“It was just too damn premature. We basically spent all our time trying to explain to everybody what the problem was, leaving no time to explain how we were the solution.”
Richard Nash’s presentation at Books in Browsers last week garnered a lot of attention for his candid look at what did and didn’t work with his highly touted startup, Cursor, and having just watched the video, I give him credit for not simply sneaking out the back door and moving on to his next project, like so many others have already done.
While the first 15 minutes of the presentation offers some interesting tidbits — Red Lemonade effectively ends up being a mash-up of Subterranean Press and, to a lesser degree, Writer’s Digest (with a more literary slant) — you can see his body language change as he gets to the tougher part of the presentation, actually seeming to become more comfortable as he goes along, finally acknowledging his boast of launching 50,000 independent publishers was a bit too, let’s charitably call it… ambitious: “Yeah, I know; I fucked up.”
I like Nash a lot (in ODB’s words, we go back like babies and pacifiers, from our overlapping days at Soft Skull to my early critiques of Cursor), and have always thought if anyone was going to make a go of something like Cursor, he had the best shot because he was coming at it from the right place, even if the angle was ultimately flawed. Ironically, what I thought was his main advantage just might have been his downfall: he simply wasn’t mercenary enough to attract the kind of funding needed to scale Cursor beyond the literary niche experiment it arguably always was fated to be.
That said, he took an honest shot at something he believed in and, more importantly, maintained his integrity throughout the process. While neither Cursor nor Red Lemonade ended up being the “game changers” some thought they might be, one could argue (and so I will) that the publishing industry overall is stronger for the attempt, and what *did* work shouldn’t be lost in the discussion.
Kudos to Richard and his partner Mark Warholak, for their passion and hard work at a time when so many prefer to play armchair quarterback from their keyboards.