Last night was remarkable. We got to Little Rock, Arkansas and I was the first in the door of their startup incubator. I was interacting with an older gentleman with a spectacular mustache and beard. Then, I pitched my product to him and told him my background story, we had a fantastic conversation.
He and I really kicked it off for various reasons. My story resonated with him because he too was once in a position of near-homelessness years ago. He also happened to previously be married to a woman with the same last name as me!
After chatting with him for a few minutes, he asks for my card, and he eagerly gives me his.
Later, I interacted three guys that were just hanging around, I just walk up and greet them (I’ve always been a bit fearful to approach strangers in public, but I definitely broke out of my shell to meet and greet as much as possible). It started with just three guys listening to me, then it turned into eight, and they all were really pleased to interact with me, and they were a joy to interact with as well.
Then, I went to the back where there was food, that’s when I kind of closed up again…and just put food in my mouth. I’m not as social as would appear; I can be the life of the party, but I mostly get anxious and eventually want to stand in the corner and not be noticed.
But, I left my jobs and home behind, so I’m not in a position to sit alone and stay quiet.
So, I walked up…awkwardly to two people: A woman in a very nice business suite and very modern glasses, and a gentleman with a very nice blazer, a button up shirt, jeans, and clearly comfortable yet stylish black shoes. They are both in their mid-30s, I’d guess.
I blurt out, “How’s your evening going tonight?”
Yeah…really smooth, David.
“It’s good,” they respond.
I know that in conversation with new people, if you initiate it, you better be ready to do most of the talking because you just infringed on their conversation.
So, I go straight into who I am, what I am doing, and pitch my product.
It turns out that these two people are the director and fund manager of the startup incubator. They immediately ask me questions about my company, I respond, they criticize, I positively retort, they get their cards out and say who they are.
And I’m sitting there stoic like…
Just kidding, or am I?
They really like me, and I’m enjoying our conversation. Then I tell them that I left my job and my home behind to try to start a company on the road.
That’s when they tell me to apply to their program where they give entrepreneurs $50,000 up front to get started with their business, and they provide mentors, course curriculum, and so much more.
Now I’m like…
So, it’s not a firm offer, but damn, it feels good that people are insinuating they want to invest in me and my business pursuits.
I get their contact info, and give them mine. So, I walk away with three excellent contacts. Mission accomplished.
Then, we all go out to eat at Sticky’s in Little Rock, and I get to meet with Joe and his crew some more. They are from New Orleans, and they are eager to hear more about me and what the hell I am up to, and I can’t wait to hear about their lives.
They listen to me and what I have done in the last 18 months, and how I am working towards a more fulfilling life. Then I take the time to listen to them and their goals, aspirations, and pursuits. One thing I have learned is that when it comes down to it, we all want very similar goals:
- Secure financial future
- Meaningful connections
- Surround ourselves with people that care
Most people are good people.
After dinner, we all walked home and chatted some more, arriving back at our Hotel before the rain started. To me, it was hot and humid that night in LIttle Rock, but to the New Orleanians, it was cold, so I offered to give up my Alpaca Wool jacket, pictured above next to Joe.
We head back to the Tech Park in Little Rock, well, I should say, “I headed there.” We were supposed to wait for a shuttle, but after 17 minutes of waiting, I decided to just walk to the Tech Center instead. I’m not in a position to spend time standing around, and I really needed a walk after so much time on a bus.
So, I walk there, and Google Maps appears to be confused. Thus, I’m confused, and tired, and hungry.
There are two women at a booth, so I go up and explain, “Hey, sorry to bother you, I’m not from here, but do you know where the Little Rock Technology Park is?”
They look at each other with perplexing facial expression, and they respond, “Sorry, we don’t.”
I go on to explain, “Google maps said I passed it, but I look back there and it doesn’t look familiar. There is a big sign on it that says ‘Something Technology Park’ and it’s so large I can’t believe I can’t find it.”
On of the girls shrugs with a look of, “I don’t know what to tell you, but I want to help, but I can’t.”
The other girls says, “You mean like that right there?” She points across the street.
I look across the street through the tree limbs, and sure enough…it is about 50 feet from me…on the opposite side of the street.
I think I should explain…it’s broad daylight out, and the streets are clear. So…
I tell them that truly, I’m not as dumb as I look…I’m dumberer.
They laugh, we laugh, it was a good show. I thank them and give them a good Nebraska high five, and I’m on my way.
I go to the crosswalk and wave goodbye exuberantly to my finger pointing navigator.
The morning was fantastic. The accelerator gave us free consultations. Normally, these consultations cost $1,000. Each team got 30 minutes for free.
It was great. I inform my team that it is super important to take notes, because these are investors we’re talking about here.
The initial feedback is about the pitch from the night before. Abby pitched her rendition of the business saying it is free travel and all of that.
So, the investors quickly criticize that. They also criticize several things that I told Abby and Dulce to prepare for, but they didn’t and Dulce kept changing the subject to avoid the criticism, but we needed the feedback, so I tried to get more from the VC’s.
In many ways, I felt relieved that the VC’s were giving very similar criticism to what I told our team we would receive.
Afterwards, Abby and Dulce were feeling pretty dejected, and they then started to change their presentation to match what I have been saying since the first day.
I thought I finally had them on my side.
They still refused to acknowledge their mistakes. I knew it was a losing battle, so I simply said to keep working on what they wanted, because all already see that we don’t work well as a team.
I mention what I am working on, and Abby tries to tell me how I should write the code for the site. Let me remind you, that she doesn’t have any experience in web development.
So, I explain to her that if I do the website the way she wants, the code is going to break and it is going to look terrible. She insists that I am wrong.
I am not longer interested in arguing so I tell her that I will do as she wishes, but I explain that it will take about two hours, and it won’t work, then I will have to go back and do what I know does work.
She gets angry and tells me to just do what she said.
So, I do it. While I’m trying to do that, Dulce keeps interrupting my thought process by loudly singing. So, I tell them I am just going to go work out in the hallway, because when I’m coding I need to concentrate.
Dulce attacks me saying I’m not a team player…I have an astonished look on my face because…damn, she is really projecting right now.
I have given up on providing criticism, so I simply tell her, “Thanks for your criticism, it’s something we all have to work on. As for now, I have to get this website up so we can get sign ups because, as the VC’s just said, we need signups, we need traction, otherwise we are going to fail.”
She wanted to argue about what the VC’s just told us, and I wasn’t interested because we have to pitch our product in 4 hours, and we don’t have time to listen to her argue about things that she misunderstands…I didn’t say that, I just said, “I have work to do, we’ll discuss this later.”
At this point we are on the bus, heading from Little Rock to Jackson, Mississippi. I have the site up and running. Abby designated Florent to be the social media marketer. And I ask Florent what he called the Facebook page and the Twitter feed. It turns out that Florent doesn’t know how to use Facebook…and has never used Twitter.
So, I take over. I create Facebook Page and I create the Twitter. I’m frustrated because Abby has tried arguing with me over the leadership role since moment one, and she keeps telling people to work on things they don’t know how to do.
So, I spend an hour or so getting Facebook and Twitter up and running. Then I get our landing page done…and I show her how broken the site is with her google form.
“Oh…I…I didn’t realize that the form was so long on the screen,” she said.
Me: “I did before we even started. That’s why I recommended letting the front end developer do it the way they know how. Now we are several hours behind, because you assigned Florent to be the social media marketer, and he doesn’t know how, and you argued with me over frontend, when you don’t even know it yourself.”
She looks further dejected at this point, and because I care, I tell her not to worry about it, but I’m not talking out of my ass here.
I get to work, she gets to work, Florent is just kinda hanging out, Dulce is talking with other groups, hanging out, shooting the breeze, and Joon is working on the actual functionality of the MVP.
About an hour before we get to Jackson, Mississippi, my computer stops running my local host server, and I can’t test my scripts. So, decide to try to build a team page.
I explain to Abby that we don’t work well as a team, and she agrees. She said, “Yeah, we very clearly won’t be working on this together going forward.”
Me: “I agree, since this is my idea and I’ve given you the revenue model, explained the functionality, came up with the name, purchased the domain, paid for the hosting, are you okay with me putting on the team page that I am the CEO/Co-founder?”
Abby: “Um, absolutely not comfortable.”
Me: “I’m confused, why is that?”
Abby: “Because I’ve been doing that role. Just because you pitched the idea on day one, doesn’t mean it is your company.”
Me: “Um, I’m not sure what you’re saying, but I’ve done a lot more than just pitch the company on day one. I came up with the…”
Abby: “This is ridiculous. No, absolutely not. No”
Me: “Okay, that’s fine. Let’s get Theresa involved because I agree, this is ridiculous.”
Theresa listens to Abby and Dulce tag team me and misrepresent my words, and I have to rebuke them multiple times. Each time, Abby and Dulce backtrack. Then, I get to try to tell my side of the story, and Dulce and Abby interrupt me, which is super annoying because I gave them their chance to speak.
I finally give up trying to tell my side of the story because they won’t stop interrupting, and I simply tell them to just manage themselves and their individual work. Let’s get through these last two days, and we’ll be done.
Abby is still arguing that she is the CEO and this is her idea. I pull out my phone to show them text message with some of my mentor’s back in Omaha about this very business. So, if it is her idea, why didn’t she pitch it instead of her Google Chrome Mood Ring company on day 1, and how did I have all of these messages about this company before we even met?
That shut her up really quick.
She is literally trying to steal this idea and claim it as her own entirely, and claims I’m the bad guy.
Theresa agrees that we need to just get along well enough to get through these last two days, and then just let me take my company after we’re done and just move on.
What a day. How frustrating, and it isn’t even 5pm yet.
Arriving in Jackson, Mississippi
One thing I have learned to do is get angry, and get over it. By the time we are in Jackson, I am content. However, I walk into the accelerator and greet a few people, pitch my company…and then I happen to greet two lawyers.
After I explained the details of what has transpired between Abby and Dulce and I, they were shocked I was even in this position considering I owned all the rights to the major items (domain name, hosting account, facebook page, twitter, frontend website was my code, my wireframes, etc), and the only thing that wasn’t mine was the app prototype, the color scheme, and the logo. In addition, we didn’t have any agreement for them to join my company, and there was no equity agreement, or anything.
Then, I explained how Abby is trying to take control of the company as she just claimed that because she is the presenter, this is her product.
Both of the lawyers have a good laugh about that. They go on to explain that once something is created, it is that person’s property. So, the wireframes, the domain, the facebook page and twitter, the frontend site, everything that I have created is my property. The logo and slides are Abby’s, which I don’t even care about.
They then inform me about pre-incorporation agreements as well as separation agreements.
What a day this has been so far…and I’m relieved.
I was talking to these lawyers openly in the main room. Then, I go find Theresa and introduce them to the lawyers, and they lawyers explain to her what they just explained to me.
Finally, Theresa can see that I am seriously concerned about Abby and Dulce. So, she and I go have a conversation and she sends another mentor to go interact with Dulce an Abby.
Now, Abby and Dulce are saying they don’t want to work with me after this, so they are totally fine with letting me take my company and try to run it when I were are all done here, but they refuse to let me take any role in the presentation…of my company.
I’m not okay with that, but I am, of course, okay with them stopping their attempt at stealing this from me.
I go out and start pitching my company and spreading my name around to people. I meet two gentleman and start talking with them and telling them about my company. Those two people suddenly turn into five people, then 10.
I have so many people genuinely thrilled in what I have accomplished in such a short time, and everyone said that if that product existed right now, they would use it.
Damn, I need to build this product. So, I go to find my team…and they are all gone. It turns out that they didn’t even tell me that they were pitching our product in the next room. They intentionally left me out of the pitch, and I didn’t even get to hear the judges feedback, or hear what Abby said.
Because, the last time I heard her speak, she said that this was her company and her idea, so I have no idea what was said or what wasn’t said.
I was pretty annoyed.
I simply go around and mingle with a few more people, and met some really cool startup founders. They have relationships with their team that I can only dream of right now.
It’s time to board the bus to head to New Orleans. I walk outside and there is a group of students. They ask if I can take a photo. I, of course, pretend that they meant they wanted me to take a selfie of myself.
I got some laughs, and I took several photos from different angles, and the loved it.
They asked who I am, and I pitch my product to them. They are stoked, they badly wanted a selfie with me because they think I am about to be famous.
I laugh and say, “That’s unlikely, but I definitely won’t pass up the opportunity for a selfie.”
I gave them my card and told them to send me that selfie. Then I headed to hop on the bus and head out.
It was definitely a cool feeling that they liked my personality and my product enough that they thought I was on the verge of something special.