I was in a lawsuit. Not just the run-of-the-mill business kind of lawsuit--but instead the nasty kind. The kind where your business partner says “I want a divorce!!” with an extra exclamation point and your facial reaction upon reading that text is one that starts with amusement and ends in horror.
It was a long time coming: my business partners, the two of them, Darius and Jesse, were in the later stages of exacting a betrayal that started with one of what is now recognized in Austin, Texas as one of the most notorious acts of media manipulation. The irony, of course, is that the very author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, Ryan Holiday, lives in Austin. It was in December 2016 that I received that exclamatory divorce demand from Darius but it was an appeal in frustration. My questions to my partners probed. Flummoxed, perplexed, annoyed. I had peppered them with questions about financial losses at our fifty employee reputation-management firm after years of profitability.
But I, too, was in denial. A month later I got a phone call from Status Labs’ financial controller, Jeff Love. “I’m having heart palpitations,” said Jeff. “They’re stealing from you--millions. I’m quitting. There’s no way this is legal. And here’s where they’re stealing--to save you ten thousand dollars in accounting forensics.” He hung up. It was at that intersection--a very physical one where a few of my worlds in entrepreneurship collided. I took that call mid-day from BeeHex’s Columbus, Ohio research and development office. The Grote family had brokered a deal with BeeHex, a startup I assembled with a different set of cofounders, Anjan, Chintan, Ben, and me. I had notoriously pushed BeeHex as a story about NASA originated “3D printed pizza for astronauts in space” and, after a few well-paid events, chefs, and printed pizzas we landed $1 million in funding and quality fabrication space in the Buckeye state to build friendly food robots. The dissonance between Status Labs--my old world--and BeeHex--my new opportunity bested the anachronism of yin and yang.
Tempted by the twins revenge and vengeance, it’s easy to bash my partners for theft. Certainly they’d be handed a restraining order and injunction by a judge in November 2017. Hell: In March 2018, they were held in contempt of court. But there is far more to my tale of entrepreneurship. One that weaves in many others’ stories and many names you all know, from one of the Jackson kids to one of Newark, New Jersey’s brightest stars, Gerard Adams; SheWorx’ Lisa Wang, Davidson Petite-Frere, Gary Vaynerchuk, and other serial entrepreneurs, musicians, chefs and film stars. People like us are studied. Entrepreneurs narrowly, are statistics, myths, and characteristics. We all read about them and their seemingly true-to-life heroism. But what is it like in the trenches? What is it like for your CEO to die--as was the case at another company of mine, BNB Shield-- within weeks of launching a startup? To be on the butt end of public betrayal or to reap the rewards of growth and success? Long hours are worn like badge in any industry. But where are the smart hours? The luck? Creating something… from absolutely nothing. What is it really like to be alone almost all the time and hear successful people tell you “Jordan, you’re unemployable and that is a compliment.”
Mine is a story of the entrepreneurial journey. One that shows the zealousness, nastiness, euphoria and chaos that surrounds modern startup culture. Mine is a story of grit.