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I don't want a hustler (andrewacove.posterous.com)
57 points by andrewacove on March 22, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 33 comments

I will readily take a business-minded, action-oriented cofounder who gets shit done. I have absolutely no interest in a hustler.

In my mind, that is the absolute definition of a hustler, someone who will get shit done. Predicating that hustlers are sleazy, or have questionable ethics, or don't value technical skill sets is the same as assuming that "hackers" are people who break into computers.

Sure there are probably a lot of sleazy "hustlers", just as their are malicious "hackers", but in my mind the definition of a hustler is someone who comes at the same problem as a good hacker would - with the same tenacity and willingness to try new things and the inability to quit in solving a problem.

In which case I absolutely want a hustler on my team, just not a shitty one.

Admittedly, I've done Micah some disservice by referencing his article. The Hustlers he describes aren't the sleezeballs I keep encountering, but unfortunately they share the same space and a more literal interpretation of the term includes them.

So it sounds like the summary is that good hustlers are hard to come by, just as good hackers are, not that they aren't good to have. The title seems to suggest otherwise.

Your definition of 'hustler' is both valley-centric as well as seemingly predicated on a wink and a nod denial of the sleazy origins of the term.


I am only going off the definition which this article is referencing.


Yes, this applies to the original article -- and the minority use of this vernacular in general.

People (like myself, and I believe the original poster) take issue with the use of 'hustler' because we see clear parallels between the negative connotations of the term and those individuals that self-identity with it.

I've posted this before but this is where I use my reference for a hustler. http://joeyroth.com/charlatan-martyr-hustler/

It's all semantics at the end of the day but I personally embrace the word hustler and would like to consider myself fairly ethical in life and business. If you're looking for that right person don't discount them because they call themselves a hustler, search for why they are who they say they are.

Note: I'm not in the valley.

> the summary is that good hustlers are hard to come by

That's true, but I'll add to it. I've met good hustlers - people who _get shit done_ - but they still leverage sleazy tactics. And that's the problem. Out of the possible combinations of sleaze and GSD, I keep encountering {sleaze} and {sleaze, GSD}. What I'm finding hard to come by, and what I'd kill for in a cofounder is the other: {GSD}. And tbh, I think {sleaze, GSD} is more representative of what people view as an ideal hustler. I can say, with certainty, that I don't want that in a partner.

Hustler both describes enterprising go getters and sleaze ball unscrupulous jerks. The problem is which meaning is more prevalent. I can't think of a single person I would describe with the word hustler and mean it in a positive way. I also wouldn't use the word hacker to refer to myself or any of my respected peers outside of technical circles due to its very negative connotations with non technical folk. While the premise of the hackers and hustlers essay was good the word choice may be poor for the average person. In my experience you end up spending as much time describing the intended use of the words hacker and hustler as you do making the point about determined and talented people. The end result is the point is lost in technicalities.

I agree with the assessment that both terms come with such differing meanings, that they should probably be avoided in the mainstream for the fear of losing the point in the technicalities.

What I took issue with is that the post was in direct response to a piece that outlined exactly what the term hustler meant in the positive sense, then went on to say that they wouldn't want one based on the negative meaning, when in reality they just couldn't find a good one to work with.

As the original article from Micah said: A Hustler on the other other hand is a relationship builder. Someone who can build direct relationships with their customers. They arent really promoters, although they do a lot of promotion. They arent salespeople, although they do a lot of selling. They are passion people. They have the ability to articulate their passion clearly and in a way that gets other people equally passionate.

As a technical person who has worked on several projects with someone who I consider to be an "enterprising go getter" and in my mind a hustler, I think that they can often be greatly under appreciated - especially good ones, and this article didn't do anything to convey that respect.

I may not have been clear enough in explaining it, but my blog post isn't a direct response to Micah's, though I use his post for context. Mine is a response to the people who think they are hustlers (by Micah's definition), promote themselves as such, and are in actuality the type of people I describe. Unfortunately, they significantly outnumber hustlers who hew to the intended definition.

The post is also tinged with some additional dismay at my discovery that some of the hustlers held up in the valley as prime examples of the form have proven themselves to be sleazy as well. One of those people is who I refer to in the sentences about lies.

I think what Andrew ended his post with was really the point:

"I'd love to meet one who fits the intended description, but I imagine the real hustlers avoid the label. I certainly would - if only to avoid being associated with the rest."

I think, and I certainly hope, that Andrew wasn't trying to dismiss or detract from the value of hustlers as described by Micah. I think the entire post was about the choice of language.

From my own perspective, while I greatly appreciated the points Micah made in his essay I felt that the word hustler was being forced onto people for the sole purpose of having a convenient label like "hacker" for the business and pr side of things. That's certainly due to my own preconceived notions and experiences with "hustlers" in the negative sense. I don't think of those amazing business people I've worked with over the years as hustlers, and I'm not sure I have a label that would describe them. I do know that hustler isn't the word I'd use and if I was currently looking for someone like that right now that word wouldn't be used in my search.

A little from column A, a little from column B. ;p

I've known a couple of examples. There was the hustler who was booted from his own startup because he was a shallow jerk that no-one wanted to work for. The company is doing very well without him.

Then there was the founder/hustler who made promises to customers without even consulting his development team, despite this repeatedly coming back to bite the company in the rear-end. He's still doing it today.

I think it's great if someone is willing to do whatever it takes to make a deal... but the deal isn't over until the product is in the hands of the customer. When promises are made that can't be kept, it lowers everyone's morale (customers, developers, hustlers, etc). Hustlers need to look at the big picture and understand what the real cost of closing a deal is.

The problem is that there no hustlers in Bay Area/Nor Cali. The culture's home is New York, and more along East Coast (Miami).

A lot of my friends (in Brooklyn, NY) are hustlers.

Nor Cali and New York basically two opposing cultures.

Hipsters will never be hustlers.

Make no mistake, hustlers may not know how to setup an EC2 instance but they know how to make bank.

(I'm using my definition of hustler, which is someone along the lines of "Naughty" per pg's essays, especially someone who operates in "grey" areas (not illegal).)

In my experience, hustlers (the 'naughty' kind) are good for making everyone think you're making real progress while your company is actually going sideways. We had a couple hustler-types who spent a lot of time blowing smoke simultaneously up engineering, BD and customer's asses.

It was only after they were gone that we were able to disentangle an elaborate web of false expectations and outright lies and start making actual progress again. Particularly mischievous was the way that these guys often created constant panics for engineering due to the unrealistic promises that they'd made to customers - they would then regard this as 'good management' (look how hard we're making everyone work).

Bonus points for the fact that these guys were working on their own startup "on their own time" (sort of).

Edit title: I don't want a hustler, I just want someone with hustle.

My proposal: stop using the word "hustler". While many people in the startup community have gotten used to the "aggressively active or enterprising person" definition, for most people, the first definition that comes to mind is "a person who lives by stealing or other dishonest means; a thief, pimp, etc."


We should also stop using the word hacker because most people think it's someone who lives by stealing or breaking into peoples computers; a thief, a criminal etc.

</probably unneccessary sarcasm>

As far as I'm aware, hacker had a positive meaning before some people started using it negatively, while hustler seems to have mainly been used negatively before some people starting using it positively.

While that may be true the comment refers to current perceptions rather than etymology.

Edit title: I want a hustler but can't find one.

Upvoted. As I've often heard people say about good UX designers, "I'd also like a unicorn."

Honestly, though, I'm more interested in Hacker/Humanist than Hacker/Hustler. I think a UX person would be a much more valuable partner for me.

I sent you an email.

Larry Ellison (Co-Founder of Oracle) was/is a hustler. It's served him well.

"So, Larry, why are you calling the first version of your software 'release 2.0'?".

"Because no one ever buys the first version of anything."

Tomato, tomato.

Just splitting hairs about what people call a hustler. this post is just as easily titled "I've met a bunch of shitty hustlers".

Plenty of good "business guy"/"hustler"/"business-minded, action-oriented cofounder"s have just as much trouble finding good engineering talent.

Yes, finding quality people is hard. That's part of the game.

For what it's worth, the term "hustler" is used pretty frequently as a colloquialism for pro-actively selling in a range of industries. I've heard it used in reference to musicians, writers, actors and artists.

In the Ricky Gervais series "Extras" in the episode with Patrick Stewart when Ricky accosts him to look through his script Patrick says "I know I know, you're hustling".

There's also the popularisation of the term in the hip-hop culture (gotta hustle y'all, we gotta hustle) where the term represents achieving despite extreme adversity.

I actually think I could fill either the hacker or hustler role in most teams, but would prefer to work with one or more other people so I can focus on one or the other role.

"Sales engineers", consultants, and hackers who enjoy building/promoting their own products are probably all some combination of these roles.

The author's definition of hustler seems to be different from mine. http://joeyroth.com/poster/

That's definitely true. Yours is more in line with the intent of Micah's original blog post.

Mine is based on my experiences with the people I meet who intend to fill the role. In theory, your definition should be correct - in practice, the scene is full of people who represent mine. They might be making an unfounded claim to the title, but filtering the network to just the real ones is a nightmare.

Ah. Well put. Semantics aside then, that's a bummer. Good luck with your search!

I would imagine what you need is someone who is able to comprehend and convey effectively.

A geek with useable social skills and self-confidence.

When I think of "hustler" in this sense, I think of someone who is constantly involved in relationship-building work (although I've never heard the word used in this way, but let's run with it). He may be a scam artist or unethical; he may not be. They're not all bad (but most are). The hustler's social and work lives have fused into one more-than-full-time job, and he chooses his friends based on how useful they are. He usually started out fairly well-connected, and has the huge leg-up of an MBA from one of the big three (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton) business schools, and now has a huge network of contacts. This is only a marginal advantage for entrepreneurs (mid-level investment bankers are useless "connections" for startups) but it lets the hustler feel full of himself because he has other options (i.e. his connections can get him a $250,000 job, so you should feel privileged that he is taking the time to talk to you) than whatever project he's doing at the time.

When it becomes insufferable is when the hustler thinks his social connections deserve to trade at a ridiculously high rate against more evenly allocated (and therefore more common) assets like talent and drive. As he sees it, he knows all the important people, but any idiot can code. So he tends to offer terms like 5% equity for writing all of the code to implement his idea. They get what they deserve when only idiots want to code for them.

hackers are hustlers.

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