What with things like HeartBleed, keyloggers and other exploits that are possible on your machine, web browsing is inherently risk prone. When you choose to do something like “Online Banking”, you just brought these risks very close to your money. So you had things like passwords to keep you safe.

So here’s where I think Banks are going stupid, or they are being advised by imbeciles.

My bank:

  • requires me to login with my account number
  • and provide a password, which they never require me to change
  • and if they find a cookie on my machine, they log me right in!
  • and if they don’t find a cookie, I must answer three questions correctly before being allowed to login.

They are changing this as follows:

  • requires me to login with my account number
  • and provide a password, which they never require me to change
  • and if they find a cookie on my machine, they log me right in!
  • and if they don’t, they will send me an email, an SMS or a phone call and give me a one time use passcode.

In the old way of doing things, I effectively had four passwords and someone would have to compromise all four before he or she could login. And my browser deleted all cookies on exit, and only retained cookies for the session. With the new mechanism, someone who wanted to hack my account only need access to one password and either my telephone or the password to my email account.

How, pray, is this more secure?


Domain names are a scarce commodity and TLD’s (Top Level Domains) like .com are highly sought after.

So, assume that you have a dying desire to purchase a domain and you go looking for it, you often find that there’s a squatter there. Sitting on the registration, doing nothing with it, but looking to exploit someone who wants to purchase it for a princely sum. It is cheap to squat on a domain, about $24 per year. But you may get lucky and someone may pay you thousands for the domain later!

GoDaddy operates a closed auction system where you can list a domain “for auction” but this is an auction like none I have seen before. Recently I tried to purchase a domain and I found this …

Ha! that’s good, I am willing to pay $350 or a little more for this domain, let me “Get this”! Here’s the essence of what I saw …

That’s cool, I have to just bid close to the time when the auction ends and the offer is $350 or more … Should be all set. No indication of a “reserve price” etc., etc., So I bid, I go to bed and I wake up in the morning and here is what I see.

Still the same $350 (though I offered more than that) and apparently there is 1 Bid but the auction now has about three more months to go!

So I called the support folks and here’s what I was told.

  • The owner of the domain decides whether to sell or not.
  • The owner chose not to accept my offer.
  • The owner of the domain relisted the domain for a further 3 months.

And here’s the kicker …

  • I’m still liable for the “bid” to purchase!

At any time the bidder could accept by bid and I suddenly owe them whatever it was that I bid on the domain!

In other words, the way auctions here work is that one party is able to make a material change to the “contract” after you agree to it and you are still bound by this contract? What a scam!

Here is clause 3 of the agreement that you enter into when you offer to purchase the domain. The version of the current agreement is at https://www.godaddy.com/agreements/showdoc.aspx?pageid=6027 and is dated October 18, 2013

“As a Buyer, you are obligated to complete the transaction if you purchase the domain name through a fixed price, Buy Now format, or if you are the highest bidder at the end of an auction and your bid meets or exceeds the minimum bid or reserve price.”

Ok, GoDaddy, I’m happy to complete my side of the transaction.

  1. I am the highest bidder at the end of the auction
  2. I bid the “minimum bid amount” as specified in the auction.

Are you willing to honor your side of this transaction as stipulated in section 3 and 4 of the Sedo agreement?

Section 3 (c)

c) Buyer and Seller shall be liable to each other only for damages that are based upon their failure to perform the necessary steps to complete this transaction, intentional wrongdoing or gross negligence and shall not be liable for claims seeking consequential or punitive damages.

Section 4(b)

“b) In the event that either party fails to perform all reasonable steps necessary to submit payment, complete the transfer of control of the Purchase Object, or otherwise fails to communicate with Sedo’s representatives in a timely manner, Sedo LLC or Sedo GmbH shall have the permission of the Parties to cancel or temporarily suspend attempts to transfer said Purchase Object and to demand the commission from the Party who has failed to complete all reasonable steps necessary to complete the transaction. “


After speaking with GoDaddy Support, I was given the offer to provide my feedback and I rated them 0/10. Interestingly enough I got an email that said

Thanks for your call. Tell us how we did!


Dear GoDaddy Customer,

Thanks for contacting our Customer Support Department.

Customer service is a top priority at GoDaddy, and we hope our team provided you the first-class service we’re known for. We’d love it if you clicked the link below to tell us how we did during your recent experience.

<link deleted>

Feel like sharing more? You can always tweet your kudos to @GoDaddy, or post them to Facebook at http://facebook.com/godaddy.


So, sure enough I took to twitter and the following amusing exchange ensued.

What a freaking SCAM!

The dust-up yesterday in the Lean-Startup-Circle-Boston mailing list about yet another pay-to-pitch scheme is pretty distressing to me personally. I think it is unfortunate that these schemes are actually allowed to continue because they prey on the entrepreneur. Kudos to all who voiced their objections to this spam, and thanks to Abby for putting a stop to it.

I believe that pay-to-pitch schemes are a shame, and I continue to be appalled by them.

Not long ago I was a rookie entrepreneur, all wet behind the ears and looking for my first investor to fund ParElastic. And one of these “pay-to-pitch” schemes found their way into my mailbox. Naive as I was I asked for more details. Here’s part of an email I got in October 2011,

Wanted to confirm you received my previous email with the details you requested regarding the opportunity to have ParElastic recognized as one of the Top Innovators presenting to our leading group of investors at The New England Venture Summit, as well as make sure you’re aware that the first round deadline to apply is this Wednesday, October 26th. (Final deadline is November 9th).

Let me know if you’d like to submit ParElastic for a Top Innovator slot and I’ll send you the summary outline to fill out for our review.

I have also included below, an updated list of VCs confirmed to speak (more to be announced shortly).

So I sent off for the summary outline and here’s a part of the email that I got in response.

Fee to present: $1,485 (there is no fee to apply)

The deadline for company submissions is November 9th, 2011.

OK, I never pitched at NEVS 2011. I think it is a shame for people to actually attempt to gouge an entrepreneur almost $1,500 for the opportunity to pitch a bunch of potential investors. (The gall of it, to say it is $1,485, no fee to apply). I heard also of an angel group near Boston that charged entrepreneurs to have the opportunity to pitch. I swore not to pitch to such folks and I did not have to (luckily).

Many have written about the scourge of pay-to-pitch. From the Foundry Group blog, an article by Jason Mendelson, from Sajad Ghanizada’s blog, from the Driven Forward blog, from Fred Wilson’s blog,

I know the feeling of desperation at wanting to get funded and I’m thankful that there are plenty of things that one should consider first.

  1. If you, as an entrepreneur spend any money on a pay-to-pitch scheme, that is money that you don’t have available for what really matters; building a product, identifying customers, and building revenue. If you have a product, you have customers and some revenue and you wish to treat this “fee” as a cost of doing business, that’s one thing. But if you are not yet at that point, don’t waste your money on pay-to-pitch schemes.
  2. The value of an introduction to a potential investor is only as good as the person from whom the introduction comes. Build your network and get introduced to potential investors through your own network.
  3. There are many organizations in the Boston area (and the same can be said in most tech communities) that can help you much more than a pay-to-pitch scheme can. A list of some that I know of are provided below. If you know of others, please post a comment.
  4. There are any number of entrepreneur focused events in the Boston area each week, find one in a topic area that is best suited for your own interests and attend a couple. You’ll find not only a lot of fellow entrepreneurs but also many opportunities to grow your own network and meet potential investors and customers. They are also a great place to hire people to join your new enterprise.

Organizations that may be able to help you!

I’m proud to be associated with organizations like TiE Boston and in particular the TiE Challenge initiative.

Local groups like MassTLC organize an unConference (the next one is November 1st) and there are tons of opportunities for mentoring and networking. Yes, I realize that the unConference is not free but if you are a 1-3 person start-up, a $180 entry fee that gives you a one year membership to MassTLC is a whole lot more reasonable than a $1,500 entry fee for a single chance to pitch.

I have not (personally) been part of the many incubators in the Boston area but my company was for over a year a resident of Dogpatch Labs in Cambridge. Techstars  used to be in the same location as well.

There are many business plan contests in the Boston area. They are a great opportunity to pitch and all of the ones that I know of have been free. If you went to one of the many fine educational institutions in the Boston area, check whether your school has one of these. Maybe there’s a “venture forum” that is part of your business school?

I was incredibly fortunate to have been introduced to Foley Hoag LLP and I know that they have helped me and many first-time entrepreneurs in the Boston area.

My experience

My own experience has been that in the Boston area there are many very successful entrepreneurs who are willing and able to help, and they do this in many ways. And most of them participate in mentoring and angel investing as a way to give back to the community.

There are many benefits to building your own network and connecting with people through that network. Yes, I agree that it is frustrating and hard for many of us introverted engineer types to actually go out there and hang out with other people and try and make connections. And the pay-to-pitch schemes prey on this frustration and desperation.

There are many things should be much higher on your list of things to pursue, before you go fritter away good money on a pay-to-pitch scheme.


Say no to pay-to-pitch!