David signed up for an online virtual assistant service and wondered what his man in India should do. Then he began to type: Call a few body shops in Portland to get a quote to replace the broken bumper of a white 1991 Toyota Camry.
There. I outsourced.
Two days later he got his response: I called five body shops in Portland and none of them were willing to give me a quote without seeing the car first.
Shit, there goes the grocery money for the week.
It was a few months later that David had the idea for the jellyfish website. He found an auction website that specialized in buying and selling websites. After trolling for a few days, he saw an auction for Jellies-R-Us, which had the world's most popular blog about jellyfish aquariums with just over two hundred subscribers.
"This is perfect. It'll only take a few hours a week to support. I already know how to run it because I know how to write code," David explained to his girlfriend.
"How much will it cost?" asked Megan. She was slender but strong. The pink shorts that announced Juicy on her butt showed off her muscle tone.
"Only fifteen thousand dollars."
"David, it's a terrible idea," Megan said as she rolled her eyes. "Come help with the dishes."
David picked up a plate with last night's dinner stuck on it and rinsed it with cold running water. Megan hated when he did that. If you aren't going to do the dishes right, you shouldn't even try, she had told him dozens of times. But his mind was elsewhere.
"No, I am serious. This thing can pay off big for us. It can set us up for a future together. It could pay off our college debts and help my sister."
"David, you are not allowed to spend our money on half-assed ideas anymore," she said and then paused for effect. "How's Heather?"
"Good. Still studying painting. But she hates her new physical therapist."
David was halfway through his morning cup of coffee when the website auction finally finished. Twenty-eight thousand, five hundred dollars. In the final minutes of the auction, a bidding war nearly doubled the price.
David's day job was writing code for the inventory maintenance systems at East of Aden, a local high-end boutique furniture store. The pay was okay, and the work wasn't terrible, but he hated his boss and couldn't stand most of his coworkers. In the last fourteen months, he had been able to save up $2,339.23 and had agreed with Megan that they wouldn't touch that money in case of emergencies.
Jellies-R-Us sold only one product: a $15,000 personal aquarium for the at-home enthusiast. It had a built-in black light, which was designed to show off the otherwise translucent jellyfish. The aquariums were shipped from a factory in the UK for about $5,000 each. David stood to make $10,000 in profit per sale. A year ago, the previous owner of Jellies-R-Us was featured on the Today Show where they sold ninety-three aquariums in a single month. But when Google changed its search policies, traffic to the site had slowed dramatically. Even thinking conservatively, David figured he could pay off his credit cards in fifteen months. Surely Megan wouldn't notice. Plus, he didn't have to pay interest on his cards for eighteen months, so it was basically free money.
David set his empty cup on the counter. The first piping hot swigs of coffee were always so satisfying, but only if he drank them as hot as he could stand. It would warm him from the inside out.
David picked up the phone and dialed his best friend.
"Andrew, do you happen to know anyone who works for Oprah by chance?"
"No, why?" Even through the phone, David could hear Andrew silently realizing the answer to his question. "You didn't. Please tell me you didn't."
"I did. I got it for a steal too."
"You can't keep doing this to yourself, David. Every time you say the same things: financial independence, work for yourself, hate your boss, save your sister. When are you going to grow up? People have to work for a living. There's no way around it. Your parents worked for a living, my parents worked for a living. You have to work for a living too. Even if you move to Portland like every other millennial, you'd still have to do something. Drive a pedicab for tips. Play trumpet on the corner. Come to think of it, you are a tall, dark, good-looking guy. Good cheekbones. You even pull off that trendy hobo beard look. I'm sure you can get good tips from the women."
"You're one to talk. How long have you tried to make it as an investment banker in New York?"
"Not fair. Just because the banking system went to shit does not mean I go spend twenty grand on fish."
"They're not fish. They're jellies. And it was thirty thousand, not twenty."
"Jesus David, do you have no dignity? You don't have thirty thousand dollars. Have you told Megan yet?"
"She knows about it."
"Knows you bought it?"
"I'm going to tell her. This thing will pay for itself, you'll see. You will all see."
YOU ARE READING
The Term Sheet | Wattys 2016 WinnerMystery / Thriller
2016 WATTY AWARD WINNER - HQ LOVE THE TERM SHEET is a fast-paced technothriller about entrepreneurship, startups, encryption, and the delicate balance between national security and individual privacy. Its complex characters explore thought-provoking...