I’m scared to death of having a job. But you never know what opportunities could come my way. There’s a lot of money out there willing to pay anyone. So I figured I’d dust off my resume, finally accept every LinkedIn request and just put it out there. You know, to see what was up.
– Graduated with a 2.99999 average, BA in Computer Science. Really should not have graduated but begged Fortran professor to move me up from a D- to a D+ and he said, “yes”. Needed a 3.0 to graduate in 3 years because I didn’t want to take out loans for a fourth year. I think I technically still don’t have the degree because I owed library fines.
– Thrown out of graduate school. Failed seven of the eight courses I took in a two year period. Received a letter citing my “lack of maturity” but that the door was open if I ever somehow gained that maturity. I learned a lot from the experience. I learned that most people back then didn’t know how to protect their private files, even if their accounts were password protected. Chances are they left the files in their folder open to the public so if you read the .mbox file you could read all of their email. Read all of the love letters a famous visiting professor had. Read the “recommendation” from one professor that completely trashed me.
I also learned that chances are if you are reduced to stalking the girl you think you love, then chances are it’s never going to work out. Even if you think she’s the only girl you can ever like. With three billion women on the planet it’s hard to imagine that girl won such an unwanted lottery.
– During this period I wrote four or five unpublished (or I should say, “unpublishable”) novels and about 50 short stories.) I drove all my friends crazy by forcing them to read each one. One girl said to my girlfriend, “doesn’t it bother you that he writes so much about masturbation and prostitution?” Another time, I forced my girlfriend to read my 500 page novel and when she was finished and said, “this is great!” I asked her to tell me the ending she had read ten minutes earlier. She couldn’t remember.
Altogether I collected about 400 rejection letters. They were all form letters. Not a single note of encouragement.
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– #10 employee at Fore Systems. Left every day at 4:45pm on the dot, proud of my punctuality. Learned to hitch hike. Closed office door all day long so I could work on various unpublished novels. Quit one day by simply not showing up. Every other employee got rich in the IPO a year or so after I quit.
– Worked at Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Machine Translation. Wrote one program that I had to maintain. It never broke so I never had to do any work. Played chess online 20 hours a day until I had carpal tunnel syndrome. Too much one minute chess. The guy in the office next door was writing Lycos, the first big search engine for the “world wide web”. Whenever my boss knocked on my locked office door I would pretend I wasn’t in, particularly if I was in the middle of a game of chess. People complained about me but there was nothing they could do. Nobody could understand the messed-up way I had programmed the program they were all using so nobody could fix it but me.
– HBO. Was in charge of their website. Started a company on the side. Outsourced HBO’s entire website to my own company. Became highest paid junior programmer analyst in HBO as a result. Then spent every Tuesday night interviewing prostitutes and drug dealers for HBO website. Learned important communication skills: like how to interrupt a drunken arguing couple at 3 in the morning and ask them why they were arguing. Learned how to ask out girls who put their phone numbers on the release forms. Had one transvestite explain to me what a “chocolate highway”’ was. Had another prostitute justify her income when she said, “Men don’t pay to have sex with me. Men pay so they can leave after having sex.” Shot it as a pilot also for HBO but the head of HBO Family Programming said, “for material like this you need to show someone shooting their mother while naked or you need to show your neighbors fucking.”
– Reset. Started a company that made websites for entertainment companies (and Con Edison). Got most of clients through bribery. Else I would’ve had no clients. Got acquired. One year to the day after acquired I quit. Precisely when all the clients were quitting. The company that bought mine went bankrupt three years to the day after buying my company.
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– Vaultus. Started a company that would help Fortune 100 companies create “wireless websites”. Raised $100 million, including $2 million from Palestinian hero Yasser Arafat. Lost all the money. BUT, Vaultus got acquired by Antenna Software. I was kicked out as CEO and thrown off the board. Tried to use 9/11 as an excuse but board’s response was: “we were all affected by 9/11”. Learned that I am too shy as CEO. Would call secretary before arriving at office to make sure nobody was in the hallway between the elevator and my office so I could run in and lock door.
– 212 Ventures. Raised $125mm in a VC fund from Investcorp, CS First Boston, First Union (now Wachovia), and, I want to say, Banker’s Trust? But is that even a bank now? I forget.
- Put about $40mm to work, give or take. Maybe $30mm. Return on that $30mm: about $3mm. I am completely blaming the Internet “bust”. We started putting money to work in March, 2000.
- During this period, lost $15 million of my own money in part by co-investing with VC fund. Lost my home. Lost my sanity for awhile. Started to meditate five hours a day to try and recover. Lost my mind. Found it in the gutter but then lost it again.
- Also blaming Investcorp for not giving us more time. They were so disgusted with us they bought out our ten year contract in June, 2001. That said, they wanted me to stay on as an employee but I went the way of…
– Daytrading. Daytraded for myself and for various hedge funds. The first big hedge fund that hired me fired me when I wrote a book and they thought I stole all their ideas. Maybe I did and maybe I didn’t. I made money and they went to zero so who knows?
– Started a fund of hedge funds. Invested in 12 funds. 11 of them are gone now. Several of the fund managers are on the run. One or two will end up in jail. A few of them settled with the SEC. Several are in ongoing discussions with authorities ranging from the SEC to the CFTC to the IRS to the FBI to the DOJ. My initials are JAA. None of the funds are in negotiations with me.
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– Started Stockpickr.com. A social media site for finance. I have nothing bad to say about it. It actually was a good website at the time. Sold it to thestreet.com. I had a three year contract with thestreet. After about 8 months I stopped showing up for work. I don’t think I ever went in the building again. After 2 years they asked to change my contract and reduce my salary. I quit and offered to write for them for free but they said “no” for some reason. I waived my severance pay so I could write for others. A few weeks ago they asked me to write for them again when they reviewed their historical pageview records and saw my pageview numbers. But I ignored the email. Good luck!
– Started junglesmash.com. Was very successful in its first few months of crowdsourcing advertisements for major brands without their permission. Procter & Gamble even submitted ads for their own products, trying to win the $1000 reward I was offering. The second brand was “Monster Soda”. 30 or so submissions. Then I lost interest and just stopped updating the site. My ex-wife and I were separating and I lost interest in everything. My TV appearances were depressing to watch. Junglesmash went down the tubes. All of my investing went south. And it was October, 2008 so every time I went on TV the Dow lost another 500 points. I wrote to Erin Burnett, whose show I went on every Tuesday and told her that every time I was on her show the Dow went down 500 points. She stopped responding and she stopped inviting me on.
– The Financial Times stopped my column in March, 2009. I suspect it was because I was too bullish. The market doubled almost immediately afterwards. Probably because I was handing out chocolate to every trader who walked into the New York Stock Exchange in March, 2009. So in a several month period I stopped going on CNBC, stopped writing for the FT, stopped going on Yahoo Finance, and stopped writing for thestreet.com. And then the market went straight up.
– I started a company: 140love.com – a dating site for Twitter. On the day money was being raised I shut down the company and returned whatever money had already come in. I had lost interest because I was no longer dating. I thought starting a dating site would increase my odds of finding a date but once I found someone I lost interest in the site. Plus it was a bad idea.
– For the life of me I can’t remember the bulk of what I did between May, 2009 and November 2010. I know during this period I got married, I went to India, I went to Argentina (two countries I never thought I would visit) and I moved out of NYC. But I can’t remember anything else. Oh, I took a job with a private equity firm for about a week or so. One day, in the middle of a meeting I had set up I said, “excuse me for just one minute, I have to go to the bathroom” and I walked out of the meeting, walked out of the building without my coat, walked to the subway, went to Grand Central, and never came back to the office. Never returned their calls afterwards.
– November, 2010. I got sick of it. “IT”. I didn’t care anymore. Sick of kissing ass. Getting clients for bullshit. Raising money. Listening to lies. Lying to people. Taking meetings. Talking to people I didn’t like. Always anxious. Always worried. Always defending after offending. I took a big giant break.
I would only talk to people I liked. Only businesses I liked. Only write what I wanted to write. Only think about what I wanted to think about. Breathe in the fresh air. Breathe it out. It felt like a great weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I was out of the game. I didn’t want to play anymore. I started a blog at jamesaltucher.com to be honest about it all. I wrote a bunch of books. I write for other places. I didn’t care what anyone said about me or thought about me. I wanted to expose what I thought was all the brainwashing. I liked what I was doing. I started focusing on my health and spiritual life more.
– Doing the same thing. Every day I ask: what else could I be doing. I wait for the answer. And then I do it.
– Today: I’m grateful you read this. I am alive.
[See also, “140Love.com, The Ultimate Dating Service”