An open letter to BeachMint's Diego Berdakin and Josh Berman

By Sarah Lacy , written on July 18, 2013

From The News Desk

Dear Diego and Josh,

I just read a Tweet from a PandoDaily reader saying "This BeachMint vs. PandoDaily drama doesn't really benefit anyone." I agree completely, as I'm sure you do. To that end, I decided to try one last time to reach out to you both, this time publicly.

As you know, we have repeatedly invited you to contact us (or respond to our many attempts to contact you) to help us understand the difference between what our well-placed sources are telling us about the situation within BeachMint and what you and your board are telling other media outlets.

From day one you have declined to speak to us. This is, of course, entirely your prerogative. But earlier this week we learned that you had hired Lanny Davis – a man more famous for defending President Bill Clinton, African dictators, and post-Sandusky Penn State than embattled tech startups – seemingly to help discredit PandoDaily in the media. One of the claims Davis is making is that we have refused to speak to you about this story. This is flatly untrue. I want to reiterate to you, and make clear to your staff and our readers, that we would be delighted to speak to you about the story.

Another claim Davis has made is that we have refused to update our story. We immediately updated our original story as soon as we learned that you were refuting it. I also published an update post stating that, while our sources were standing by their version of events, it was clear that you were still, as of this moment, leading BeachMint and had not at the time of writing actually returned capital. That's the only correction we've been formally asked to make, and we made it long ago.

The only thing we didn't do is change the headline on our original story. We have a policy against changing headlines, except in the most extreme circumstances as altering heads often looks like an attempt to revise history and cover up mistakes. In fact, changing headlines is quite literally Orwellian. Instead, I added an "[UPDATE]" in front of the headline and made it clear in the first paragraph of the story that the facts were disputed. And, again, we updated the story to reflect your objections to the story. I believed, and still believe, that this was the most honest, transparent way to handle the update.

While it plays well on rival blogs, it's absurd for Davis to claim we have not been acting in good faith, given our rapid corrections to the story and many attempts to speak with you.

I've been thinking about this for a few days and seeking advice from many people in the LA and Silicon Valley startup communities. Here's how I think we can put this drama to rest and allow both of our companies to focus on more important things.

First, as a gesture of goodwill, I have updated the headline, as I offered to do when I spoke with Davis. This is something I've never done before at PandoDaily. It now makes clear that our claims came from sources and that you have flatly denied the claims. In the interests of transparency, I've added another line to the opening paragraph to explain the change and to acknowledge the original headline. I hope this will, at the very least, stop Davis complaining that we're being unreasonable or that we're refusing to revise the story that we've already revised.

In return I'd like to ask again for you to speak to us so that we can get to the bottom of this story. Almost every media outlet has echoed our reporting that-- this drama aside-- BeachMint is a company in trouble. If that is not the case, as the board letter suggests, we would love to hear how everyone in the press and our many, many sources have it wrong. I'm happy to talk to you on or off the record, at a place of your choosing – your office or ours, or a third party location. I'm happy to conduct a video interview, an interview on stage, or speak privately on the phone. I am happy to post the entire unedited transcript of an interview, to ensure you get a fair hearing.

What we won't do is continue to have a strange, sometimes private sometimes public, conversation through a man you hired with the specific intent of keeping us from speaking to you. I asked Davis questions about BeachMint and he said he had no information on the health of the company. He simply wanted us to apologize and never speak of BeachMint again.

That's not how journalism or PandoDaily works, and it's not how things are done in our community. In 15 years of reporting on our industry, I've never met an entrepreneur who would prefer to pay what I would assume are thousands of dollars to a political crisis consultant rather than simply answering the phone. I'll own up to our part in creating this drama, but by refusing to speak to us, you have extended it.

So, what do you say? Let's put an end to this drama by establishing the truth – the whole truth – once and for all.

(I'm sending a version of this message to you via email, with the addition of my direct phone number and email address, just to make absolutely sure that you have them)


Sarah Lacy