This is Exactly Why I Need to Start Listening to Major Quimby
A couple of days ago, I won a SIGNIFICANT amount of money playing poker at my Los Angeles headquarters, the Commerce Casino (see “Hot Poker Sex ”). Naturally I wanted to parade around the streets waving my good fortune in everybody’s face, but my ever-present security guard, Major Quimby (pictured below) warned me that this might prove to be a safety risk, and that I should try to keep a low profile until depositing the money into one of my various Cayman Island tax shelters.
It is for precisely this sort of sound advice that I hired Major Quimby in the first place. He was trained by the highly selective Finnish Secret Police (the Policia Finlandeze), despite the fact that he is not Finnish, and really dislikes Finnish people. He served with that organization for fifteen years before a crime of passion led to his dismissal and subsequent extradition to his home country of Andorra, where I met him during a squash tournament. He has been in my employ ever since.
Quimby’s advice is always very sensible, so it is a mystery to both of us why I never seem to heed it. Last night is a perfect example.
I spent the day shuttling in and out of meetings with various important Hollywood types: reflexologists, animal psychologists, etc. After dinner and several spirited games of hearts with Quimby, he decided to retire for the evening. However I was still feeling revved from my invigorating day in Los Angeles and wanted to hit the town. Had I asked, Quimby no doubt would have accompanied me on my outing, but he has been feeling under the weather and I did not want to disturb his rest. So I grabbed thousands of dollars in cash and hit the streets alone. Bad idea.
Los Angeles is a city best suited for driving, but it was a warm night and I decided to take a leisurely stroll through some areas of the city with which I was not that familiar. I ended up in a part of town called Inglewood, which is near the airport and seems to be a little “rough around the edges.” After walking the miles it took for me to arrive in Inglewood, I was feeling flushed, and needed to cool myself. I remembered the photo I took of myself in which I used all of my hundred dollar bills to create a fan. “Ah-ha!” I thought, “Necessity really is the mother of invention.” Quickly I reached into my billfold and splayed dozens of hundred dollars into a passable fan. I immediately felt relieved, and began singing a little song about how good it felt to have all that money waving around me like a palm frond.
Reenergized, I continued my walking tour of Inglewood, noting the sculptural use of chain link fencing and prominent neon signage. Did my “money fan” attract some curious looks? It did. But no more so than my swimming flippers, which I accidentally put on instead of my sneakers.
Just as I was thinking about starting the walk back to my hotel, a group of young men of various ethnicities approached me. “Oh great,” I thought sarcastically, “Now I'm going to be signing autographs all night.” But no, it turns out they didn’t want an autograph at all. In fact, although you may find this hard to believe, I’m not sure they even knew who I was. What did they want then? I’ll give you three guesses.
After a tense moment of us staring at each other, the leader of the group approached and said, “Looks like you got a lot of money there.”
“I sure do,” I said. “Several thousand dollars. I won it playing poker.”
At this, the other guys’ interest definitely intensified. They inched towards me and I began to get a little nervous. After all, wasn’t this precisely the scenario that Quimby had in mind when he warned not to go around waving my good fortune in other people’s grills? The leader of the group then reached inside his jacket and pulled out a prospectus. “How’d you like to invest that money in a small internet start-up?”
Now I was very nervous. Believe me, I have been around enough of these “small internet start-ups” to know how risky an investment they can be. After all, I’m still sitting on tens of thousands of worthless pets.com stock. So I was very leery when I said, “Why don’t you give me your elevator pitch?”
(For those of you not “in the know,” an elevator pitch is a brief summary of a company’s mission statement designed to be short enough so that it can be pitched if you happen to find yourself in an elevator with an “angel investor.”)
The guy, whose name was Tiny, swore me to secrecy about exactly what they are doing, but I CAN say that his company is developing a proprietary method of “piggybacking” content over fiber optic lines, which will allow them to exponentially increase the amount of data delivery that can be achieved using traditional copper and fiber optic infrastructure. Naturally I was skeptical and expressed this to Tiny. He told me if I was so "skeptical," I should follow him and his team into a dark alleyway so he could better explain his business plan without fear of neighborhood residents overhearing.
So we ducked into a little side street and over the next hour, Tiny and his friends laid out their step by step plan for how they foresaw implementing their vision. All they were short was a few thousand dollars, and did I want to invest? I could hear Major Quimby’s words echoing in my head, but before I knew what I was doing, I was at their lawyer’s office signing LOTS of paperwork and handing over every last one of my beautiful hundred dollar bills.
The next morning I woke up with an EXTREME CASE of buyer’s remorse. I didn’t know these guys from Adam, and just because they said they went to MIT, and just because they showed me their diplomas, and just because they demonstrated the technology, and just because I had notarized paperwork documenting my investment in their corporation didn’t mean anything!
I was so ashamed and embarrassed that it took me all morning to tell Major Quimby what had happened. When I finally did, he was livid. “How could you do that?” he screamed at me in his native Catalan. “Don’t you know that most internet start-ups fail within the first eighteen months???” Yes, I said, I knew, and I felt like a real horse’s patootie, but what was done was done and bitching and moaning about it wasn’t going to get my money back. Even Tiny admitted they were probably at least six months from having a proper beta, and then another twelve months after that from being able to scale up the architecture to a place where they could start selling it to major vendors like the Pentagon, who have already expressed interest in the technology. Even if the company is legit, and even if it does do everything Tiny promised, I’m probably a minimum of three years away from it going public. Ugh – why didn’t I just put the money in my offshore accounts like Major Quimby said??? Well, what’s done is done.
All I can do is try to learn from my mistakes and hope that next time I have the common sense not to go walking around by myself late at night with a huge wad of cash, easy prey for any entrepreneurs with an excellent prospectus and demonstrable technology that might revolutionize point-to-point content delivery.