#3: Finding Progress and Money

Jasper_Name“I’ve always wanted to club a harp seal,” Alison said out of the blue as she ate lunch a couple days ago.

“Why would you want to do something like that?” I asked, still looking at my screen.

“Do I need a reason for everything I do, Jasper?”

“Yeah, generally.”

“I don’t think I could ever live that way, Guy,” Alison replied.

I shook my head in silence and continued with my work. I can’t stand her calling me Guy. It makes it sound like she can’t remember my name. I’m not sure if it’s a personality thing or if she attempts to become dispassionate with those she works with, but the name thing rubs me the wrong way. My wife seems to think Alison is simply immature and that’s how the kids talk these days.

Either way, it’s one of those things I have to live with.

That’s the unfortunate part of our working situation. The good is that Alison is one of the best developers I ever been around. Not that that excuses her behavior.

She’s okay around my wife, Janet, and treats my daughter, Olivia, like a princess which I think shows a deeper side of Alison, but it’s hard to tell sometimes.

You can’t easily find a full stack developer that has a strong personality and passionately stands by their work, yet Alison does that for us and more importantly she consistently does it. If I ask for something, she takes care of business. And I try to do the same. Success at Merge will only happen if we work together and we seem to be doing just that.

This week we made strides on both the software and hardware sides. Alison finally put the touches on the SDK (software development kit) for developers to start working on applications for the Merge platform and my team is closer to solving our battery issue that is holding back the creation of sample developer units.

We have a small team by any standard. My team and Alison’s work independently from one another. Alison and I stay in contact to act as intermediaries between the two groups. Separate but together.

For a handful of engineers and developers who are on a tight timeline, and currently working off of a shoestring VC budget, we are making amazing strides week in and week out. It’s been a big six months from the first meeting between Ryan, Alison, and myself.

It’s just not enough for Ryan, though. The guy needs to calm down. Ryan’s need for widespread developer units is becoming obsessive.

Alison knows that I have to leave every day at 3:30pm to pick up my daughter, which is why I come in at 6:30am, so I won’t be around all day. And I deal with her randomness, sometimes long absences from the office, abrasive language, emotionless attitude towards her two other developers, and hatred of dogs. It works for us. We are moving towards a common goal. Ryan can be in his own world for long periods of time and destroy quality work on a whim.

Ryan’s an idea guy. If you sit in a meeting with him he brings energy, passion, and a keen eye on what could be. He also becomes distracted easily and likes to change direction in a heartbeat after making impulsive opinions about people and situations. He doesn’t just shoot from the hip, he shoots without even getting out of the chair.

For example, we went out for an founder lunch last week to talk about our short term timelines, goals, and an overall status update. We went out for sushi at about 2:00 in the afternoon so the place would be dead and we could have an actual working lunch.

Before we even had our order taken Ryan threw out the idea that Merge should take over another company in town in an effort to raid their talent. I’m not oppose to increasing the size of the team, it’s just a risky move for any company our size to make. Especially when we have no revenue yet. Alison was a little more upfront.

“Are you fucking nuts,” she said, slamming her menu closed. “We don’t have the money or even the framework right now for these potential new hires!”

“You said we will have the last operating system bugs figured out with more time,” Ryan shot back. “Wouldn’t more manpower help with that?”

“No, you idiot! I’m personally working on the OS kinks, Jon is working with OpenOffice to retool the software for our system, and I have Heather building out a list of the top 500 mobile apps we have to launch with. Things are moving well enough.”

“But they need to move faster.”

“What I think Alison’s saying, Ryan,” I chimed in, “is that, sure, we could use a few key developers and engineers to speed everything up, but that would likely put us in a precarious situation, financially speaking. We need more money or to issue an exclusive release of devices to the public for early adopters. A successful pre-order would do us more good than an influx of cash, in my opinion.”

“But we need a goddam device in order to offer a pre-order,” Ryan shot back. “You two need to figure your shit out so we can look for manufacturers and vendors to price the damn thing.”

We knew he was right on the last point.

Ryan took a deep breath and continued with his head tilted down slightly and his hands together. “We’re running low on cash, guys. We’ve burned through the $500,000 Jason Hamilton and the other angel investors gave us. We have enough cash for about 3 more weeks if nothing huge pops up.”

“I’m sorry, two seconds ago you wanted to buy another company, and now you are saying we’re nearly broke?” Alison asked.

“I was thinking of sinking more of my own money into the purchase,” Ryan said in a softer tone. “We need to keep moving forward.”

“Take my pay to nothing for the next three weeks,” Alison said. “That should give us another week.”

“I’ll do the same,” I said.

“Absolutely not, Jasper,” Ryan said. “You have a family and household to take care of. I need you focused on delivering the device. I stopped paying myself last month to get us to this point and won’t tag a wage until we have money to pay Alison first.”

Silence took over the table for about a minute as I flipped through the menu trying to not look concerned while Ryan checked his phone. Alison never took her eyes off Ryan.

“I see that we have 3 options,” Ryan said. “One, finish a handful of completely functional Merge phones and use that to leverage more VC money. Two, run a Kickstarter or some other crowdfunding service campaign to raise cash. Or, three, fold up shop and sell what we’ve already built to the highest bidder.”

The waitress finally came over and took our orders. I wasn’t feeling too hungry at that moment and just ordered tea. Alison was quieter than usual, but seemed to take the financial news of Merge pretty well.

“I think we should try to push the first option over the next two weeks,” Ryan said after taking a sip of green tea. “I think we can build the devices we need as samples in-house and reach out to more investors. If time starts to run out we can create a crowdfunding or pre-order campaign and try to have the public back us if the timing doesn’t work in our favour.”

“I like it,” Alison said. It was probably the longest I’ve heard her stay silent during a meeting. “We should have someone prep our website for pre-orders now. We want everything ready so we can persuade manufacturers to take our orders quickly if it comes down to that.”

“Good idea,” Ryan said.

“My team can likely have 10 devices ready within a couple of weeks unless there’s a huge roadblock that pops up,” I added.

Ryan took the information in and nodded almost as if to himself.

“Do you guys know any good dry cleaners?” Ryan finally asked after taking another sip of tea.

Passion. Ideas. Clarity. And, finally, distraction. That’s Ryan for you.

Next Post – #4: The Problem of Finding Focus

Previous Post – #2: Coffee, Demos, and Wasting My Time


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