Sqoot: We Screwed Up, Hackathon May Not Go On

The cofounders of daily deals aggregator Sqoot have issued a full apology on their blog for a lame joke that made its way into the description of a Boston hackathon and offended the Internet. The joke and subsequent backlash that cost the organizers of the Boston API Jam four sponsors at last count may mean the organizers have to reschedule or cancel the event. “As we decide whether to continue with the event, or reschedule for another time, we will focus efforts on making sure that our event marketing is inclusive to all. We will do better,” Sqoot writes.

The hapless founders listed “women” as one of the hackathon’s perks and continued, “Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (female) event staff get that for you.” The comment rocketed them to Internet fameballdom as they endured intensive heckling on Twitter and became the subject of a ReadWriteWeb story and posts on The Next Web and the Boston-based tech blog BostInno.

The new apology, which has nine comments on the company Posterous, is more self-effacing than the terse response issued by the company yesterday, which drew criticism because it seemed to be offloading responsibility.

Sqoot writes:

When we put together the original event page, we used language that we now realize was reckless and hurt efforts to diversify gender in tech. We immediately and deservedly received an enormous backlash. While we aimed to call attention to the male-dominated tech world through humor and intended to be inclusive, the gravity of our wording was just the opposite. Our words completely undermined our intentions and went further to harm the world we’re trying to have a positive impact on.
We apologize unequivocally to our sponsors, customers, friends and family, and community. We’d like to thank everyone for being so outspoken. As a young startup, we learned a lot today and are better people and a better company for it.

“We’re a small startup trying to do big things. Sometimes we trip and fall. This is one of those times. In hindsight, our language was reckless & immature,” Sqoot cofounder, former Wall Streeter and Betabeat contributor Mo Yehia wrote in an email. “Please accept our apology & help us turn this negative into a positive.” We’re reminded of Louis Armstrong, who said: “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.”

Meanwhile, Sqoot still has not apologized for the egregious spelling error in the “massages” perk, in which hackathon participants were urged to “take a brake.”

Sqoot: We Screwed Up, Hackathon May Not Go On