When David saw the caller ID coming from Doug Kensington, he wasn't surprised. He had assumed that Doug saw Pitch Deck and wanted to buy their scraps at some bargain basement price. David had prepared himself for this moment and knew just how he was going to turn Doug down. At first, he would feign surprise. Then he would explain how well things had been going since the show aired. He could talk about the investor interest picking up and how much consumer interest the show had given him. He would explain how he was deeply flattered, but that things have changed for Cryptobit. They were now in a dramatically different situation than the last time they had talked. He would finish by saying that he appreciated the call, but wasn't interested in making a deal with him at this time.
But when he answered the phone, Doug didn't bring up the show at all. In fact, Doug's call was brief and his tone was angry.
"David, I know it's a long drive to Seattle, but I need you here. There is something important that we need to discuss. It's sensitive, so you will need to be here in person."
David just said: "Sure." As soon as he had said the word, he regretted it. Where were his balls? He didn't need Doug any more. The drive was long and painful and Doug was probably just going to make him another lowball offer anyhow. This was going to be a waste of time.
David had a venture capital term sheet in his hands. A real offer from people who thought he could do something big with his company. He didn't need to roll over and give in to the first acquisition offer that came his way. He had options. It felt refreshing and freeing. So much of the last year, David had felt repressed or judged. Now he was the one holding the cards. And it felt good.
So why had he said yes? Especially so quickly, without even thinking about it. Maybe it was Doug's tone. It had so much authority to it with that slight tinge of anger. It reminded him of the tone his dad used to use when David had done something wrong—a mix of annoyance and frustration. Did he have to follow through on the visit? He could just as easily get some much-needed rest instead. He could wake up fresh in the morning, review the VC term sheet with his lawyer, sign it, and never have to think twice about Doug Kensington and his low-ball offers.
But something was nagging David. Maybe Doug was angry because his team had totally failed again on System 360. Maybe he realized he made a mistake lowballing David and decided to make him a real acquisition offer. He could be turning down tens of millions of dollars. He couldn't let it go. He had to know what Doug wanted to tell him. He jumped in his car and began to drive.
The night was cold and dry. There wasn't much traffic on I-5, just a few big rigs. When David arrived at System headquarters, it was 10:43 p.m. He made a couple pit stops and caffeinated himself along the way, but made good time since Doug had called him at around eight.
David could see a security guard at the front desk. He looked almost military, with buzz-cut hair and broad shoulders. David knocked on the window and the security guard looked up at him with a frown. He shook his head and pointed firmly at his wristwatch. David waved at him in an attempt to get him to come over so he could explain the situation, but the guard shook his head and frowned even deeper. He exaggeratedly mouthed the words: "GO AWAY," while pointing to a gun on his holster. David rolled his eyes and pulled out his phone. He scrolled through the history and called Doug's number. Khelli answered at the first ring and told him she would be right down to open the doors.
Ten minutes later, Khelli appeared and came to the front door with a smile.
"David, thanks for coming. Doug's expecting you. I hope the drive wasn't too much of an inconvenience."
David walked past the guard and stuck out his tongue. The guard slowly shook his head back and forth. They arrived at the top floor and Khelli brought David to Doug's office, stopping outside the closed door.
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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...