David Martin writes an excellent article on Flowers, pointing out many of his claims as unverifiable and totally disproving others. During the interview, Flowers lied about employment, travel, education, hacker background and more.
Today's seminar on raising venture capital will be presented by a man wearing a long-sleeved checkered shirt, blue jeans and black tennis shoes. "This is dressed up for me," John Flowers announces at the outset of his PowerPoint demonstration. "Usually, I'm dressed in sandals and shorts and a T-shirt that says something offensive."
Flowers is the 35-year-old founder and CEO of an Overland Park technology company called Kozoru. He is standing at the front of a room at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. His audience is a group of two dozen young entrepreneurs, guys and gals in their twenties willing to sacrifice a Friday evening for the opportunity to learn the ways of parting investors from their money.
In spite of his casual appearance (or maybe because of it), Flowers is well-qualified to make the presentation. The Silicon Valley veteran says he's raised $70 million in his career. He has even been backed by the government: Kozoru received $500,000 from a Kansas state agency that spends lottery and race-track proceeds on economic development.
Flowers assures the entrepreneurs that his lesson will be something special. "Every time I do a presentation, I start from scratch," he says.
His head shot pops up on a projector screen behind him.
"Let's talk about me," he says.
Flowers' story begins with his doing "skunk works," or secret projects, at Microsoft in the early 1990s. "There was a time when Microsoft was actually cool," Flowers says.
In addition to working for Bill Gates, Flowers says he was a computer hacker. He talks about having attended Def Con, a 1994 hacker convention. Six companies that sell computer software meant to keep out hackers offered $10,000 to anyone who could crack their security systems in a Capture the Flag contest, he says. Flowers claims that he scored five of the six "flags" and then went for drinks with friends.
[This claim is false, as described in flowers01.html]
Flowers used his hacker background to start a network security company. Hiverworld, which became nCircle, today employs 300 people. Forty-foot brass lions stand sentry in the company's San Francisco office.
One of the young entrepreneurs, Mark Pydynowski, stops Flowers. "Why did you leave nCircle?" he asks. Clad in a dark suit, Pydynowski seems curious to know why someone would walk away from a flourishing company. Flowers says he's the type of person who needs to move on and do something new after a while. He says there were "no hard feelings" when he left nCircle.
Flowers moves on to his current project, Kozoru. He created the company to develop a search engine that understands natural language. Instead of typing keywords, users would enter questions to find their answers. Getting computers to understand linguistics has been called the holy grail of search technology. Ask Jeeves built a brand name on the idea, but the technology itself didn't really work. Flowers came up with what he thought was a unique approach . and a hell of a back story. He claims that he decided to start the company after studying Buddhism at a temple in Thailand.
Flowers moved to Johnson County in 2003 and started Kozoru a year later. He raised a total of $3 million and recruited a team of computer experts from the Bay Area and Austin, Texas. The company planned to launch its service in the summer of 2005. But the deadline came and went without a product debut. The problems, it turned out, were more difficult to solve than Flowers had imagined.
Also, the appeal of a question-and-answer search remains in doubt. At one point, the Kozoru team brought in a focus group. Test subjects sat in front of computers and were instructed to enter questions into the Kozoru search bar. "Nobody asked it a question," Flowers says in an interview. "Every single person typed in keywords. It's the funniest thing. You put a search bar in front of someone, it's like someone has trained you to think like Google rather than you thinking like you."
Kozoru is now concentrating on a search engine for instant-messaging and mobile devices. The technology is supposed to be available to the public sometime next month. A successful launch would quiet doubters.
On more than one occasion, Flowers has compared Kozoru with the Manhattan Project. He's undoubtedly intelligent and knowledgeable. But like A Million Little Pieces author James Frey, a talented writer who embellished the facts of his addiction to drugs and alcohol, Flowers is not all that he says he is. The daring of his hacking exploits is disputed. He lied to the state of Kansas about his education.
And Pydynowski was right to wonder if there was more to the nCircle story. In fact, a fellow programmer accused Flowers of stealing his work.
A "serial entrepreneur" in denim, Flowers has dazzled the local business community. But his relocation here looks as much like the arrival of a Silicon Valley washout as it does the coming of a hero.
Flowers is sitting in a chair at the Kozoru office. A small hoop hangs from his left earlobe. His beard is full today, but his facial hair goes through frequent revisions. A bottle of Fiji water, his brand of choice, is within reach. His mien is calm and friendly, like that of a patient teacher.
Flowers reminisces about his days of studying English literature and philosophy in college. He was attracted to the liberal arts, he says, because he didn't want to be near the nerds in computer labs. "I'm socially awkward, but they were way more awkward than I was," he says.
A man of diverse interests (he edits video and writes novels and film scripts in his spare time), Flowers built Kozoru in his image. Eleven people work at the company, which leases space in a bland office park near Metcalf and Shawnee Mission Parkway in Overland Park. Most members of the Kozoru team are in their thirties and strike a hip pose. Flowers met the communications manager, Justin Gardner, through the Kansas City Screenwriters club. Network Administrator Chris Downs plays in a death-metal band and wrote and directed a horror film, Shunned.
Downs left Kozoru earlier this year to work at Kansas City design agency VML. Downs says he thought that quitting a start-up would allow him more time to work on his outside projects. He immediately regretted the decision and returned after three and a half weeks.
"We're happy you're back," Flowers tells Downs, who is headed outdoors for a smoke break. "You don't want to work there anyway. Bureaucracy."
"First day I was there, this is what happened," Downs says. "I walked in and sat down at my desk, and I went, 'Holy shit, what have I done?'"
The Kozoru work schedule is flexible but demanding. Flowers asks his crew to be present or available via video chat from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. An approaching deadline typically means late nights and seven-day workweeks. "I'm pretty tough," Flowers says of his management style. Early spring felt like final-exam week for Flowers and his staff. Last month, Kozoru invited a group of industry types to use a trial of the new cell-phone and instant-messaging search engine.
Originally, Flowers talked about Kozoru taking on search giants such as Google. The plan was to build a search engine that responded to questions with authoritative answers. In Flowers' example, the question "Who is Gordon Downie?" would return a pithy reply describing Downie as the lead singer of the Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock band. Kozoru sought to deliver needles where so many keyword searches produce haystacks.
Search technology has always frustrated Flowers. He says he can remember being 9 years old and asking his Tandy TRS-80, "Why is the sky blue?" The computer simply beeped at him.
Flowers says he began talking with friends in the late '90s about how cool it would be to build a better search engine. If he was going to improve search, Flowers decided that he needed to use mathematics. Math, after all, is something that computers do very well.
"Our approach is to take a mathematical or statistical approach to language," he explains. "You don't care what the words are. You don't care what the words mean. You just map them to numbers and then figure out how close they are and how far they are and put them in a big graph. And then you just keep doing that and doing that until you get this nice set of patterns."
Flowers says Kozoru has found something valuable. Experts may disagree. The idea is nothing new, says Marti Hearst, an assistant professor in the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California-Berkeley. "This is a very standardized approach in the field," Hearst says. "In fact, this is what everyone in the field does now. It's like saying about FedEx that they use airplanes to deliver packages."
However unique its approach, the Kozoru team ran into problems. For one thing, not all questions are as simple as "Who is Gordon Downie?" Ask an Irishman "Who is the Great Emancipator?" and he's apt to say radical Catholic lawyer Daniel O'Connell, not Abraham Lincoln. A question like "Does God exist?" introduces even more variables.
"The big realization for us along the way was that we built this system that's really powerful, and it's right a lot, but there's a subjectivity to questions that you can't produce mathematically," Flowers says. "It's like trying to understand emotion . you just can't do it."
So the holy grail of natural-language search remains elusive . much like Flowers himself.
Flowers says he was born in Topeka in 1970. He tells the Pitch that he was adopted and his father (now deceased) was in the military. His grandmother bought him his first computer. "I grew up really poor, so it was a big deal," he says. "It was a $600 computer."
Flowers does not volunteer much information about his childhood. One event that he has mentioned on his blog and in other settings is his arrest at age 13. Flowers tells the Pitch that the FBI kicked down his door one day. "I had committed wire fraud, which is making free long-distance phone calls."
Flowers says he made the illegal calls to connect to bulletin-board systems, which were precursors to the World Wide Web. "I thought it was ridiculous that I had to pay long-distance charges to connect to another computer, so I figured a way to get around it."
Flowers says he spent several months in a juvenile-detention center in San Diego run by the FBI. He says his confinement coincided with the popularity of the 1983 geek classic WarGames. Adult counselors, he says, worried about his ability to start Armageddon with the push of a few buttons.
Flowers says he survived detention by befriending a big, tough guy named Andre. "I think he blew up a building . it was awful," Flowers recalls of his protector. Flowers showed Andre how to make free calls from a cellblock pay phone. In gratitude, Flowers says, Andre "kind of bodyguarded me."
Juvenile records are sealed, so no public documents exist to support or refute Flowers' story. But the FBI does not run detention centers. Juveniles convicted of federal crimes do their time at facilities run by state or local governments. "It sounds kind of fishy," Sandra Hijar, a spokeswoman for the Western Regional Office of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, tells the Pitch after hearing Flowers' tale of incarceration at age 13. "I have never heard of a juvenile FBI facility."
True or false, Flowers' story bears similarities to the plight of John Draper, a famous figure in computer circles. Draper discovered in the 1960s that a toy whistle found in certain cereal boxes could be used to manipulate long-distance calling switches. The subject of a 1971 Esquire story, in which he was identified only as "Captain Crunch," Draper taught future Apple founders Steven Jobs and Steve Wozniak his secrets. He was later tracked down by the FBI and spent time in prison.
After his release, Flowers says he left home when he was not quite 16 and moved in with a friend who had an apartment. He got a job delivering pizza and tried to stay in school, he says. Often unsure of dates and places ("Temporality eludes me for some reason," he says), Flowers guesses that he lived in Texas at the time he left home. He says he moved to Massachusetts and then Berkeley.
Flowers' teenage years would provide still another amazing technology-related story: He claims to have come up with an idea for making movie times available by phone.
Flowers wrote a version of the story on his blog two years ago: In the early 1990s, Flowers was staring at a poster for the movie Three Days of the Condor when lightning struck: a computer program that generated lists of theaters and show times from zip codes. Flowers submitted the idea to a contest run by the telephone industry. "Six days later," he wrote, "someone wrote a check for what we called 444-FILM and I purchased a brand new, 1990 Porsche Carrera 911 4X4 with the profit ..."
In an interview, Flowers does not say that his application became Moviefone, the company behind 777-FILM. Rather, he notes that he came up with the idea the year before Moviefone launched. Editing the story he told on his blog, Flowers tells the Pitch that he wrote the program in 1988, not the early 1990s, perhaps remembering that Moviefone launched in 1989.
AOL bought Moviefone in 1999 for $388 million, but Flowers claims no bitterness. "I was 17, and somebody wrote me a check for $80,000 because of a computer thing that I did," he says.
Like the arrest, the 444-FILM story is unverifiable. Flowers says confidentiality agreements prevent him from revealing the identity of the person who wrote the $80,000 check.
But Russ Leatherman, a Moviefone founder (as well as the famous voice of 777-FILM), tells the Pitch through a spokesman that he's never heard of Flowers.
Doubt surrounds another story that Flowers likes to tell: his contest-winning performances at Def Con.
The annual Las Vegas hacker convention called Def Con was founded by Jeff Moss in 1993. When a Pitch reporter recounted the story Flowers told at the Kauffman Foundation, Moss quickly answered: "Utter bullshit."
The convention didn't include a Capture the Flag contest until the fourth Def Con in 1996, Moss says . not 1994 or 1995, years in which Flowers has claimed to have won the prize. Moss recalls that another individual won the first two Capture the Flag contests. "It was this guy called A.J. Reznor, who won it in a pretty famous way," Moss says. "This guy won it with no monitor, attacking the machine with a keyboard only. He memorized the entire attack and did it."
When asked about the discrepancy last week, a Kozoru spokesman said Flowers may have misspoken at the Kauffman Foundation and that the issue is one of semantics. In fact, Moss does acknowledge that Flowers may have a Capture the Flag victory to his credit. The problem, Moss says, is that Flowers has continually claimed he won on years when he didn't, and he fails to mention that he was part of a hacker team.
Flowers did present a paper at Def Con 8. A video of his speech, available on the Internet, shows an overweight and grungy-haired Flowers talking in a hotel conference room about network security. At one point in the hourlong presentation, he pops open a bottle of beer. At another point, he holds up a white paper by Network Associates, a leading security company now known as McAfee. Flowers expresses his contempt for corporate network security by flinging the document into the crowd.
"Fuck that," he says.
Flowers, who is 6 feet 1 inch tall, is standing next to his blue 1994 Mazda RX-7 in the parking lot outside the Kozoru office. He is wearing a "Cult of Chuck Palahniuk" T-shirt under a light jacket. Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club, is one of Flowers' heroes, along with Steve Jobs and the late physicist Richard P. Feynman.
Like the T-shirt, the car speaks to Flowers' identity. A decal of his beloved Apple Computers is stuck to the rear window. Below the Apple sticker is a word in kanji, a Japanese writing system based on Chinese characters. The word, Flowers explains, translates to elite, a term hackers use to identify themselves.
The workday is over. Flowers leaves to meet his 3-year-old son, Case. He calls the boy "my own little organic learning engine."
Flowers is learning what it means to be a divorced father. Flowers and Case's mother, Gretchen, separated last year after 12 years of marriage. The divorce was finalized last month.
The couple married in Arlington, Texas. They lived in Kansas City for a time in the mid-'90s, when Flowers helped UtiliCorp (now Aquila) install an e-mail system. He moved to the Bay Area in 1996 for a job at Farcast, a now-defunct Internet company.
Flowers founded Hiverworld, the network security company, in 1998. He left in 2003. Five years, he says, is about twice as long as he can spend doing anything. "I left and decided, 'That's it. I'm done with technology. I'm going to write a screenplay. I'm going to write a book. I'm going to find a million things that aren't technology.'"
Whatever his artistic yearnings, Flowers did not leave the company in a blaze of glory. A year after founding the company in 1998, Flowers was accused of lifting the work of security expert Fyodor Vaskovich. Several employees left the company after the incident, which contributed to the decision to rename the business nCircle.
Restricted in what he can say by a confidentiality agreement, Vaskovich tells the Pitch that his copyright dispute with Hiverworld was "settled amicably" in 2001. "Since their reincarnation with new management, nCircle has become an important partner and a pleasure to work with," he writes in an e-mail.
Flowers calls the copyright claim "complete and utter bullshit" and says it has been settled. He adds: "I was accused of stealing something, but you know what? People get accused of stealing stuff all the time. The resolution was, there was no resolution. It never went anywhere. There was no trial. There was no case . nothing. Never went anywhere. It was just an accusation by someone who was mad at me when they quit. I have kind of a strong personality, and some people don't respond well to that."
Flowers says he stayed on for three years after the accusation was made. He also notes that he was able to convince a few nCircle veterans to join his new venture.
After leaving the Bay Area, Flowers says he and his wife were traveling around the country when they found a house they liked in Mission, Kansas. They hit the road again a few months after Gretchen gave birth to Case at Menorah Medical Center. "One of us had a rucksack, the other one had the kid, and we just took off."
What follows is another remarkable John Flowers story.
The young family went first to Boston and then visited several countries in Europe. "It was total Zen travel," Flowers says. "We would just wake up [and say], 'What do you want to do today?'"
Flowers wanted to see Hong Kong, but during a layover in Bangkok, he became captivated by Thailand. John, Gretchen and their toddler son moved about the country, staying in bungalows, before arriving in a place called Chiang Rai. There, Flowers knocked on the door of a temple and announced that he wanted to study Buddhism. A person who answered the door spoke some English and told him that his request would be difficult to meet. Flowers asked to see the teacher in charge.
With the man who answered the door serving as interpreter, Flowers spoke with the teacher. "I said something that apparently impressed him," he says. Flowers received an invitation to spend a month in the temple. Gretchen and Case returned to the States.
Flowers says the teacher gave him the arduous task of grinding pepper with a mortar and pestle. His eyes watered, and his skin blistered. "I did that for hours every day," Flowers says. "It was brutal."
Using broken Thai, Flowers was eventually able to communicate with the teacher, who, he says, was "a fairly well-known Buddhist monk." When he was not grinding pepper or taking walks with the monk, Flowers meditated. He discovered that he wasn't very good at meditating. "Sort of on the dirt floor, staring at the white wall, that's when I decided, 'You know what, I think I have another company in me.'"
He says he was back in the United States for only 30 days before convincing investors to fund Kozoru.
As for the Thailand story, Flowers agreed last week to show his passport after a Pitch reporter asked for evidence of the journey. But as of press time, he had produced nothing.
Mike Peck met John Flowers in the spring of 2004. Peck was serving as the fund manager at the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation (KTEC). A state economic-development agency, KTEC has the authority to make direct investments in promising Kansas tech companies. With his stories of raising seven figures in investments and his journey in Thailand, Flowers left quite an impression on Peck.
Peck is no rube. He received an MBA from Northwestern University and worked at C-Tribe, a failed San Francisco dot-com of the late '90s. He spent time with Flowers as KTEC considered investing in Kozoru. Peck sat in as Flowers made a presentation to venture capitalists on the West Coast. Eventually, KTEC invested $500,000 . double the size of any of the agency's previous investments. Additionally, KTEC has awarded $372,000 in tax credits to private investors in Kozoru.
"From the first meeting with John Flowers, it was pretty apparent that he was an exceptional individual and had an exceptional vision," Peck told the Pitch in 2004. Peck said Kozoru was a "perfect storm" of an outstanding board, management and idea. Now a partner in the private-equity fund Open Prairie Equity Partners, Peck subleases office space from Kozoru. Today, Peck calls the KTEC investment in Kozoru the right opportunity at the right time.
KTEC has $6.8 million invested in Kansas companies and funds, according to its most recent annual report. Tracking the performance of the investments is difficult. Of the 15 companies KTEC helped in 1998, 10 had either closed or had failed to grow beyond nonfamily employees, according to a 2003 state audit. KTEC President Tracy Taylor tells the Pitch that his staff does due diligence when looking at possible investments. "[It's] good governance and good partnering rather than just giving somebody money," he says.
On paper, Kozoru looked like the kind of company that Kansas . with only two Fortune 500 companies . should recruit. In addition to Flowers, Kozoru had two prominent Bay Area board members: David Warthen and Ridgely Evers. Warthen was a co-founder of Ask Jeeves. Evers conceived QuickBooks accounting software.
Though associated with recognizable products, Warthen and Evers were not exactly ascendant figures at the time they joined the Kozoru board. Ask Jeeves had raised $42 million in its initial public offering in 1999. But the company failed to deliver on the promise of a question-based search. Ask Jeeves acquired new technology in 2001, and the site now looks and feels very much like Google.
Warthen left Ask Jeeves and stayed mostly out of the news until 2004. That year, Warthen married Cristina Schultz . who, federal prosecutors claim, paid her way through Stanford Law School by working as a high-priced call girl under the name "Brazil." Schultz made headlines in the Bay Area when the federal government seized $61,000 from her that prosecutors say she earned as a prostitute.
Warthen later stepped in to claim that the money was his, not proceeds from unlawful activity. Warthen gave the money to Schultz to hold prior to their marriage, his attorney, Doug Schwartz, says. "Of course, they were going to use it for vacations, weddings and/or a honeymoon, to be precise," Schwartz tells the Pitch.
The case is still being fought in federal court. Warthen declined to comment to the Pitch about the incident. But he spoke highly of Flowers, who he said is always full of ideas. "He has not only a very strong technical knowledge, but he is a very creative thinker," he said.
Evers became president of Hiverworld in 2000. He left the business at around the same time that Flowers did. Evers says he took a vacation and "did something approaching nothing [in the technology field] for a while." He joined the Kozoru board largely because of his belief in Flowers. "One of the things that I like about John is that he is interested in . maybe only interested in . solving big problems," Evers tells the Pitch. "What he was setting out to solve with Kozoru was nothing less than the unfulfilled promise of search. That's really what it comes down to. That's a big challenge. I like that."
KTEC officials appear to have done little but talk to Flowers believers like Evers. A section of Kozoru's application for KTEC funding is subject to open-records laws. In the description of the management team, Flowers claims to hold bachelor's and master's degrees from Berkeley and a master's degree from the University of Texas in Austin.
The degrees do not exist.
Kathleen Maclay, spokeswoman at Berkeley, says the university has no record of a John S. Flowers attending the school in the past 25 years. Officials at Texas also could not find record of a student named John Flowers who was born in 1970.
In response, Flowers replied: "That's bizarre. I don't know what to tell you. That's pretty strange. Maybe I should give them [Berkeley] a call and figure out what's going on."
"When we started, we sort of naively thought we were going to create an Ask Jeeves that works," Flowers says.
Turns out, nobody really cared if they could.
"That ship has sailed," Flowers says. "I think people, either they don't want it or they were burned by it or they believed and then they lost faith because it didn't work the way they thought it would."
The Kozoru team regrouped and decided to create a search engine that catered to mobile devices and instant-messaging software. Flowers describes a scenario in which a cellular-phone user finds the right restaurant with Kozoru's help. "Imagine being able to say, 'I want Chinese in San Francisco that's cheap, that's good for me to bring a date to and is run by the Mafia,' and getting that kind of answer, which is way outside of 411 or even what the Web is doing for you right now," he says.
A few weeks ago, Kozoru gave a group of people in the information-technology business access to the system. Flowers says the early feedback has been "extremely positive."
Even if a launch is successful, Kozoru is unlikely to become the area's next Sprint. Flowers itches to sell the company.
Flowers spent time last fall talking to officials at Google, Apple and Yahoo. On his blog, loneronin.net, he wrote with unusual candor about his experiences as a possible acquisition target. Flowers described a visit that he and members of his team made to Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. "Everything we saw and heard and felt seemed like we were getting along great with everyone there," he wrote on December 1. "Everything, that is, until three weeks ago when . without warning . they stopped responding to e-mails or returning our phone calls."
In a December 19 post, Flowers moaned that Google had "banned" Kozoru from using its system after a demonstration in which Kozoru had improved on Google search results.
The posts shook a corner of the blogosphere that keeps watch on new computer technology. "If I were Google, I wouldn't return this guy's calls either," technology writer Nicholas Carr wrote on his blog, Rough Type. "A crank is a crank." Carr also made fun of Flowers for glossing himself as a "Futurist, Strategist, Technologist, Visionary & Polymath" on his blog. The description was later removed.
Another blogger, Scott Reynolds, called Flowers "Mr. Ego" in the comment thread on Carr's blog. Reynolds faulted Flowers for creating his own page on Wikipedia, the user-edited online encyclopedia. Showing a measure of sportsmanship, Flowers participated in the comment thread, saying he agreed with a lot of what Carr had said, "except for the part about me being a crank."
Addressing Reynolds' comments, Flowers said he edited but did not create the Wikipedia page. Logs showed that the original author lived in Missouri. "My guess is someone I know wrote it. I do . after all . have actual friends," Flowers responded.
Whoever originally authored his Wikipedia page, Flowers certainly approved of its existence. "If I ever get an entry in the Wikipedia system, I will consider myself successful," he wrote on his blog seven months prior to the page's creation.
As for Google's nonresponsiveness, Flowers tells the Pitch he learned later that a company rep he was expecting to hear from took a five-week vacation in Fiji.
Unbowed by the banned-by-Google experience, Flowers continued to negotiate in public. In January, his blog listed the 11 reasons that Apple should buy Kozoru. A few days later, Flowers shared the comment of someone named Mark who said Flowers had "hung his dick over the fence."
Flowers wrote that he was "pretty much joking" when he had entreated Apple to purchase Kozoru.
During Flowers' speech at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center, the phrase "The Spooky Art" appears on a PowerPoint slide. Flowers uses the term to describe the process of raising venture capital.
The term has a familiar ring: The Spooky Art is the title of a 2003 Norman Mailer book about writing. Flowers, however, does not credit the Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
A whiff of plagiarism notwithstanding, Flowers proves to be an engaging and informative speaker. Gone are the nervous laughs and incessant throat clearings that tarnished his performance at Def Con in 2000.
"Your idea is not what is going to get you funded," Flowers explains in an effort to get the entrepreneurs to think about the importance of attitude and technique. Flowers seems to delight in debunking conventional wisdom. At one point, he tells the entrepreneurs to forget about writing a business plan. "Every time I say this, people throw tomatoes at me," he says.
Flowers dispenses practical advice, too, much of it surely of value. He encourages the entrepreneurs to incorporate early and file a lot of patents, which he compares to arrows in a quiver. He even recommends what fonts to use in PowerPoint presentations . Trebuchet, Georgia and, in a pinch, Monaco.
Flowers says his ideas are based on "15 years of pain and suffering." A little imagination also went into the presentation. Flowers tells the audience that he served for a time as "entrepreneur in residence" at Industry Ventures, a San Francisco venture capital outfit. But Hans Swildens, a principal at Industry Ventures, says Flowers is mistaken. "We funded his last company, but he never worked here," Swildens tells the Pitch.
Flowers says later that he misspoke. Instead, he says he was a "technical adviser" who looked at some deals.
Toward the end of the talk, Flowers produces a list of reality-challenged statements that every successful tech entrepreneur needs. Valuable fibs include "We have clients" and "Microsoft won't be a threat." Flowers justifies the deceit on the grounds that venture capitalists expect to be told a few whoppers. Besides, the moneymen have their untruths, too.
Flowers begins this section of the presentation by saying, "Here's a collection of lies you need to tell them."