When you can’t give someone the reply they want, give them a chuckle instead.
I recently met venture capitalist John Frankel at the World Summit for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He’s the founder of ff Venture Capital, which has invested in IndieGoGo, Plated, Contently, and Parse.ly, and recently raised more than $50 million in its fourth fund. Frankel, who worked for Goldman Sachs for over 20 years, is known in the industry for eschewing a number of normal VC conventions, such as basing himself in New York City’s garment district and making investments based off of Twitter conversations.
He also has a wicked sense of humor. When I checked in with Frankel last week about writing a piece for Quartz Ideas, my email to him was met with this response:
I am going to be on the road for the most of the next two weeks. Please understand that travel necessitates a certain distain for desk based work such as email. Accordingly, I am going to be less inattentive of electronic communications and more of face-to-face ones.
Cloning is an interesting scientific endeavor, that other than making lamb cheeper has not yet reduced the burden of the average VC. And by average I mean average.
– It might take a few days before I get back to you.
– Email overload is a likely result.
If you want to schedule a meeting or call please reach out to [redacted]. She is amazing and angelic, so be nice :)
In case of an absolute emergency that requires my immediate attention, please email JohnIsOnVacationButINeedHim@ffvc.com and I will try and respond as soon as possible, subject to time zones, forest fires, Frexit contagion, government shutdown, failed Bitcoin/Gold arbitrage plays, avoiding chikungunya carrying mosquitos, and general unavailability.
Auto-Response Fall micro muse
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
See you on the other side.
Frankel says he sets up a variation on this email each time he’s traveling. Previous iterations have included the SparkNotes summary of Moby Dick, all 4,420 words of his favorite childhood poem, a link to Kirsten Wiig impersonating Khaleesi from Game of Thrones, and a list of his favorite Ronald Regan quotes. They’re the perfect mix of humor, practicality, and utter absurdity—just the right thing to make you laugh, give you instructions for how to direct your inquiry, and then leave the poor guy alone.
I’m definitely setting up GeorgiaIsOnVactionButINeedHer@qz.com for my next holiday. And blacklisting anyone who emails it.
Can you beat that? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your favorite out-of-office replies.