsequent article was harsh — hardly how most entrepreneurs envision their first splash in TechCrunch.

It insinuated that Hargreaves and his cofounders ripped off the idea for GoCrossCampus.

“In a phone conversation, [Hargreaves’ competitor] Van Vuuren said that the GoCrossCampus guys are not engineers and had to outsource the development of the game, using Turf as a guide,” Arrington wrote. “The code base is inferior, he said, and of the 20 games that have been run on the GoCrossCampus platform, half have had technical failures.”

By the time Hargreaves could give Arrington a comment, the article was already published.

“I spoke to a somewhat bewildered GoCrossCampus co-founder Brad Hargreaves (who’s currently on spring break),” Arrington wrote in an update. “He says that the GoCrossCampus code base was developed completely separately from the original Turf game, and that they made repeated offers to Smedresman to join their founding team, which he declined.”

Hargreaves’ own college paper, Yale Daily News, followed up with an article based on Arrington’s titled, “GoCrossCampus’ Origins Prove Risky.”

Since then, Hargreaves has bounced back and his current startup, General Assembly, has gotten a lot of love.