I didn’t know Lee particularly well because we probably saw each other just a dozen times. Most of those times were at Cal Founders meetings at various venues in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cal Founders meetings are informal monthly gatherings where entrepreneurs discuss their business challenges. The big benefit to these meetings is the wide variety of advice that may be gleaned from the diverse attendees. I like to characterize the meetings as board of directors meetings where one may actually be completely frank about issues, with no worry that what you say may later be used against your company.
Since Cal Founders meetings are designed to encourage sharing of meaningful obstacles and opportunities, I feel like I learned quite a bit about Lee during these meetings. A person’s character comes into focus rather quickly when you hear them give and receive advice.
Lee was a standout at Cal Founders meetings, and for good reason. He was a smart, driven, accomplished and capable entrepreneur. Sadly, the majority of entrepreneurs I meet never deliver much in the way of results. Lee stood out because he actually delivered results. He was quick to cite statistics about growth, and he knew exactly how to bring customers to his business, and could specify exactly what results would come from specific steps. This kind of precision is less common than you might imagine.
I recall examples that demonstrate how impressive Lee was as an entrepreneur, but I won’t share them with you, since Cal Founders meetings are by design confidential, to encourage open dialogue. I doubt Lee would mind my sharing some examples, given that they paint him in such a favorable light, but I am loath to break confidentiality even in light of the sad circumstance of his too early passing.
I remember seeing Hansoo Lee the evening his startup Magoosh won USD $10,000 in the 2010 Intel Global Challenge business competition. The Intel Global Challenge is a big deal, and it is very competitive because Intel invites competitors from all over the world to participate. I have watched the finals awards ceremony for years and I conclude the competition is more competitive than the Berkeley Startup Competition, which itself is quite competitive.
I am comfortable sharing some of what I learned this afternoon in a public memorial open to all at the beautiful Golden Gate Club inside The Presidio. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, The Presidio used to be a United States military base before it was vacated and turned over to visitors to and residents of San Francisco to enjoy.
The Golden Gate Club overlooks the San Francisco Bay through giant windows perhaps two stories tall. These windows showcase the Bay is if it is a work of fine art in a museum.
Here’s Lee’s biography from the program handed out today at the memorial:
“Hansoo was born in Athens, Georgia [USA], lived briefly in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and spent his formative years in Pensacola, Florida. He was an outstanding scholar-athlete, graduating from Pensacola High School in 1996. He attended Amherst College where he was on both the ski and tennis teams and double-majored in Economics and Fine Arts, graduating in 2000. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area after graduating from college and worked at a small internet startup before joining Walmart.com where he founded the strategy group. He then went to the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, to hone his skills as an entrepreneur. He and two of his classmates founded an education test preparation website, Magoosh, in 2009 during their time at Haas. Hansoo was the first CEO at Magoosh, which he and his business partner, Bhavin Parikh, worked on full-time after graduating from Haas in 2010. They have grown it into a successful, socially minded and profitable business in less than three years.
Hansoo had a love of the outdoors, travel, food, music, and the arts. All of these he enjoyed most with his friends and family. He had a particular love of sports and he described himself as a team player. This was true in all aspects of his life, personal and professional. He maintained close friendships from his early childhood and continued to make close friends throughout his his life. He met Wendy Lim four years ago and they were inseparable from the start; they became engaged last year. He is survived by Wendy, his parents Chung Ho and Hi Whan Lee, his brother and sister-in-law Hanmin Lee and Barbara Morgenthau and their beautiful children Mimoh and Taemoh.”
There were over two hundred people at Lee’s memorial.
I was impressed with how many people boarded aircraft to attend. The majority of the members from his class that belonged to his fraternity at Amherst were there, and two of them spoke at the podium sharing their memories of Lee. I learned that Amherst had banned fraternities, so fraternities were tiny and presumably somewhat hidden. As a result, when I write ‘majority’ I mean three fraternity brothers out of a total of five in Lee’s class attended Lee’s memorial. Counting Lee, four fifths of the entire class was represented. That I believe is a testament to Lee’s good spirit. Remember, Lee graduated from Amherst a dozen years ago.
About two dozen of Lee’s friends walked to the microphone and shared their memories.
Two of his friends met Lee in the first grade. One of those friends entertained us by explaining Lee’s love for business even as an eight year old. Lee was a pro at profitably buying and selling baseball cards. He studied baseball and developed the rare ability to identify future star players while they were still rookies in their careers. This skill allowed Lee to buy the correct rookie cards while they were still low cost, and then sell them years later when the players became stars. I learned Lee joked that he planned to pay for college with his card trading empire begun as a child.
I learned about Lee’s first skiing trip as part of a high school engineering club he belonged to, and how his enthusiasm for skiing caused him to wear out a pair of ski pants in just a night of tumbling on a slope covered with inadequate snow and uninvited mud.
Lee’s fiancée, Wendy Lim, delivered the most emotionally moving remarks.
Wendy Lim is really impressive.
Lim described herself as Lee’s opposite, but pointed out how well they each complimented the other.
Wendy Lim described Lee as the love of her life, and told us she had never before known love like that which she shared with Lee. It’s so sad Lee was taken from her so early after her lifelong search to locate him.
I introduced myself to Lim and expressed how sorry I am for her loss.
I also had the privilege of expressing the same sentiments to Dr. Chung Ho Lee, Hansoo’s father, Hi Whan Lee, Hansoo’s mother, and Dr. Hanmin Lee, Hansoo’s brother.
The Hansoo Lee Fellowship has been established at the Haas School of Business at University of California Berkeley. Lee started full time work on his startup Magoosh during the summer break between his first and second year at business school. This concerted several month effort I suspect really accelerated the progress at the company. The idea for the Fellowship is to help other student teams pursue their dreams during that pivotal summer break. The fellowship will provide a cash stipend, office space and advice from mentors to one lucky team each summer. If you are able and would like to give money to fund the Hansoo Lee Fellowship, please do so by following this link to the official UC Berkeley donation page for this fellowship.
Farewell Hansoo Lee. I am glad that I got to know you a bit during your exceptional life.
To my knowledge, in the United States it is illegal to record conversations unless you have permission of the parties you’re recording. I believe the rules are more lax in some jurisdictions, but those exceptions are not that helpful if one wants to record a phone conversation with a company representative, because call centers are so dispersed over the planet. A representative could be anywhere.
I think United States Federal law should be changed to specifically permit consumers to record conversations they have with employees and other representatives of companies. Nothing stops me from asking for permission today, but I have never been granted permission when I have asked, so that’s why the law should be changed.
Companies routinely give themselves the right to record calls, so they should understand why a consumer would also want to have that ability.
I came to my recommendation January 29, 2013, after I had a frustrating conversation that day with Brian G., a supervisor at Godaddy, the Internet domain name giant. Brian’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Brian refused to give me his last name, citing a Godaddy security policy.
On or around December 14, 2012, I learned a domain I’ve been wanting for a dozen plus years was in ‘redemption.’ This means the prior owner didn’t pay to renew it, so the registrar placed the name into redemption, a kind of holding place for domain names before they are eventually released to the public for purchase.
My heart raced. I was going to finally be able to reacquire the Hotpaper.com domain. I sold the name in 2000. My first reaction was to write to my friend Dan Luis and ask if I could pay the redemption fee to Purple, the company I sold the name to a dozen years ago, so they could retrieve the name from redemption status. This would then give Purple the right to transfer the name to me.
But after I composed the email to Luis, who I have been in touch with as recently as 2012, I decided to run this idea past GoDaddy, which was the registrar for Hotpaper.com.
I told the representative about my connection with Purple and proposed doing what I just outlined. The representative then advised me to not bother, and just sign up for GoDaddy’s Domain Name Backorder service, which cost about USD $20.00 and included a full year of registration. This made the cost for getting the domain about $8.00, which is just 1/10th what it would have cost me to pay Purple to get the domain out of redemption status.
The representative told me that since GoDaddy was the registrar for Hotpaper.com that they would be able to get the domain name for me through their backorder service. He said that if Hotpaper.com had been with another registrar then they would have had to fight to try to get the name. The representative assured me multiple times that in this situation their backorder service was a sure thing. Not once did he even hint that I would be rolling the dice. Had he alerted me that I was speculating, I would have hung up and pursued the sure thing of contacting Luis.
Either Luis would have redeemed the name for Purple to hold on to, or he would have allowed me to redeem it through Purple. Luis would not have ignored me and let the name hit the open market — he’s my friend, and even though we haven’t seen each other in ages, we share a bond, for we both sold our companies to the company that is now Purple. Why am I so sure of this? Luis is the one that keeps our association alive by saying hello to me from time to time, not the other way around. I believe Luis respects me and does not want to upset me, so he would not take an adverse position, especially on something like this that is of no consequence to Purple, since they retired the Hotpaper name around a decade ago.
I would have been fine had Luis redeemed the name and had Purple hold on to it for decades to come. My desire is for the name to not fall into third party hands, so it was great that Purple paid the registration on the name for so long after they stopped using it. I saved over USD $100 over the last decade thanks to the kindness of Purple. Thank you.
I have explained to GoDaddy that their representative promised to get me the Hotpaper.com domain and failed, and to fix this failure they need to buy the domain and give it to me for the backorder fee I paid. This is a case of an employee being insufficiently skilled and trained, and their failure led to this sad result. GoDaddy the company is at fault, I believe. Yes, there may be some fine print somewhere on the GoDaddy website explaining the backorder process is akin to gambling, but GoDaddy’s sales representative negated that fine print.
I believe I was behaving reasonably when I took the word of the GoDaddy representative.
I figured that GoDaddy would have an advantage in ‘catching’ domain names dropping from their registry in the same way that high speed Wall Street traders benefit from extremely close proximity to stock exchange computers, so much so that high speed traders rent space in premium Wall Street colocation space to get faster connection times, since the speed of electricity is only so fast.
I have never bought a domain through a name catching service, so I was not an expert when I placed the order. But I felt the representative I ordered through knew what he was talking about, because he was so articulate, well spoken and because his explanation of why GoDaddy would definitely get the name sounded technically and practically believable.
If I had recorded that conversation, I believe GoDaddy would buy Hotpaper.com on the open market and give it to me for the backorder fee I have already paid. The conversation was so crystal clear and frankly damning that GoDaddy would not want to risk the recording and this story hitting the front page of Reddit, where I predict GoDaddy would have taken a beating from the readers of that news site.
This domain issue is of little importance. I survived a dozen years without the domain, and I’ll be fine without it for the next dozen or three dozen years. I have Hotpaper.net if I ever want to do anything Hotpaper related in the future.
The right for consumers to record calls with businesses, without notice, however, is a right US residents should have. There are so many business that will only correspond with customers over the phone. All banks I know are like this, and will simply not engage a customer by writing emails or letters back and forth. If you try to send a letter, often you’ll get a letter back asking you to phone. Banks I am sure force business to be conducted by phone because they know there will not be a record the customer can keep and refer to or publicize if the customer is mistreated.
Customers need to be able to believe what they’re told by company representatives, which, sadly, is a bigger and more difficult issue. I appreciate and recognize that I should have independently verified by reading the fine print on the GoDaddy website what the representative told me. I didn’t do it because the representative was so confident and self assured, and because the stakes were not material. Frankly, I’ll save hundreds of dollars over the years by not having to pay to keep the Hotpaper.com domain for myself, so you can even say GoDaddy did me a favor by the failure of their representative to explain how their backorder service works.
Companies should do the right thing by their customers when their representative makes such an obvious and glaring error. If a car dealer sells you a lemon, they’ll have to buy it back from you. If a doctor amputates the wrong limb, they’ll pay you plenty. If a lawyer drops the ball and forgets a filing deadline and you lose your case as a result, she’ll pay you.
Here we have a salesperson that sold me a product by misinforming me about its most important workings — whether intentional or not is irrelevant. This strikes me as fraud, though I am not a lawyer. GoDaddy should fix this apparent fraud by buying the domain and delivering it to me.
While researching this story, I found the website Anti GoDaddy, which collects GoDaddy horror stories from consumers. I posted a screen shot of this site’s home page at the top of this article. Notice the reach of GoDaddy — the embedded advertisement near the top of the page is for GoDaddy.
If this domain had been really important to me, I would have not handled the matter so casually. On a scale of 1 to 10, the Hotpaper.com domain ranks a 0.1. Note that I have not linked to the domain so as to not give traffic to the domain name speculator that ended up acquiring the name. The last time I checked, which was just once, there was a generic page offering to sell the domain.
The US Federal government should allow recording of conversations by consumers with businesses to reduce the harm that comes from currently insufficiently documented conversations. I suspect there are thousands of people that lost their homes in recent years because a bank told them verbally not to worry about their loan modification delays, but then foreclosed anyway. Had those promises been recorded by the consumers, the banks may have not been so quick to make promises they couldn’t respect, and homeowners could have pursued other options with more awareness of their true situations. The ramifications of only the business being able to record conversations are likely widespread and quite substantial, in every field, with every size business. It’s simply not fair to let only one party avail themselves of voice recording technology. Society would not stand for lopsided court reporting during trials, where the transcription was for the benefit of only the defendant or only the plaintiff. Why does society permit injustice with documentation outside the courtroom?
Laws need to change. I don’t know about the laws outside the United States, but I suspect this post applies to most of the planet.
Letter by Kevin Warnock to Jayne Salinger of the San Francisco Bar Association concerning the San Francisco Mock Trial
Dear Jayne Salinger,
We have never met.
You wrote the following brief statement to me via a Facebook message on February 27, 2012:
I am the director of the mock trial program you attended last week. Thank you for taking such wonderful photos. Unfortunately these photos cannot be made public as the students are minors. And including their names is also not advisable. Can you plesae cease in posting these photos and remove where applicable?
The Bar Association of San Francisco”
You wrote to me because I wrote on February 24, 2012 this article about the 2012 public finals competition for the San Francisco Mock Trial program. I illustrated the article with photographs that I took at the mock trial, including those shown here. You said that because the students are minors that my photographs cannot be made public. This blog is public.
When I first read your message, I wondered if I had done something wrong by posting the pictures. So, I did some searching and found around 89 pictures of the 2011 San Francisco Mock Trial finals, on that program’s Facebook page. Presumably most of these photographs are of minors, since the Mock Trial program is for high school students. I presume you are aware of the contents of the Facebook page for the mock trial program that you direct.
I also thought back to my four years as a staff photographer for the newspapers at the high schools I attended — Lab School at the University of Chicago and McAteer High School in San Francisco. The photograph captions typically identified the subjects by first and last name, so I knew that at least back then the practice was permitted.
Today, February 25, 2013, I discovered that student journalists still name students fully, in stories and and captions accompanying photographs, because I found via Google the article Case closed – Mock trial dominates in the high school newspaper published by Lowell High School. This Lowell newspaper article is publicly accessible on the Internet.
Lowell High School won the 2012 San Francisco Mock Trial championship, and later won sixth place in the California competition.
Since my research I conducted after receiving your message indicated I was most likely allowed to post student pictures to my blog, I put aside your message.
I did not reply to you at the time, but I always intended to address your concern.
My plan was to speak with you in person about this matter, at the San Francisco Mock Trials final this year — 2013. My reasoning for meeting you in person was so that you would be able to hopefully directly assess my character.
Last year, as I wrote on my blog, I discovered the Facebook page for the Mock Trial program in San Francisco. I ‘liked’ the page back then, so I have been getting status updates ever since. Today, I got a status update saying that Round III is coming up. Sadly, unlike last year, dates and times are no longer listed. Last year the page listed the time and date in the following status update before the trial:
“Congratulations to Lowell and School of the Arts for making it to the final round of the 2012 Mock Trial Tournament! Final round is TONIGHT at Golden Gate University Law School, 536 Mission, Room 2203. Teams from Lowell and SOTA may arrive at 5:45 to set up; guests/spectators may arrive at 6 p.m. to get a seat. The round will start at 6:30. Good luck to both teams!”
I could not find any information anywhere on the Internet about when the finals are to be held this year, which meant I could not meet you in person as I planned to do.
I believe strongly that the Mock Trial finals should be public, and to encourage that, I wrote this post.
Had the finals been public this year, I would have attended again, and I would have found you there and spoken with you at some length, which would have obviated my need to write this post.
My blog post last year was good press, and you should have welcomed the post, and you should further have linked to it from the Mock Trial Facebook page and from the San Francisco Bar Association page for the Mock Trial Program.
Getting press is difficult.
Getting press is important to success in life.
I see that Mock Trial has received almost no press, outside of student newspapers. Student newspapers count, of course, but coverage by unrelated journalists like me is far more credible.
Chuck Rasnikof, a political science teacher at Lowell, sat next to me while I was covering and photographing the 2012 Mock Trial finals. We spoke for twenty minutes, and had a good conversation.
I told Rasnikof how I was invited to the Mock Trial finals by Devon Ivie, an exceptionally impressive high school senior I had met February 22nd. Ivie struck up a conversation with me on the MUNI Metro while she was on her way home after the final practice session for the trial. McAteer High School used to be in the same building where she was attending high school at the time, School of the Arts (SOTA), so we had something in common. She shared with me her plans after high school. She told me about her affection for playing the flute. She told me about Mock Trial, and sold me on the wisdom of personally attending the finals. Finally, she told me her name, which made it easy for me to ‘friend’ her on Facebook. She accepted my friend request the next morning, before the finals that evening.
After the finals were over, I said hello to Ivie and her real-life lawyer mentor. I asked Ivie to find her teammate Havel Weidner so that I could meet him.
Weidner was a key participant in the trial, and to my ear, played the most significant role in the outcome. I wanted to interview Weidner to confirm my understanding of his closing remarks.
That night I edited the pictures and wrote the blog post, since I knew there would be interest in the pictures. After four hours of concentrated writing and Photoshop editing work, around 3am the next morning I published the post, which I intended to be the first of two posts.
I also posted the pictures to my Facebook account.
Ivie and some of her friends discovered the pictures I posted to Facebook, and there was a flurry of sharing and her friends asking my permission to tag themselves, which I granted.
I suspect that you discovered my blog post through Facebook, since I link to my blog from my Facebook account.
I even got a Facebook friend request from Ivie’s friend Christina Rey. I had not met Rey, but I remembered her speaking during the trial. I accepted her request.
Then, about the time you sent your message above asking me to take down my pictures and remove the names, both Ivie and Rey defriended me.
I have not been in touch with Ivie, Rey or any of the other mock trial students since then.
It’s extremely rare for people I know that I have met in person to defriend me, and since it happened around the time you wrote to me, that makes me think you or other trial organizers had a hand in that. There was no independent reason I can think of for Ivie and Rey to defriend me, as I had just portrayed them well in front of all their friends and made them ‘famous.’
Here is my guess as to what happened:
You saw my Facebook pictures of the trial and the rapid sharing and tagging going on. You found out that I am not connected to the competition. You concluded my picture postings were undesirable. You persuaded Ivie and Rey to question their decisions to share and publicize the pictures, which they probably perceived as ‘getting in trouble.’ You may have even told them to defriend me, but even if you didn’t order them to defriend me, you probably made them feel like they did something wrong and that it was smart to distance themselves from me.
I meet dozens of impressive university students per year, and I end up helping and mentoring a small percentage of them.
I was so impressed with Devon Ivie that I was planning to help her, though I never got an opportunity to offer my help. Thus, it was sad and it remains sad that I have lost contact with her before I was able to speak with her for more than half an hour. I did determine that she warrants my assistance, from my conversation on the metro and from watching her perform very admirably during the trial. She is articulate and impressive.
If my guess as to what happened is true, then I ask that you handle future similar situations much differently.
Students about to graduate from high school are not young children that should not appear on the Internet. Instead, they are nearly adults, probably just months away from adulthood. These particular students are among the most legally savvy minors I have ever encountered. They argued their case exceptionally well.
These students did not and do not need ‘protection’ from the modern press, of which I am a part. To the contrary, they should be encouraged to solicit press coverage when appropriate.
There were unfilled seats in the auditorium at Golden Gate University where the 2012 finals took place. Those seats should be filled, when possible, with reporters, bloggers and other journalists. I suggest that during Mock Trial you train students to interact with the press. Real lawyers have to contend with the press, since cases sometimes are partly ‘tried in the press.’
But even leaving out high profile cases that are partly tried in the press, there is legitimate value in having students try to get bloggers and reporters to attend the finals. For example, consider these benefits:
- Learning how to contact and form a relationship with journalists
- Learning how to pitch a story
- Learning how a published story can help or damage a mission
- Publicizing accomplishments for the benefit of university admissions officers, employers and others who will be searching for information on the students for the rest of their lives
- Helping schools fund raise from alumni and others by giving schools stories they can point to that demonstrate success of school programs
High school students don’t get many opportunities to be featured in the press. When seniors in high school go on to become freshmen in college, the likelihood of coverage in the press temporarily goes down, I fear. Only as university students establish themselves are they likely to be featured in the press. Years pass. Lessons about nurturing the press are not typically taught in university, and time is money, so teach students about the power of the press now, which you still have a chance.
I have been a journalist for years — since I was 13 if you go back to when I joined the newspaper staff for the Midway at Lab School.
Ms. Salinger, your Facebook post to me is the first and only attempt somebody has made to stifle my efforts.
I was and remain shocked.
Thankfully I kept my blog post from February 24, 2012 on my blog, which gets hundreds of viewers everyday.
While preparing this post, I discovered that you named SOTA student Havel Weidner in your Internet post Mock Trial Coaches Help Students Increase Diversity Pipeline from May 2012, after your message to me.
I find it curious that you feel it is alright for you to name a presumably minor student, but an actual journalist cannot.
Note that I never wrote the second post I said above that I had intended to write. I was planning to write up the actual case, and comment in detail on the performances by the many student participants. That post would have easily taken eight hours to write, but after your discouraging February 27, 2012 Facebook message, I chose to not write the post, as I didn’t want to be criticized a second time for my writing. I also didn’t want to irritate a bunch of smart lawyers, so I censored myself, for which I am embarrassed. I should have written that post. I cannot write it now because I have forgotten too many details to write a quality article.
I acknowledge that I make a lot of guesses in this post. I apologize if I have guessed incorrectly. But even if I missed the mark on exactly what happened and when, my advice that you should encourage press coverage of the Mock Trial finals stands.
The performances I observed at the 2012 Mock Trial finals were the most impressive performances I have ever seen by a group of high school students. That what used to be McAteer High School is now churning out students so impressive gives me hope for humanity. McAteer was a dreadful and simply awful school, and it’s only through my attendance at Lab School earlier that I am able to write this blog.
The San Francisco Unified School District should be promoting Mock Trial as well. The district gets beat up in the press, and Mock Trial is so good that it should be featured prominently in the district’s public relations efforts.
According to Facebook, Devon Ivie is friends with Jasmine Lee Lee, a freshman at University of California Berkeley. Lee also graduated from School of the Arts. I met Lee in January, as she is the co-founder of an Internet startup headed by my friend Iskander Rakhmanberdiyev. I mentor Rakhmanberdiyev, and Lee has watched me advise Rakhmanberdiyev and others. I mention this news, which I only discovered today while writing this post, to give you a sense as to who I mentor and about what subjects I can advise.
If you or anyone organizing the mock trial did not praise Devon Ivie for her outstanding work in getting me to cover the 2012 San Francisco Mock Trial finals, then please contact her and heap some praise upon her – in writing and by phone if you can spare a moment.
From where I sit, Ivie is a rising star, and her outgoing nature that led her to strike up a conversation with me should be strongly and repeatedly encouraged, for that nature will bring many successes to her in life.
Thank you for reading this and please appreciate I am a huge fan of the success that is Mock Trial. That evening a year ago was one of the highlights of 2012.
PS – My advice for Jayne Salinger applies everywhere impressive adolescents are found. It is wrong for society to try to ‘protect’ people like these students by keeping their names and pictures off of the Internet until they become adults. For better or worse, the Internet is like a credit report, only more important. People perform searches on other people, and they always will. If new adults have no report because they have no presence on the Internet the day they turn 18, that harms society. Of course, young people need to be educated about the perils of the Internet as well. People should not post material that reflects poorly, since such material has a tendency to last forever. These students at Mock Trial were likely putting their very, very best foot forward, which makes my blog posts about them ideal early installments for their Internet ‘reports.’
I write this blog post today, January 31, 2013, with sadness.
Jody Sherman, a rambunctious, ambitious and complex entrepreneur, husband, investor and mentor, died Monday, January 27, 2013. I learned about Sherman’s passing on Tuesday, the day after, and I had trouble sleeping that night.
Jody Sherman’s death moved me.
I learned about Sherman’s death from my friends on Facebook.
Much has been written about Jody Sherman this week, and I understand why.
Jody Sherman was simply a character — a very memorable and lovable character.
My association with Sherman was brief yet meaningful and intense.
In late 1998 or early 1999, I was gearing up to raise money for Document Automation Systems, LLC, my startup at the time. I later renamed it Hotpaper.com, Inc.
I met Jody Sherman by chance.
Jody Sherman was the seller.
At the time he worked at BuyDirect, an earlier e-commerce pioneer that would later be sold for USD $140M. Sherman’s office was on the waterfront near Pier 39 in San Francisco, California, USA.
My Internet company was tiny, but I had an impressive customer list — Coca Cola, Intel and the US Marine Corps, among dozens of similarly well known organizations. My company’s revenue was tiny, but I had big plans for growth.
I was sitting in Sherman’s office getting ready to hand him the cash for the stylish stereo deck, shown above.
In his office, Sherman appeared to be working at an energetic pace, doing deals for his employer, where he was vice president of business development.
Sherman asked me what I did, and that query prompted me to give my well oiled elevator pitch. At the time, I had no idea who Sherman was — I had not typed his name into Alta Vista, the dominate search engine of the day.
While I was still pitching, Sherman tapped his keyboard and visited my company’s website and drafted a document from a template. Hotpaper was the first LegalZoom or RocketLawyer. Hotpaper created legal documents by asking users questions to then build a custom document on the server, in Microsoft Word format.
Talk about my company quickly dominated the rest of my few minutes with Sherman that day, yet I did pay for and collect the Bang and Olufsen deck for Lin.
Later, Sherman offered to help me raise financing to expand my company. He suggested I raise USD $500,000, which he said he would help me raise by getting ten of his friends to put in $50,000 each.
Sherman drove a BMW Z3 at the time, and I vividly remember him picking me up at my office at The Russ Building in San Francisco so I could introduce him to my lawyer Eric Jensen, in Palo Alto. I had never been in a Z3 and I was impressed — Sherman had a flair about him to be sure.
I concluded that Sherman was likely correct when he confidently said he could round up ten of his friends to allow my company to close a $500K angel round.
I never closed that round, because Sherman asked for a finder’s fee that I found objectionable — he asked for ‘non diluting’ stock among other things. I was shocked when he fell silent for several long seconds, got up and walked out of my office without a word when I asked him about the non diluting stock he was asking for. Sherman was the first and only person to walk out of a meeting with me. It rattled me.
Even though no transaction happened, I am still grateful to have met Jody Sherman, for he spurred me to greater accomplishment.
This agitation I felt in retrospect was fantastic for me.
I was mad Sherman had walked out on my deal.
I wanted to show Sherman that I was a talented entrepreneur. I wanted to show my (now late) friend Stan Pasternak, who rented my company an office in his suite, and who saw Sherman walk out on me, that I was a talented entrepreneur.
In June, 1999, my company closed a $2M round from two venture capital firms and some angels. The only fee I paid was to attend a ‘meet an venture capitalist’ event put on in part by my friend Tom Cervantez, which cost me $75. I met Redleaf Venture Management venture capitalist Robert von Goeben there, and he introduced me to Bob Bozeman, the partner at Angel Investors LP that agreed to put in 5% of the round.
Sherman deserved to profit from his advice and expertise. Had he asked for common stock with standard vesting terms, instead of what he asked for, I probably would have brought him on board as an advisor, since he represented the best chance I had at the time to get my company funded.
I still don’t know why Sherman didn’t negotiate with me instead of walking out, and sadly, now, I will never know.
I should point out that Sherman did well by walking out, because the investors I ultimately raised money from lost most of their money they invested in Hotpaper in the aftermath of the Internet bust in 2000, after I sold Hotpaper.
I wrote this post to give Jody Sherman credit for his small but important role in my life.
I knew him perhaps a month, from start to finish, yet Jody Sherman moved me to write this post a dozen years later.
It has been reported that Jody Sherman took his own life. I feel so bad for Sherman and his wife, family, employees and friends.
Life as a startup CEO is extremely challenging. There are unbelievable highs and lows, far more dramatic than what I experienced as an employee, and I’ve had some interesting experiences as an employee, including getting suspended for insubordination and laid off because my job was eliminated.
Sherman raised millions of dollars for his latest Internet company EcoMom. The pressure must have been intense, particularly because it appears lots of the money came from his wealthy and connected friends. I know nothing of the details of the pressures Sherman was under at work or elsewhere.
Depression is an insidious illness, because it can cripple.
One could argue that I suffer from depression, and that’s why I am not running a company or doing anything substantial in life right now, despite my having days of tremendous enthusiasm to change the world. Overall, I am happy and optimistic, but when I consider my age and that I haven’t started a family yet, I am sad. I worry my time for a family has already irrevocably passed.
Don’t worry though, I am not going to kill myself.
I have been close to people that suffer from depression, and in one case, I had to cut ties so as not to risk substantive harm to myself, the situation got so intense. Sherman’s widow Kerri must be feeling crushing pain, and my heart goes out to her, even though I have never met her.
When I learn of a suicide by someone I knew, even if only in passing, like Ilya Zhitomirskiy, I get emotional and have trouble sleeping. I battle with myself over what, if anything, I should do about the people I know that are depressed. Should I tell their parents? Should I tell their close friends? Should I mind my own business? Should I speak to the people themselves, even those I cut contact with? I have cut contact with many people, especially in the last six months, as I continue to recreate myself into a more vibrant contributing citizen, but by doing so, my burden over what to do increases.
Mark Suster, a partner at the venture capital firm GRP Partners knew Jody Sherman well, and two days ago, on January 29, 2013, Suster wrote on his great blog an amazing goodbye to Sherman. Suster colorfully describes Sherman just how I remember him — as shown here from Suster’s goodby post:
“I remember when we met years ago. I think Michael Kantor introduced us. You were pitching me an online business selling other people’s baby food. I told you what a dumb idea it was.
You came back. You had a new plan. You had renegotiated your way out of that agreement. Now you wanted to merge with a broader-based business and sell all products. You got to keep the name of the new company – ecomom. You were so proud of that name and what it stood for. You wanted good in the world.
And in turn the world wanted good for you. But the world made you fight for it. And I did, too.
I told you to go away again, you crazy, wiry, non-stop pitching fool.
What? You back again? Who let you in here? Oh, you want to tell me about how your business is now scaling? You have repeat orders and high gross margins? Go away, I say! It’s mom stuff. We didn’t do so well in that category in the past.
Review your deck? Ok, Jody. You sure do push the envelope. But I kinda like your chutzpah. Sure, bro. Come on in. But … could you button up the shirt a couple more notches when you come to my office? I think you might have scared a few folks last time. Ha, just kidding. No, seriously. Just one more button.
Wow. Your deck looks great. Are those growth numbers real? Impressive. No. No I can’t meet for breakfast. I don’t think we can fund in that category, Jody.
Ok. I’ll have the egg-white burrito. I have to eat something healthy around you or I’ll feel guilty. Is it true that you have 3% body fat? I know, I know. I shouldn’t eat the carbs. But this is Lemon Moon – at least we know it’s healthy.
Fine. Fine. I’ll write you an angel check, then. As long as you promise to stop pitching me! Yes, Jody. I really believe in you. I always did. But when I got home and I told my wife that I had just committed $25,000 that she should just consider it a mitzvah. I didn’t so much want to see a baby products company make money as I wanted to see you succeed. You had some magic dust.
Ok, Jody. We have to have a heart-to-heart. You gotta stop pitching Sand Hill Road VCs. Look at their entrepreneurs – they are 28, computer programmers and they went to Harvard or Stanford. Now go look in a mirror. You have “weird hair.” Yes. weird hair. My cousin calls it JewFro. And you have it. And instead of hiding it you wear it Kramer style just to scare people. I think you like looking at them looking at you. Don’t you? Focus on raising money from outsiders. From people eschewed by the typical system. Raise money from underdogs like you.
You told me that was some of the most honest and best advice you had ever gotten. That most people were too scared to say that to you. And raise money you did. Millions of it.”
Suster simply brought Jody Sherman to life with this above passage, so much so that tears came to my eyes as I write this.
Jody Sherman was a hustler and a good soul. I can only imagine how many thousands of entrepreneurs he helped over his 47 years of exciting life. I pray that he rests in peace, and that his loved ones find comfort in the outpouring of sweet thoughts that have been expressed since his too early death.
Life is so precious and short.
Please do not take your own life, dear readers.
Last week I was doing some research on my first Internet company, Hotpaper.com, Inc. I discovered a report I had never seen before, from PrivCo Media, LLC. According to PrivCo’s report, I sold my company for USD $11,750,000.00, which is more than I knew. The published price was $10M, but I always knew the actual price was technically higher because the acquiring company didn’t cancel the stock options of my employees. I never really found out the exact value of that part of the compensation, since I left the company soon after the deal closed, and I never went hunting for the number.
This evening, January 21, 2013, I had the great pleasure to tour the brand new SFJAZZ Center, at 201 Franklin Street in San Francisco, California USA.
The SFJAZZ Center is an ambitious center to advance jazz music.
I think the corner of Franklin Street and Fell Street is an outstanding location for the Center — it’s in the trendy and safe Hayes Valley neighborhood, and it’s just two blocks from the Van Ness MUNI station and Market Street.
There was a ribbon cutting ceremony in the morning, which I missed.
I went to one of the official tours, in the evening. Attendees got to roam around the facility and admire the building, constructed in 2011 and 2012 to be the new dedicated home for SFJAZZ.
The formal part of the evening featured prepared remarks by Randall Kline, the Executive Artistic Director and Founder of SFJAZZ.
Rebeca Mauleón, the Director of Education, also spoke.
The SFJAZZ High School All-Stars performed in the large music hall, named the Robert N. Miner Auditorium, which features steeply set seats designed to allow the musicians to see the faces of the audience members. This Auditorium also features a glass wall that looks out onto the busy street, which will drum up interest in the performances because passersby will be able to catch a glimpse for free as they walk or drive past. I’ve always thought it is good marketing for martial arts studios and dance studios to have large glass windows at street level. SFJAZZ Center is taking a page out of their public relations book, and I predict good things will happen as a result of doing so.
I was exceptionally impressed with the High School All-Stars. I introduced myself to the members and invited them to read my blog.
I was given a lushly produced magazine/program for SFJAZZ during the tour this evening. SFJAZZ Founder Randall Kline had this to say, on page 7:
Welcome to the first season
After 30 years of presenting music in a variety of rented venues throughout the Bay, it is with great joy we begin our first season in our new home, the SFJAZZ Center. It is the first freestanding building for jazz in the country — designed, from concept to concert hall, to create an enhanced setting for experiencing what the esteemed jazz write Whitney Balliett calls “the sound of surprise.”
The SFJAZZ Center is home for all that we do: concerts, education programs for adults and youth, our award-winning SFJAZZ High School All-Star Ensembles, the world-renowned SFJAZZ Collective, and the new SFJAZZ Monday Night Community Band.
Over our three decades, SFJAZZ has grown to become a vital part of the cultural fabric of San Francisco. And in the broader context of the jazz, we have been recognized as one of the top presenters in the world — helping to place San Francisco, with its rich jazz history, among the vanguard of cities where this American-born art form can be best heard.
Kline continued his remarks — I have not typed all of them here — and concluded with:
Jazz has a home in San Francisco. The first season begins. See you at the Center!
Executive Artistic Director and Founder
The new Center shows a lot of promise. I am intrigued, so I plan to return soon to the Center to see a show.
I took the pictures that accompany this post with my Canon 5D Mark II camera. I uploaded these images at full resolution of 21 megapixels. Click on them to see the full size versions.
Today was a busy day in the United States of America.
- The country celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a federal holiday.
- It was inauguration day for US President Barack Obama, who began his second term yesterday.
- The SFJAZZ Center officially opened its doors.
[Edit on January 23, 2013 -- I added two names to the caption of the group photo of the All-Stars, above, once I got the correct spellings.]
I got a ‘free’ flu shot today that I wasn’t expecting to be free, courtesy of my high deductable Anthem Blue Cross health insurance
I have the Smart Sense 5000 health insurance plan from Anthem Blue Cross of California. This plan has a USD $5,000 deductible, which I chose as the most cost effective way for me to get comprehensive health care should I get sick. Since I am so healthy, I benefit from agreeing to such a high deductible.
I was shocked and pleasantly surprised today when I went to Walgreens to purchase a flu shot and learned that I get a free flu shot because I have this Blue Cross policy. I thought having a high deductible meant I didn’t get anything for ‘free.’ I didn’t even ask for a free shot, and only because the clerk thought to type my name into her computer did she learn I qualify for a free shot.
I normally consider Walgreens to be an over priced store best patronized only for incidentals when Target is too far away, but today I am pleased with Walgreens.
The flu kills hundreds of thousands of people per year, far more than guns and terrorists. Most everyone should get a flu shot. If you have insurance, the shot may be at no additional cost to you. Go get one!
Video January 2, 2013 of the final minutes of The Exploratorium science museum at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California USA
Two days ago, on Wednesday, January 2, 2013, I captured high definition video of the official public closing of The Exploratorium science museum at 3601 Lyon Street at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California USA. Today I present that video, without editing other than concatenating the files together in the order I shot them.
This blog post complements the post I wrote yesterday, The final day at The Exploratorium science museum at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California – January 2, 2013, where I presented 24 of the still photographs I took at the closing, including the image above of the Palace of Fine Arts after magic hour but before dark. It takes time to compress and upload video, and the video I present today was not done yesterday, thus this second post.
The final day at The Exploratorium science museum at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California – January 2, 2013
Earlier today I took an emotional trip down memory lane by photographing the world famous Exploratorium science museum during its final hour at its building at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California USA. On Friday, April 12, 2013, the Exploratorium opens at its new location at Pier 15, on the historic waterfront north of Market Street and near the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Pier 15 is served by historic restored street cars that stop in front, so I predict that many more people will visit, since the original location is rather difficult to access, and parking in particular is a nightmare.
If invited by the Exploratorium staff, for example after they discover this post, I will cover the opening event on this blog, and I will photograph it with the same quality technique I used for the photographs that accompany this post. If not invited, I will wait for a free admission day to visit.
I used my Canon 5D Mark II camera for these pictures. I uploaded the pictures at full camera resolution of 21 megapixels. Click on them to see them at full size. I used a tripod for many of the shots, and since it’s so dark inside the Exploratorium, many of the pictures were made with time exposures of up to 8 seconds. That accounts for the blurred people in some of the shots. I like that the blurring suggests lots of busy activity at the museum, which is definitely true. The tripod shots were taken at ISO 100, so the image quality is outstanding. The handheld shots were taken at ISO settings as high as 6,400, and the quality suffers. I should have brought a flash so that I could have taken more photographs of visitors experiencing the exhibits.
I love and admire The Exploratorium museum above all others. The Exploratorium teaches visitors about the world we all live in, and it does it in such an engaging and fun way that visitors keep coming back, over decades. The exterior wall of the large gift shop was covered with sweet notes from visitors, and these note cards were grouped by decade. Even the 1970s section had over 100 cards on it.
The Exploratorium opened in 1969.
The Exploratorium has exhibits that seed the imagination, so this museum helps human kind progress. I think The Exploratorium is more effective at seeding the imagination than even the traditional great museums of the world such as The Louvre.
I almost missed this special day, and had it not been for the website Funcheap San Francisco which lists free or inexpensive ways to have fun in my favorite city. I subscribe to the site’s Facebook page, and a status update to that page alerted me to the final day I am covering here.
Here below is a sequence of photographs that give you a tour of this large museum space, starting and the front, then moving to the upper deck level, and finally showing the back of the museum from the deck.
Now I will show you some of the exhibits. Note that no admission was charged today, so there were more visitors than normal. I only had one hour to take still pictures and video, so I was rushed.
As I was leaving, I picked up a free poster advertising the new location for the museum, which will be Pier 15 on the San Francisco waterfront, downtown, near the Ferry Building.
After the gates were closed, there was a private party, with speakers thanking those assembled.
I set up my tripod outside the front door and posed for a self portrait to memorialize this memorable day.
On my way back to my car, which I parked many blocks away, I set up my tripod one last time to take this ‘magic hour’ photograph of The Palace of Fine Arts.
Note that the Exploratorium posted a sign at the entrance warning visitors that pictures and video would be captured by many people today, and that some of the material would be published.
I will miss this original location. It’s industrial and gritty and feels authentic. Outside by the adjoining Palace of Fine Arts, the location is truly beautiful. I fear that the new location will be too new, sparkly and flashy, and that the glitz will remove the charm that permeates the original.
Here are the WordPress ‘views’ for this blog for 2012:
January 2012 – 8,566
February 2012 – 10,321
March 2012 – 14,383
April 2012 – 12,520
May 2012 – 11,610
June 2012 – 9,753
July 2012 – 11,113
August 2012 -10,938
September 2012 – 11,698
October 2012 – 13,429
November 2012 -11,910
December 2012 – 11,579
Total for 2012 – 137,820
Average per day – 378.59
This graph doesn’t tell the full story, however. I wrote frequently during the earlier part of the year, and infrequently toward the end of the year. The traffic didn’t drop off much even though I wrote less, so had I been writing frequently, I believe the traffic would have gone up considerably.