Remember the dot com crash? Back then one of the best sources of news on the collapsing economy was a chap called Philip Kaplan, alias Pud. He started a website called f**kedcompany.com in 2000 to track the demise of some of the more stupid tech ideas that attracted cash back then. The site was crude and unusual, to be sure, but it was also an essential news source for anyone covering venture capital, private equity and the tech industry.
Pud was an entrepreneur before he started f**kedcompany.com, and he’s been deeply involved in the tech business since, both on the VC side and the startup side. I signed up for his newsletter recently, which is always good reading. This week, a gem on how to deal with legal issues if you’re a budding entrepreneur.
What follows are Pud’s words, his story and his opinions. It is not, and should not be considered business advice from Marketplace, or from me!
It was 1998 and the dot-com boom was in full effect. I was making websites as a 22 year old freelance programmer in NYC. I charged my first client $1,400. My second client paid $5,400. The next paid $24,000. I remember the exact amounts — they were the largest checks I’d seen up til that point.
Then I wrote a proposal for $340,000 to help an online grocery store with their website. I had 5 full time engineers at that point (all working from my apartment) but it was still a ton of dough. The client approved, but wanted me to sign a contract — everything had been handshakes up til then.
No prob. Sent the contract to my lawyer. She marked it up, sent it to the client. Then the client marked it up and sent it back to my lawyer. And so on, back and forth for almost a month. I was inexperienced and believed that this is just how business was done.
Annoyed by my lawyering, the client eventually gave up and hired someone else.
But lucky enough, another big company came knocking. A fortune 500 company needed an e-commerce site. I wrote a $400,000 proposal (ahh, the boom days…). The client okay’d it and gave me a contract to sign.
This time, instead of sending it to my lawyer, I sent it to my Dad — a lifelong entrepreneur.
“Just sign it,” he said, calmly.
“But it has all kinds of crazy stuff in it!” I replied. “It says I’m personally liable if anything goes wrong! It says I owe them money if it’s late!” and so on.
“Just sign it,” he said.
“But what if something happens?? What if the site crashes? What if I’m late? What if..??”
“Do you think any of that stuff is going to happen?” he asked.
“Probably not. But what if it does?”
“Then you know what you do?” he said. “Tell them, ‘fucking sue me.'”
He was right. I got the job, they paid, things went well, nobody got sued.
Then there was the time I wanted to hire my first full time employee. I was apprehensive to do it because I only had enough money to pay him for 2 months, unless I got another client fast.
“Worry about that in 2 months,” Dad said.
He worked for me for several years.
This lesson in total disregard for risk served me well. They say entrepreneurs are risk takers. I think of myself as too lazy and irresponsible to fully understand the risk.
It works for me.
I’m not sure what the lesson is here.
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