First Round: Free for all

As an alpha wolf who roams the plains alone, First Round has never been big on solidarity (Lech Walesa notwithstanding).

Nonetheless, it was compelled to wonder recently whether it should be throwing its not inconsiderable weight behind fellow hack James Prado Roberts, a senior writer at Hedge Fund Alert, who was reported to have received a rather strange offer.

Roberts was apparently emailed by MTN Capital Partners, a New York-based buyout firm, asking whether he wanted to write some content for the firm’s new LinkedIn group. There was only one teeny tiny catch: they reportedly wanted him to do it entirely for free.

Unfortunately for MTN, an indignant Roberts sent this email straight to Jim Romenesko, author of a widely-read US media blog – who promptly called managing partner Dan Negrea for an explanation. “We’re not flush with cash,” Negra allegedly told Romenensko, who published the response on his blog. “We are looking for young people who enjoy writing – young people who are looking to build a resume … I’m looking for someone who wants a platform.”

Inevitably, much of the reaction focused on why MTN might think any of that would apply to a relatively senior professional journalist (who already has a platform, and a paying one at that) – or on why a firm that claims to be able to write $30 million equity cheques can’t afford to pay 30p a word.

However, First Round can’t help feeling this is missing the Big Picture. For a start, MTN is just thinking of LPs by keeping its running costs down. And since it clearly believes in the value of people providing free professional expertise, surely there’s a barter to be had here? An eminently-qualified hack populates their LinkedIn blog, and in return, MTN provides them with free access to a portion of carried interest on its latest fund. First Round looks forward to Dan’s email.