Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Partners

"An Irishman, a Scotsman, and a Jew walk into a bar...."

I've been trying to come up with a joke to match that intro line, but can't think of one.

It is a strange partnership, for sure. Bob and Mark are, in many ways, as unlike me as humanly possible, but we share a common vision, attitude, and philosophy (on everything except politics, which is why I tend not to talk politics with either of them).

Bob is the Irishman, and I've known him since the very first day of my career, on April 4th, 1974. At that time, I was a wet-behind-the ears electrical engineer at my first job, designing test equipment for a well known electronics company. Bob was a bench technician, building and debugging the equipment, and he worked on some of my designs. We both progressed in our careers through very different pathways; Bob, with no college degree, managed to eventually get into the Marketing department and trade his jeans and t-shirt for a shirt and tie. Within a short time, he elevated himself in Marketing, went into sales, left the company, came back to the company.... he was on a roll. In 1992, when, utterly burnt out, I decided to leave the company and form my own, Bob was the first guy I called. I wanted him to be the marketing/sales guy for my new firm. He agreed, although within a couple of months, it became clear that he wasn't in a position to tear himself away from his well-paying job, and take the risk, so we parted company, amicably. I regretted that it didn't work out; Bob has a really wonderful sense of humor and a hearty laugh, and despite the fact that I jokingly call him a 'right wing fascist', he's a sincere and warm-hearted guy.

Fast forward to late 2008, when he gave me a call and invited me to dinner. At that time, it was just a re-connect with an old friend. It turned out that he had eventually joined a startup, was able to buy in for a small percentage, and 11 years later, the company was sold, leaving him a huge pile of cash. A few months after that dinner, he called me again, and once again invited me to dinner... this time, with a product idea. It wasn't fully fleshed out, and Bob was no longer really a technologist, so he needed an EE. At about the same time, I was running out of consulting work due to the recession, so I was immediately interested.

Mark, the Scotsman, was the third guy in on the deal. Affable, congenial, ruddy-faced and optimistic, Mark invited me to lunch, ostensibly to 'vet' me as a potential partner. Mark was also a veteran of his own startup, which had been recently sold, and although he was now a VP for the company that bought it, he was eager and anxious to do something different. I got along with Mark immediately... all three of us seemed to have very much the same business philosophy, and the same attitude about life.

By February of 2009, I was essentially committed, and we incorporated as an LLC. I can't say I was completely convinced, but Bob and Mark's excitement and optimism about the product was contagious... and once we had some functional prototypes to show to prosepective customers, I caught the fever as well.

So, about that joke... any suggestions? :)

No comments:

Post a Comment