Five Things You Need to Know About Me
· I see the world through a different lens
· I love dictionaries and bullet points
· I am a fraudulent Catholic
· I was trunk schooled
· I’m a mathematical genius
· I named myself
· I can’t count
Our marriage was not one of equals. He came into our marriage with an ex-wife, semi-adult children, alimony and millennial support. I came with a large stock portfolio, real estate holdings, a loaded shotgun and a collection of dictionaries.
Our work relationship was seamless, probably because our strengths were different but compatible and we had offices on opposite sides of the building. It was a level of separation we both needed. We worked well together for the most part. We certainly had our issues but seemed to be on the same page when discussing the goals for Temerity Street, the investment firm I started after I tired of the penises and putters on Wall Street.
The times we weren’t compatible usually revolved around Ranger’s misguided parental obligation to his son, Phorth, who put a new spin on the definition of “entrepreneurial.” He seemed to define it as “seeking to remain unemployed by remaining on the parental payroll.” Phorth had one harebrained scheme after another for a start-up or an app that would keep him in his perpetual state of unemployment; he expected us not only to embrace his ideas but to fund them as well. In his typical delusional thinking, he considered us business partners even though we had yet to enter one business deal with him.
His pitches were beyond irritating and a colossal waste of time, considering Temerity Street’s founding philosophy was to concentrate investments in female entrepreneurs. Unless he’s had a sex change, he’s presenting in the wrong box. And because of this lack of awareness on his part, or his sense of gender entitlement, or his sense of just plain being-entitled-because-he-can-be, I was not particularly fond of Phorth. But in order to keep the peace between Ranger and me, I reluctantly sat through each of his pitches hoping he would be able to explain the need for this particular app. Onprevious pitches, Phorth would just insert an “uber” in front of his title, hoping that would add the perfect amount of credibility. It didn’t.
This time, though, when Phorthcalled to ask for yet another meeting to present yet another one of his ideas, he specifically stated there was no “uber” in front of it, which I found promising.
Phorth began the meeting in his typical fashion: he had prepared a pitch deck with about 15 slides for Hello Juanita, an app that could connect your washer and dryer wirelessly to your car. And what exactly was the pain point? The deck included the problem that existed and how Hello Juanitawould solve it, the six of the market, the competition, the management and the potential investors. What it didn’t include was revenue projections and an exit strategy—as in how we were going to monetize this. His pitch left me uninspired.
“Phorth, I don’t think there’s a need in the marketplace for this.”
(I thought it best, under these circumstances, to use his given name. Usually I referred to him as RS, “Ranger’s Son”—pronounced Our-ass.)
“What don’t you get? It’s revolutionary! The target market is Mobile Moms whose washing needs will be taken care of while they’re out doing yoga and meditating.” You could almost hear the capitalized M’s in his voice.
“What is a Mobile Mom?” I asked, wondering if these were the women I often saw walking around town eating salmon and kale for breakfast with an ear bud in one ear, humming.
“Seriously, Lincoln,” he said, rolling his eyes at me. “They’re the buying power. They dominate mobile apps.” Phorth gave his father a look I didn’t recognize.
“I understand that, but specificallywho are they?” I asked again.
“They’re the Pinterest Perfect Parents. They drive Porsche SUVs, wear Lululemon pants, tote Goya bags, go to Gong Therapy and are defined by their level of busyness.”
Note to self: Google “Lululemon pants and Goya”
“You realize,” I said to Phorth in the kindest tone I could muster, “there’s a fundamental flaw in your business plan? How are these ‘Mobile Moms’”—I used air quotes for emphasis—“going to get the clothes from the washer to the dryer?” This kid had no concept of laundry.
Obviously, there was no market for Hello Juanita. These Mobile Moms had better things to spend their money on than wireless laundry—at least, I hoped they did. But this time when we turned down his request for funding, he became furious. Perhaps it was the idea he might have to actually work for a living that got him riled up.
To continue the pretense of support, I had to ask, “Do you have any other ideas we might consider?”
“Well, I still like Voila Valets, car valets with French accents, even though you thought there was a limited market for that app,” Phorth said with a bit of annoyance in his voice. “I amworking on another idea.”
“Let’s hear it,” Ranger said a little too enthusiastically.
“It’s an app designed for hackers. But—”
Phorth paused, thinking we were on the edge of our seats. We weren’t.
“For ethical hackers.The idea is to hack into email accounts and borrow passwords. The passwords are then redistributed to the homeless for their immediate needs. It’s designed to empower the homeless, give them purchasing power.”
This sounded a bit outlandish to me. “And what distinguishes an ethical hacker from an unethical hacker? Is a certification process involved? Is Russia involved?” I asked.
“You’re getting caught up in the details, Lincoln,” Phorth replied.
All I could think of was Theranos, and what the outcome might have been had someone paid attention to the “details.”
“And the name?”
“Hitler Hackers.” Phorth’s eyes darted around the conference room. Eye contact appeared to be optional these days.
“Hitler Hackers?” I exclaimed.
“H-I-T, hyphen, L-U-R-E,” he clarified.
“Even creatively hyphenated, it’s just wrong on so many fronts,” I said in exasperation. “How is this even ethical? Or legal?”
Phorth cleared his throat and the tone and timbre of his voice changed. It had an annoying crackle to it. But more telling than the crackling sound of his voice was his consistent throat clearing. Throat clearing is a sign of subconscious deception. By clearing the throat, overactive neurons are unloaded. These overactive neurons protect the brain from the cognitive overload associated with the act of deception. Phorth’s throat clearing was significant because it brought attention to the fact that he might not have been giving us the complete picture regarding Hit-Lure Hackers. But why would he lie? The concept of Hit-Lure Hackers couldn’t be any more flawed.
“You are so behind the curve. There’s a movement of digital humanitarians that provide commodities and services to the underprivileged by borrowing from those who have more and giving to those who have less,” Phorth said while clearing his throat for the third time.
“I take it you consider yourself a type of Robin Hood,” I said as I stared at him. He averted my eye contact by looking in every direction but mine. Another telltale sign of lying. I let him escape the moment.
Note to self: Google “theories regarding throat clearing combined with darting eyes”
“I consider myself a digital humanitarian and Hit-Lure Hackers would be positioned in the social good category.”
We obviously turned down Hello Juanita and Hit-Lure Hackers. Again, Phorth was disappointed in our decision but did his best to remain professional, and I had to give him plaudits for that. After our meeting was over, I sat in the conference room hoping to ease a nagging thought that had persisted throughout his presentation. I picked up the hard copy of his pitch and flipped through the pages until I found the page where I had highlighted “The Foys.” So many questions entered my mind. Why were the Foys interested in investing in Hello Juanita for such a small percentage of the company? And why weren’t they on Temerity Street’s radar as potential investors? Who were they? Were they Asian investors?
I emailed a member of our research team and asked for a thoroughbackground check on theFoys. To my surprise, no one found anything. The Foys were a mystery. I was puzzled by this because Phorth was so confident in their willingness to invest.
I glanced through the glass window of the conference Room and saw Phorth standing in the reception area talking to the receptionist. I decided to ask him directly. I grabbed the pitch book and headed in Phorth’s direction.
“Phorth, I have a question about the Foys. I don’t recognize the name.”
“The Foys,” he chuckled, “are Friends of Yours. F.O.Y.S. The investors in your start-ups.”
OK, he’s an idiot and I’m a bigger one.
Looking back, I realize now that Phorth saw my inquiry as an indication of interest and viewed it as one more opportunity to change our minds.
“Lincoln, while I have your attention. There’s been a new development in Hello Juanitathat may make you reconsider your decision. I think you might want to hear me out.”
What could possibly have changed in the past fifteen minutes?
“You realize, Phorth, that Temerity Street only invests in female entrepreneurs. Even if Hello Juanitascaled to our models, we wouldn’t invest with you,” I said, using his ordinal name for emphasis.
“You could do a side investment, like a personal investment.”
Isn’t that what we’re already doing?I thought to myself.
“I don’t think so, Phorth. The reasoning behind our decision is very simple. You aren’t female and Hello Juanitais not a viable idea.”
Okay, maybe I should have chosen a word other than “viable.” But how was I supposed to know that viableis now considered an emotionally charged word with the capacity to penetrate the bubble wrap surrounding Phorth’s psyche? I’m sure that’s what got Phorth all riled up, because after I said “viable”he stormed out of the office while throwing expletives my way. While his explosion took me by surprise, I was at the same time pleased to learn he actually had two glands that produced testosterone.
Ranger was in the office next to the conference room when he heard Phorth yelling. He immediately rushed to the receptionist desk just as the heads of our employees emerged from their cubicles, like bobbleheads, looking for the commotion. Ranger stood at attention facing our employees as if he were back in Afghanistan and the enemy had just made a surprise strike. I watched him as he tried to formulate a plan that would defuse the situation.
When he finally spoke, he had everyone’s attention.
“I’m sure all of you must understand how hard it is to tame your passion. That’s Phorth’s problem in a nutshell. He believes in himself 100% and sometimes it is to his detriment. He is a creative young man who has yet to find himself. It will come. He’s close.”
I noticed he lost everyone’s attention when he said the word “creative.”
“I apologize if any of you felt threatened or uncomfortable or unsafe. I can assure you that was not Phorth’s intent. His vitriol was directed solely at Lincoln.”
Everyone looked at me for further explanation. I had nothing to add because I understood where Phorth was coming from. He wanted what he wanted and when he was denied, he attacked what—or who—he thought was the weakest link. I did that all the time to get the outcome I wanted. His error was that he misjudged me as being the weakest link. He grossly underestimated my fortitude. Or so I thought.