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Tell HN: LocBox is spamming HN users
42 points by jason_slack 1885 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments
I received this e-mail, seems companies/people think it is acceptable to SPAM fellow HN users and have us not care..

Hi there - my name is Saumil Mehta and I'm Founder at LocBox (http://www.getlocbox.com) and formerly a Software Engineer focused on web search (Kosmix) and public-key crypto (Voltage Security). I saw your submissions on Hacker News and decided to reach out; thank you in advance for reading my unsolicited note.

My company focuses on empowering local businesses to have the same Marketing tools as larger retailers - specifically, we help automate customer acquisition and retention (revenue + foot traffic) for these businesses. We work with hundreds of paying customers that love our approach and we just raised a large Series A funding round with Google Ventures and others.

Would you be interested in working with us or advising us (with your referrals)? We're doing meaningful work and want to work with other great people. I've worked with great engineers in the past but these days it's easier to run into Bigfoot :)

Would you be up for a quick phone or Skype chat to discuss?

Best, Saumil

I don't like this submission at all. It IS acceptable to reach out to people on HN, and other communities like it, to see if you can work together or their startup can help you out. I love getting mails like that, especially from a 2+ year old member that is asking for advice or a chat, along with introducing what he's working on.

Presumably that's why you have an e-mail in your profile when there's nothing compelling you to share that. That someone actually used that e-mail should not result in public defamation and linking their business name with spam. Networking is something lots of professionals do -- and you can opt out by simply not giving out your e-mail, or saying so in your profile.

Now we can see that he also sent the same mail to some other people. That's much less 'cool', and I agree that businesses shouldn't harvest profile e-mails just to market to us. But you gave no indication you knew that when you came here to call it spam -- and you should really be sure before making serious claims that could have ramifications for his company for years. This submission is gonna be in search engines forever with his company name and his target keywords in it.

I got this same message several days ago, and I assumed it had been mass-sent, based on the fact that my name wasn't mentioned anywhere in the message body and the phrasing was extremely generic.

I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that jason_slack would come to the same conclusion as I did, and claiming this is 'defamation' is absurd and baiting, especially given that you'd seen confirmation it HAD been sent to multiple users when you wrote this.

> It IS acceptable to reach out to people on HN

If you have something to say to or ask of me, personally, I'm all ears! But it's lazy and discourteous to blast out a half-true template to e-mail addresses you've harvested from the site.

I was at least entertained by "I saw your submissions," which is vacuously true because my submissions are an empty set ;)

That's sad. I got the same email (word for word to my eyes), and while I don't mind at all when people email me via HN it's pretty obnoxious that I spent 10 minutes out of my day writing a pleasant and thoughtful response to someone who couldn't be bothered to do the same.

I hope this doesn't cause me to second guess the next email I get from an HN user, since so far this is pretty aberrant in my experience and I've been really delighted to be in touch with the (admittedly few) folks who've pinged me this way.

I also got the same email and spent some bit of time writing a (somewhat thoughtful) reply but got nothing back. I assumed he didn't like my reply.

Hello there - I've tried to respond to almost everyone that wrote back. If I missed you I'll go back and check my drafts because sometimes I have additional questions that I want to ask folks after taking a look at their notes or their blog/website/github and don't want to piss away an oppty to have a real conversation being trigger happy on responses.

I received this a few days ago, and only got around to replying this afternoon, to quickly ask for more details.

It felt like a bulk-send to me when I first looked at it, too generic, with no indicator of why they might want to work with me. If they're looking for JavaScript guys I'm especially surprised they contacted me.

I definitely don't think this is cool - contacting someone you find via HN because you have something relevant to discuss: that's actually awesome. Mass sending the same generic message to anyone who lists an email address: that's just spam.

I got that same message too, except that he made specific reference to how my JavaScript related posts caught his eye. Since most of my JS posts are along the lines of "can someone design some sort of training wheels framework for Backbone?" I figured he was casting a wide net.

Hello all - my name is Saumil Mehta and since I guess I'm the mastermind behind this whole thread it behooves me to reach out and respond.

First of all, I'm sorry to jason_slack for the major inconvenience caused by my email. It was written by me, came from my work email account (saumil.mehta AT getlocbox.com, in case you care to know), was sent 1-1 not en masse (you can check the headers) and was in no way intended to get anyone ticked off.

Secondly, yes. I've emailed well over 100 people personally in the last 15 days. A bunch of the emails have had very similar body copy so that is also accurate. I read Hacker News a decent bit and always search around for folks doing frontend work by using the search box and if I like their submissions/comments and sometimes if I just find their username intriguing or entertaining I poke around for their bio for their email and send them the note you see above. I do it nights and weekends after my "day job".

Thirdly, I work at and run a venture-backed company in San Francisco. It's the best job I've ever had and as everyone knows, learning from and working with good folks is paramount. It is also challenging to connect w/ the same folks.

With that backdrop set, I will admit freely that I like to ask for help. A lot. I ask lots of people. I cold email a lot of people. I do it with potential customers, potential partners, potential investors, potential folks that might be interested in contracting w/ us or joining our team. I always do it respectfully IMHO. Hell, I've even done it to Patrick Vlaskovits who was kind enough to respond in my stead on this page (hey Patrick!).

The outreach I discuss above has actually been excellent. It has yielded lots of fun conversations over email and Skype and several great phone and in-person conversations with folks in the community. I used to be a (decent but never great) developer. I love shooting the shit w/ other developers. A lot of it goes nowhere because most folks are busy at their day jobs or startups or are booked for contracts or don't care to work w/ us after talking w/ us. Some of it has resulted in freelancing contracts that has really helped my startup. That's all par for the course but a great investment of my time and (hopefully) anyone that takes time out of their busy day to talk to me.

In case you care, the response rate that I tabulated manually in my Google Apps account has been well north of 25%. That tells me that folks are, generally speaking, happy to talk to me and that I'm not wasting their time or trying to sell them timeshares.

I have had exactly 2 people tell me to go take a hike over email. That's ok too. When it happens I always apologize for the inconvenience and move on. But by and large the Hacker News community has been fantastic to connect with and learn from.

Lastly, a philosophical point. We all know startups are hard and millions of dollars of funding does nothing to change that. The only way to hack it after being at it for 18 months, I've found, is to ask for help very proactively, even of folks I don't know. It has stood me in great stead in every endeavor - fundraising, contracts, partnerships, customers, office space leasing, personal sanity maintenance, you name it. I hope you will agree and if you don't, feel free to email me or call me at (415) 322-9308 and flame me over the phone in the middle of my work day :)

Thanks all and good night!


Your e-mail to me was generic. Nothing personal. Cookie cutter, boilerplate, etc.

I took it as SPAM and the last thing I am going to do is reply back to a SPAMMER and confirm that my e-mail is real.

Most all of my HN submissions are my thoughts and opinions. Nothing really technical. You say that you did read my submissions before contacting me.

Specifically tell me what about my submissions caused you to e-mail me?

As I've said in the rather giant tome above I've done 100+ of these so forgive me if it's not on the tip of my tongue. I went back and looked at your submissions and it must have been the fact that you have a lot of Ask_HNs, a couple about RoR but mostly about lots of interesting technology stuff. It's hard to gauge anything after multiple conversations, much less from a submission feed but I generally get along well w/ folks that ask a lot of questions, are very curious and ask for help freely into various communities.

In this case, I was rather wrong :) well hell, can't win 'em all.

But HN is not a "Stack Overflow" style community. So if you have done 100+ of these to HN users I dont think you get the point of this community.

I can confirm this. Saumil has reached out to me with a similar email as posted above, but I have no problems with this. I responded to his email and got a nice and personal reply back.

My take is don't be afraid to ask for help. Everybody needs or needed help in his life. If a particular person you reached out to cannot help you at this time, it does not hurt to just have a chat, create a relationship and/or plant the seeds for future consideration.

Thanks Phillip :)

I too received this email, more specifically about JavaScript. Obv tacky & tasteless but probably working for him.

Disagree with the tacky/tasteless part but yes, as I describe above, it did indeed work for me. Thanks for your feedback.

Seems there are different views on this. Maybe you should add something to your profile indicating if you want to receive unsolicited emails from startups.

There surely are different views. It was this one being generic and exhibiting SPAM like qualities that made me not happy.

If this reply had been personal.."Hey, this is what I liked about your HN submissions and I think I could use your input, are you willing to provide it..this is how you contact me if you want to.."

I might have formed a different conclusion.

Fair enough, agree to disagree on this one. It's not as if you had just heard from the next Nigerian prince or been offered cheap meds at a low price :)

I personally think a Tell HN with an accusatory tone is extreme - could have checked headers, could have talked in private, could have ignored it, could have edited your bio to flame me specifically, could have reported spam on your email client, any number of things - but whatever floats your boat works for me. I did reach out after all so you're free to do what you like in return.

But as I've said earlier, sorry I inconvenienced you so much w/ my little email. Have a great weekend!

There's no "agree to disagree" when he's telling you not only what made him unhappy but what you could have done better. This reply just looks more like you're the kind of person who doesn't pay attention.

Agreed, he made a mistake by spamming and rather than say flat out he made a mistake, he is sugar coating his words to not admit it outright, save some face.

I have more respect for someone that admits mistakes outright.

An apology has 3 parts: 1. You say "I made a mistake" 2. You apologize to the person for the mistake 3. You dont make the same mistake again

1. I made a mistake 2. I am very sorry that I did this to you 3. I wont do this again.

Someone who doesn't use a 3 step apology doesn't mean it to begin with.

I also received the same email four days ago. I'm curious what tool they used to harvest email addresses. I'm very behind-the-times in what harvesters bother to implement these days, if they've gotten to the point of having a regex match on /[emailchars]+.{,20}(gmail|yahoo|etc)/, then I'm impressed! If there was any manual work involved though, it's sad that it went to waste on a generic non-templatized email.

That tool would be my very tired but somewhat functional human brain late at night and on weekends. And as I describe above, it's not sad at all. It was actually awesome to be able to speak with so many cool folks.

One thing for sure. LocBox probably got a lot more attention now due to this post. I did not get the email but this post made me take a look at LocBox :)

Excellent! We try to empower local businesses with good software and we like what we do - Local is super-challenging and very broken which in turn makes it fun to try to build stuff for. Plus customers pay on Day One, which is always nice.

Now I'm jealous. I didn't get the email. Saumil, send it over. Let's talk. Someone who is willing to do this campaigns is someone I want to get to know.

Will do! Thanks man.

FWIW Saumil is good dude, doing good stuff.

Note to Saumil: use a "spinner" script next time buddy. ;)

Or genuinely reach out to people individually who you think might be a good match for your company, and not just bulk-contact anyone who has an email address listed you find?

The term "spinner script" was new to me; here's basically what it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_spinning


Thanks Patrick :)

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