Help Wanted: President

Stanford Magazine Ad (March/April 2011, page 36) Flipping through the March/April issue of Stanford Magazine (the alumni magazine), I came across this strange ad on page 36 (click on the image to view a larger version or flip through the digital edition). This must be either an April Fool’s Day joke (very possible, like The Stanford Chaparral’s fake Daily) or the print media is really hard up for ad revenue.

This ad reads (and looks) like the occasional, but still very annoying job post on craigslist where someone’s got some stealth company/product/service or just an idea and sends out an open call for business partners, often for engineers to actually do the heavy lifting (for equity instead of money, of course). In this case, they’re looking for an already successful Internet company executive to help break down their only barrier to success– lack of marketing skills and the right connections– therefore, plucking this company and product out of obscurity and launching them into the Fortune 500.

Maybe this whole thing is legit, they really do have a great product, some accomplished Internet all-star will answer their call, and they will become The Next Big Thing, but the following points give me pause:

  1. The ad’s design/look– plain, black and white ad consisting completely of plain text with the occasional key word or phase appearing in bold– could have been posted in nearly identical form to craigslist for $75 instead of over $4000 for a full-page black and white ad in Stanford. Granted, then they wouldn’t be targeting Stanford alumni, but a) everybody checks craigslist and b) I have the feeling qualified, experienced, accomplished executives aren’t exactly flipping through the classifieds to find a job as president/CEO.
  2. The title– “Have You Run a Top Internet Company? or Held a Top Position At Such a Company?” sets up the tone: we’re looking for senior staff from an already successful Internet company. Okay… good to aim high, I guess… but if you want to attract that kind of talent, you’ll need to give a little…
  3. While you have to have the right experience and contacts, they basically say everyone in the entire world (maybe universe) is eligible– as long as you’re between 25 and 55 (which most candidates probably fall into, but why flat out discriminate by age?).
  4. They have “some of the world’s most talented people,” unknown and unrecognized genius just waiting for the right person (see #1) with “marketing skills” (admittedly, maybe this ad proves the truth in this) and “important contacts.”
  5. They have been working (presumably in stealth mode) for three years not on the product, but the “website to make and sell this product.” Their secret, but “great product” with “huge potential demand” that, despite reading the description several times, I still can’t seem to even narrow down what kind of product it is. Is it software, a website? Is it some type of health or beauty product (they mention that it can be an add-on for AVON)? Or is it some type of wireless media since they mention Verizon and AT&T as well as digital TV? Sounds more like a random list of key words and phrases for SEO. Or like the confusing rhetoric from IdeaFarm.
  6. They also say their product is an “annual fee based item,” but don’t worry, there’s a “very, very high expected renewal rate.” Hmm, annual fee based product or service related to the Internet… yeah, because people can’t possibly expect to use a website or other Internet service for free…
  7. Rolodex? Really? I assume they just mean a contact list because the only time I hear about Rolodexes lately is in old “Law & Order” episodes and it’s usually the dead guy’s Rolodex.
  8. Position available: President. Since when do startups, especially one that claims to have such a great product with so much potential, just place open calls for not just any C-level executive, but President! Although, to be fair, apparently “Paul”– the man behind the ad– can give you that “role and title” because he’s actually already the president!
  9. Oh, one last thing: you have to be “financially secure” because they can’t pay you anything, at all, until “the profits come in.” But you get “significant interest in the company” and the revenue will be rolling in soon after, okay? Because not only do they project “revenues of $50 million by the end of the second year,” but there will be “exponential growth thereafter.” Forever.

Seems too good to be true, eh?