He may have fired hundreds of his workers in a monotone Zoom speech, called his employees “dumb dolphins,” and allegedly brought a miniature ax to the office to joke about a separate round of layoffs. But now Better.com CEO Vishal Garg is ready to motivate his steadily shrinking workforce, and he’s channeling Teddy Roosevelt to do it.
“I believe in us. I believe in you. I believe in our mission… And I believe that we are the only people on this planet who will do everything needed to make homeownership better, faster, cheaper,” Garg wrote in an email to staffers this week, a copy of which The Daily Beast obtained.
The catalyst for his newfound gusto? On Thursday Fortune published an article noting that Garg was personally on the hook for “uncapped” losses that SoftBank may realize as part of a $1.5 billion deal made last fall. The Daily Beast had previously reported on elements of the agreement.
That deal looks increasingly shaky. Better has since suffered round after round of layoffs, and its public image suffered a massive toll following the now-infamous Zoom firing in December.
Seeking to promote “transparency,” Garg emailed his staff after the Fortune article came out to acknowledge it was true and to defend his choices.
“Yes I personally guaranteed SoftBank $750 [million] of the $1.5 [billion] SoftBank agreed to invest back in November,” he wrote. “We wanted the capital to build our dream.”
Garg said he had sensed a shift in the financial markets that others weren’t detecting—“I could feel that things weren’t so rosy as everyone was making them out to be”—and wanted to shore up the startup’s cash in advance.
“So yes, I am fully committed. With everything I own and will ever own,” he added, noting that the risk “might be foolish.”
“When I read articles like this,” he continued, “all I can remember is Teddy Roosevelt (great American president that people kind of don’t like these days).” He appended an excerpt from Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech.
“Every day matters,” declared the CEO, who was paid a $25 million cash bonus in 2020. “And yes, 5 years from now when that [SoftBank $750 million] loan comes due, around my 50th birthday, if it means I have nothing, well at least we will have given it a real shot.”
Garg and Better did not immediately respond to requests for comment.