I absolutely love the documentary Startup.com. I thought it was a true characterization of the dot com era. It wasn’t insightful, merely realistic—following two best friends as they tried to capitalize on the internet mania. From company launch to funding to its ultimate demise leading to one of the friends firing the other. It didn’t hurt that the main character was eye candy for me—tall, dark, and handsome. Plus a Harvard grad and an entrepreneur. Yum.
When he came to speak to the techie group at Chicago, he caught me by surprise. I had arrived early and was sitting in the sun reading. “Do all University of Chicago students study constantly?” He probed with a grin.
I laughed with embarrassment. “I really liked your movie,” was all I could stutter out. I’ve been stalking this guy ever since and happy to report he’s a Facebook friend.
One of the editors at the Wall Street Journal recently revisited the pair featured in the documentary. Ten years later and still best friends—even after the firing—one started a firm that helps distressed companies and hired the other as a partner.
“My standard presentation goes through a lot of things, and one of the slides is about working with friends. I tend to tell people it’s a good thing. Working with friends you get a known quantity, and it’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of work, and it’s best to do it with people you enjoy spending time with it. I think the caveat is that there are risks associated with your relationship, and those can be managed by having really solid clarity up front. So many times I’ve seen people working together who haven’t had a conversation around who owns how much equity.”
The startup I worked for was hiring aggressively in 1999 which was the same timeframe as the documentary. They hired four of us from good schools, 23-24 years of age as a new hire group. I don’t remember what Marc was doing at the time. He had graduated a year later, probably working odd jobs or maybe he was doing something on-campus. But I had full faith in him despite his lack of direction. “You need to call my friend,” I urged my boss, waving Marc’s mediocre resume at him. “I promise you won’t be disappointed.” As I predicted, my boss was thrilled. I even considered my boss was a closet homo the way he beamed after their interview. He had hired Marc on the spot.
I like to think that I was the one who started Marc on the path to career greatness. He’s no doubt way smarter than me, but lazy as a beach bum. “Marc, can you imagine how far you could go if you just tried harder?”
“I know, I know. It comforts me to know that you work so much harder, yet I’ll always make more money than you.”
Ahhh, with Marc, it’s always about risk management.