Can I at Least Get My Shoes?

Posted February 15th, 2007 by

So during the fading light of Web 1.0 known as “The DotCom Crash”, I was working for a little (4 of us total) startup on the West coast.  We subleased some office space from another company who had a search engine product.

This company’s operation was staffed by some grad students (more about them later), and the company president, Mark, was in the process of selling the business.  I think he made 10 million out of the deal, much less than he wanted, but not bad for a mostly one-man operation.

Our residency in the building started innocuous enough.  We were looking at space elsewhere in the same building, and Mark offered to let us sublease for a reduced price.  It seemed like a good deal at the time.  I probably would still entertain an offer like this even today.

So moving-in day arrives.  We show up with our computers and other equipment and start picking out offices.  Naturally, I got the one with the demarcation for the T1.

One hitch:  the personal effects of the grad students (who Mark said had been layed off) were still in their offices, complete with family pictures, track and field awards, you name it.  Under my breath, I asked if they knew that they didn’t have jobs anymore.  A shrug from Mark, and he was off packing up their stuff into boxes.

So we worked out of the office for 6 months or so.  Then things started to get curiouser and curiouser.  People came around asking for Mark, nicely at first, they a little bit more adamant.  Mark didn’t come into the office as much–he was in the process of selling off his empire.  Of course, I didn’t see much of this because I was in the back room furiously coding away, like all good code monkeys should.

Finally, in the winter, Mark announced that his lease was expiring in a week and that we couldn’t stay there anymore.  No problem, we could move back into a home office until we found someplace better.  We arranged everything that we could and took a couple of days to pack.

Mark had an office furniture sale while we were packing.  He was literally selling everything that wasn’t nailed down–chairs, desks, the overstuffed leather couch, organizers, you name it.

Thursday evening, I was beat.  I hitched a ride home and left my bag and my bike shoes at the office.  I’ll come back on Friday and pick up the last of my stuff.

I show up Friday morning at 8:30.  I noticed a note on the door, I didn’t bother to read it, I was just there to pick up a couple boxes of stuff.  My key didn’t work.  Uh-oh, I guess I’ll read the note.  Paraphrased, it said something like “All your stuff are belong to landlord.”

Apparently, while we had been paying Mark the rent for 6 months, he had not been paying his rent.  The landlord was trying to hold the company’s servers as ransom for the rent he owed, and since his only server (remember, this is startup land, logic doesn’t really apply) was residing off the T1 line in the office, he couldn’t really claim to have sold the company if he couldn’t deliver the software.

It took me 3 hours of phone calls to the landlord and lawyers before someone arrived to let me take my gear out of the office.

As far as I know, Mark stuck the back-due rent with the buyers of his company, which is unethical (and probably illegal in some way), but what else would you expect from the guy?  He’s an accountant who started a tech company as an investment, not because he loved the tech.  I think he went back to being a stock broker and got a nice house out of the deal.

Similar Posts:

Posted in Diary of a Startup, What Doesn't Work | No Comments »

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

Visitor Geolocationing Widget: