The long, strange saga of Gawker Media, Peter Thiel and Hulk Hogan came to an end last month when Univision purchased the media outlet for $135 million at auction. While Univision bought the company's entire portfolio of sites, the frequently controversial Gawker.com shuttered shortly after the sale. If you’re unfamiliar with the events leading up to Gawker’s demise, here's a quick primer.
In 2012, Gawker published a sex tape involving Hogan, who then levied an invasion of privacy lawsuit against the company and its founder Nick Denton. The judge in the case ruled in favor of Hogan to the tune of $140 million in damages, which led the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Amid these developments, it was revealed this spring that PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel bankrolled Hogan's lawsuit. Gawker Media outed Thiel as gay in a post on Valleywag, the company's now defunct Silicon Valley gossip site, in 2007. Got all that?
While Gawker is no longer with us, a parody site called Gawken has recently emerged. Emulating the biting style of Gawker, its satirical articles skewer some of the clichés that we -- including us here at Entrepreneur on occasion -- use when we talk about entrepreneurs and innovation. Society should collectively instate a moratorium on using the word "disruptive," for example, to describe the work of any new startup until the end of time. We often resort to familiar, over-the-top descriptors and mantras, weakening their meaning.
Gawken's mysterious "founder" is Peter “Theil,” who wants to assure you that he has no relation to a certain Facebook investor. And in an introductory post titled, "We’re Going To Open Your Mind To The Future," he explains what inspired him to create the site.
"There is one thing that stands between the people who live in Silicon Valley and the future, and that is: the people who live outside of Silicon Valley. This is because the people living outside Silicon Valley are terrified of the future…But what if there was a way for the people in Silicon Valley to open those people’s minds for them, using technology?"
The mild condescension continues apace as Theil describes what readers can expect from Gawken. "At times, what you read on Gawken may rile, provoke or disorient you. At times, it will seem completely fucked up. But as I tell all of the young entrepreneurs I meet, and also everyone else I meet, doing something that feels weird or wrong can be a sign that you’re on to something truly unique and great."
I know I’m guilty of providing this kind of tried and true entrepreneurial advice every so often. As recently as a couple of days ago, I wrote a story that included calls to “go off the beaten track,” and “don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek out new solutions to old problems.” I promise it was relevant at the time.
Gawken’s mocking theme extends to its other fictional authors, including Gawken News Algorithm, Tim Cook's Toaster and Elon Musk's Tesla. Headlines such as "Awesome: They Made A Drone That Can Vape” populate the site.
Silicon Valley and other tech hubs around the world are home to some very bright people with legitimately great ideas. But the startup world can also devolve into a feedback loop of insular self-regard. So when someone comes along and points out the relentless convention-flouting and buzzword-using, it keeps us in check and gives us an opportunity to laugh at ourselves.