Tony Hsieh actually wasn’t NSFWCORP’s first investor. After I’d told him why my dream company would be – a massively unprofitable comedy news magazine – he offered to invest, but only if I agreed to found it in Vegas. I turned him down, mainly because I had only just quit TechCrunch and had no intention of diving into anything new.
Here’s how he got me to change my mind:
“What if you produced a pilot issue of the magazine and I gave you a hundred thousand dollars just for the rights to reprint the articles in my Downtown print magazine.”
“Just gave me a hundred thousand dollars, for no equity? Just for the reprint rights to articles that don’t exist, in a geographic region consisting of a half dozen streets?”
The next day I called Mike Arrington and asked for his advice. I remember nothing at all of the call, except that it ended with Mike urging me to take the damn money and offering to become our first actual investor, via Crunchfund. My notes from the time say he offered to match Tony’s $100k. The check he eventually wrote was for $25k.
A useful piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs: Before receiving $125k in startup capital you first need to incorporate a company and open a company bank account. Two things I’d never actually done in the US. Didn’t even know if I could do in the US.
Fortunately, my friend Bastian Lehmann – the founder of Postmates – had the answer: Call Yokum! That is, Yoichiro “Yokum” Taku of the famous Silicon Valley law firm, Wilson Sonsini. Yokum and I met for lunch a few days later at Zuni in San Francisco, I told him everything I knew about my plans for the company – which was roughly nothing – and he agreed to become our corporate lawyer. He’d even defer his firm’s fees until we raised a real VC round.
“If nothing else, it’ll be an adventure to work with you,” he said. And then he took a photograph of the two of us, and posted in on Twitter.
Yokum assure me he would handle the paperwork, but first we needed a company name. My column at TechCrunch was called NSFW, so I figured that would make a nice placeholder, while we figured out something better.
Before flying back to Vegas, my then-girlfriend Molly and I (lots more on Molly in future posts) went to Iron Cactus for burritos. Molly was a flight attendant for Virgin America but she is also a spectacularly talented photographer and graphic designer. “NSFWCORP needs a logo,” I said, before heading to collect our food. She took out a notebook and started scribbling. “How about something like this?”
Another nice placeholder. Yunno, until we figured out something better.
Meantime, Mike called in a favor with his old pal Henry Blodget at Business Insider to “leak” the news of his investment, and Tony’s.
NSFW CORPORATION was incorporated in Delaware on 10th October 2011. A few days later I sat in my free two bedroom apartment, high above the Las Vegas Strip, and hit refresh on Bank of America’s online banking. The balance turned from a few dollars to a hundred and twenty five thousand (and a few) dollars.
NSFWCORP was officially in business. Now all I had to do was decide what the fuck it was going to be.