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Protecting Startup Founders’ Secret Identities

This is one of those “good news / bad news” stories.

Good NewsBefore sunrise, I started office hours. It is my favorite way to start a new day. It even accommodates other timezones.


BAD NEWS The draft deck was beyond terrible. Hard to know whether to cry or to scream or to both. Hopefully, it doesn’t show. It probably shows.


Good NewsWe fixed it. It now clearly, dramatically, and concisely tells his story in the best possible manner. It’s a beautiful deck. We could use it as an example in the pitch deck hall of fame.


BAD NEWSThe fundamentals of the company were still such that only a very few investors or customers would ever be interested in it.

I imagine I’d be lucky to bump into one such person every third lifetime. Without reincarnation, what chance would I have?

Good NewsWithout warning, such a person arrived on my LinkedIn doorstep. It didn’t take three lifetimes. It only took about six weeks. Much less than one lifetime.

BAD NEWS I didn’t make an introduction.

I looked at the founder’s LinkedIn profile. It showed that he was running an unrelated company. Several screens of “more” buttons later, I found the company that matched the pitch deck. Apparently, he was the founder and/or CEO of many companies of which this was the last (and presumably the least.)

Then I remembered my hero, The Masculine Mongoose, and the need to protect secret identities. Perhaps this company was a secret identity that was being accidentally listed so far down the list that no one would ever see it.

brown animal standing on brown field
Photo byDušan veverkolog on Unsplash

I knew I needed to check to make sure I didn’t blow his cover.

So I sent him a series of innocent-looking LinkedIn messages: “What are you working on?”, “What does your company do?”, etc.

None of his replies ever mentioned this last company on the list, or anything related to it. Zero overlap with that hall of fame pitch deck.

So indeed, it must be part of his secret identity. I knew it.


Good NewsHis secret Identity is secure. I didn’t make the introduction. I kept his secret safe. I won’t even mention it to him. He doesn’t need to thank me. Protecting such secrets is just part of what a good citizen does. I bet you would the same if you were confronted with such circumstances.

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Written by Russell Brand

Russell has started three successful companies, one of which helped agencies of the federal government become very early adopters of open source software, long before that term was coined. His first project saved The American taxpayer 250 million dollars. In his work within federal agency, he was often called, “the arbiter of truth,” facilitating historically hostile groups and factions to effectively work together towards common goals


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