Chapter 18: Bye Bye Learnology and The Jack & Jill Lollipop Story

Bye Bye Learnology

Being the incredibly stupid person that I am, I told the boys in Learnology about the ‘oops’ email and the potential joining together of Sean & Co. and Ashfield in holy matrimony. I thought I was doing the right thing by telling them. Despite my being wired to the moon and sometimes (often) a complete fuckin eejit, I’m an honest chap I am. In hindsight, I wish I had kept my gob-shite gob shut.

When I showed MBB the second love letter from Everyone Shites, he became very worried. I was showing it to him against a backdrop of pride, in a kind of “ha ha look what I received!” way. Unfortunately, MBB didn’t receive it with such joviality and rebelliousness. Why are some people so fucking square? We only live once. Life shouldn’t be about negativity and worry. It should be about adventure and excitement. MBB fell into the trap of believing that Sean & Co. could actually have a case against Learnology (I guess intuition isn’t a gift with which we are all blessed). This couldn’t have been further from the truth. There was no possible way that Sean could attach Learnology to any legal action they would take against me, nor was there any way they were going to take any action in the first place.

As you have read before, Sean’s rationale for harping on about their potential pursuit of Learnology profits was a bid to try to get us to ‘let them in’ to the company. No judge would buy into this bullshit if it ever went to court (which it wouldn’t). Later on in this chapter I will use the Jack & Jill Lollipop story to describe just why this case would have never been admitted into the wig and wing collar club.

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A barrister wearing his wig. Imagine how fucking stupid you would feel wearing this

Regrettably, some of us fell for Sean’s bullshit more than others, namely MBB. On Thursday 9th December 2013, MBB wrote me an official email stating that he ‘elected to cease all involvement with Learnology Limited’ on account of ‘Learnology’s unnecessary risk of legal challenge’. I know what you’re thinking; why use the word ‘elected’? Why not just say ‘decided’, for fuck sake. In any case, regardless of his choice of words, what a gullible gob shite. In fact, he was so gullible that I no longer believe he is worthy of the title MBB (Mr Brain Box). I have therefore ‘elected’ to remove this esteemed title, and rename him the cunning, underhand, nasty, tosser (CUNT).

Why did Learnology collapse?

When CUNT ‘elected’ to withdraw from Learnology, he also ‘elected’ to withdraw the total amount of funds he had originally invested back in September. Bear in mind that 3 months had passed since he came on board, and we would have obviously used a portion of these investment funds to cover expenses thus far. But no no, this does not mean that he took back the remaining portion of his funds. For some reason he thought he could take back the full shebang. I often thank my lucky stars that he left when he did, because someone who carries on like this is not the type of person you want to work with on a long time basis. I just wish I hadn’t trusted him as much as I did, and I hadn’t let him be the only partner with access to online banking (who’s gullible now, says you).

Learnology was capitalised with a debt to equity ratio of 1:1, 50% bank debt (from BOI) and 50% investment funds (from CUNT). CUNT’s withdrawal of monies over and above what he was entitled, exposed us to the point that we were like Nigerian nationals in Antarctica, with no igloo or parka. His over withdrawal ate into our bank debt unnecessarily. He had fucked us (and the company) up no end. Luckily however, CUNT had signed a personal guarantee on the bank loan, making him joint and severally liable for that debt. Nevertheless, as we were now only capitalised by debt, no equity, we had to fold the company and wave goodbye to Learnology.

For anyone reading who had a child or relation in Learnology, I apologise. I apologise for the behaviour of CUNT (who robbed us), I apologise for the behaviour of Sean & Co. (who made the idle threat that led to us being robbed). Learnology looked like it was going places; we were the only low cost grind school in Ireland, meaning we had opened the doors to students for whom grinds had never before been an option. Finally, I apologise for my behaviour. I would love to sit hear and write that the whole situation was outside of my control, and that I was not at fault. The truth is I was at fault; I should have never been honest with CUNT about the ‘oops’ email, and I should have never taken on someone like him in the first place.

The Jack & Jill Lollipop Story

The reason why CUNT was wrong to assume that Sean would have taken us to court can easily be explained using my Jack & Jill Lollipop Story:

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Jack and Jill before they decided they wanted to lick a lollipop

Cast (in order of appearance) 

Jack = played by Paul

Jill = played by Sean & Co. (nominated for an Oscar)

Mary = played by CUNT

Mommy & Daddy = played by the High Court Judge

Props (again in order of appearance)

Yellow Lollipop = OnlineGrinds.ie

Red Lollipop = Learnology

One day, Jack and Jill are headed up the hill to fetch a pale of water. On the way to fetch the pale, Jack says to Jill “Hey Jill, will we go and get a lollipop?” Jill replies by saying “sure Jack, I would really like a lollipop right now”. Jack then advises that he has no money to buy said lollipop, so Jill agrees to buy the lollipop, subject to her being able to share it with Jack and benefit from the nutrition and nice taste it provides. Jack consents. They buy a yellow lollipop.

Having licked the top of the yellow lollipop, Jack says to Jill, “hmmmmmm, this lollipop doesn’t taste too good; it’s not really fulfilling our appetite, is it Jill?”. Jill doesn’t know any better, as she hasn’t been actively involved in the licking process. 

Jack says to Jill, “let’s go and get a red lollipop instead, I believe they are much tastier and much more popular among kids”. Jill says she is “happy with this one, maybe if we keep licking it we will come to a tasty bit”. Jack says “no matter how much you lick, it will always taste the same”.

Jill is happy to stay with the yellow lollipop, and Jack gets a new red one. But Jack cannot possibly manage the new, big, red lollipop on his own. He needs help. So he asks Mary to help him.

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Jack with his new red lollipop

When Jill sees how much Jack and Mary are enjoying the red lollipop, and how it has serious potential to fulfill their appetite, Jill wants to have some of it.  

When Jill asks Jack and Mary if she could have some, Jack isn’t entirely against it, as he has always gotten along with Jill. However, Mary doesn’t want Jill to be part of the licking process. 

Jill threatens to tell mommy and daddy and claims that both Jack AND Mary will get in trouble if they don’t let Jill in on the action. But if Jack and Mary let Jill share the red lollipop with them, Jill won’t say a word to mommy and daddy. But what will mommy and daddy think if Jill tells them but then Jack explains that Jill wouldn’t have said a word if she had been allowed in? Would this damage the entire credibility of Jill’s argument? 

Would mommy and daddy tell Jill to stop acting like a spoiled child and ask her why she didn’t accept Jack’s offer in the first place? Whether Jack gets a slap on the wrist or not from mommy and daddy, how could they possibly find Mary to be deserving of a slap?

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Jill with no red lollipop – the quintessential spoiled child

Despite the fact that mommy and daddy couldn’t touch Mary, she still gets scared shitless and spontaneously ‘elects’ to leave Jack to lick the lollipop alone. Such was the credibility of Jill’s threats (in her eyes). But when Mary leaves, the task of licking the lollipop is virtually impossible for Jack to do on his own, so he has to throw it away. 

I know this lovely little story may seem a tad oversimplified, but the principle of the matter remains the same. There was no way Sean & Co. could go after Learnology, but as CUNT didn’t see this, we lost Learnology.

Thanks Sean & Co. Thanks CUNT. You guys are the best.

Quick Poll  (it takes a nanosecond)

Please answer the following question. Complete anonymity is assured.

 

Results will be announced in tomorrow’s installment.


Next Chapter – Chapter 19: 3K Any Good To Ya and EGM – Abrakedabra and Paul Is Gone

Chapter 15: I Accept, We Don’t and The Stool Pigeon

After our meeting with Sean, the three of us (PWD, MBB and I) walked up towards Harcourt Street to perform a post-mortem. It took us approximately 23 seconds to come to the conclusion that bringing Sean & Co. onto the Learnology train was not an option. It was my job to break the news to Sean, and here is the email I sent him:

Email to Sean saying a merger was a no go

Sean was not a happy bunny when he received my mail, and a few days later he replied with the following:

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As you can see, reading an email from Sean is a pleasure compared to reading one from BS. Not simply because it could take you the same time to read a PhD thesis, backwards, as it would to read one of BS’s emails, but also because Sean’s emails were emotion-free. He was always very composed and level-headed.

All correspondence from this point on was going to be with Sean. BS went to ground immediately after the Everyone Shites letter was sent. This was most probably because he was burying his head, but then again, maybe he was out of the country (for a change) and there was no internet coverage in Ulan Bator (he wanted to discover the other side of the world, he had already explored every nook and cranny that exists in the Americas, and that was during our 6 months of broadcasting alone).

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A picture of BS in Outer Mongolia. As you can see, he’s been there so long that he’s beginning to look like one of the locals.

You may notice that Sean is still wearing his poker face in this email. He still makes out that he has a case against me, and more importantly, Learnology. He threatens to come after Learnology, if we didn’t ‘let him in’. I knew that this was a super bluff, but the guys in Learnology weren’t so sure. In fact, MBB was pretty shaken.

What did Sean want?

To get a clear understanding of what Sean wanted, I sent him an email in which I bluntly asked him what he wanted? He replied saying that there were a number of options, 7 to be precise. These were as follows (click to enlarge):

seans options

The were some similarities between these options and the options BS gave me in the last chapter. Having been given the option of relinquishing my shareholding in OnlineGrinds.ie and walking away from the company by both, and having been put under some pressure from my colleagues in Learnology, I decided that the time had come to take flight and get the hell out of OnlineGrinds.ie.

You would think that it would be very difficult for me to walk away from a company I founded and ran for two and a half years, with no return whatsoever. While I admit that it wasn’t easy for my pride, the truth is that my departure was somewhat tinged with relief. Relief that I didn’t have to interact with, or even see, BS ever again. Considering that the very sight of BS would make me gag and vomit incessantly for hours, I think it was best for my health that I departed (SL).

In addition, I was also acutely aware that OnlineGrinds.ie had no future. It had no hope of working, never mind success, for the following reasons: (a) Mammies are simply not ready to send Johnny up to his room to do grinds with ‘his computer’ (to that end, I’m not sure if online learning will ever work at secondary school level, if I’m honest). (b) Any company in which BS plays a role, silent, loud, present, absent, in the same country, in a different country, in the same galaxy, in a different galaxy, would not succeed. As long as BS was involved in a company, even in the most minute capacity, it would fail. If he walked into a company, stood in it for 6 seconds, breathed in and out, and walked straight out the door, the company would be cursed forevermore.

So, on 19th October 2013 I wrote a very official ‘good luck’ email to the rest of the team in OnlineGrinds.ie.

We Don’t

My theory was that neither BS nor Sean thought that I would leave the pitch and hang up my boots. Even though it was an option they both gave me in their respective emails, I still believe the outcome they wanted, and thought they were going to get, was that somehow we would ‘let them in’ to Learnology. In the words of Alicia Silverstone, as if.

It turned out that my theory was correct. When I sent the email of relinquishment of shares, and my letter of resignation as director, I never received any acknowledgement.  A number of weeks passed where I got no correspondence from them whatsoever. I’d say my resignation had literally gob smacked them and now they hadn’t a clue what to do without me, considering that neither of them had been actively involved in the company thus far (Sean because he didn’t need to be; he was simply the man with the money, BS because…… he was BS).

This now meant that someone would have to replace me i.e. be in the office virtually 7 days a week and be present for every single live broadcast. This was obviously not going to be Sean as he lives in the UK, and this was obviously not going to be BS (no need for qualification of the latter). They were rightly screwed. I suggest at this point they highly regretted giving me the ‘escape’ option (SL).

I eventually heard back from Sean in relation to my relinquishing of shares. In this email Sean states that he is ‘considering’ my relinquishment of shares, despite the fact that it was a clear option he had given me previously:

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The Stool Pigeon

Approximately one month after sending my letter of resignation, I got a call from Sean. Sean basically reiterated that there was no real advantage (to them) in me leaving a company that had debts (why give me the option in the first place, says you). After a brief argument along the lines of ‘so it was okay for me to leave a month ago and now it’s not?’ Sean made a proposal to me.

He said he was going to get his solicitor to draw up an option agreement. The option agreement was a document that I would sign which would allow Sean and Co. to take my shares at any point over the following three months, at very short notice. If the agreement was triggered, they would take the shares and there would be no further threat of legal action. If the agreement wasn’t triggered, they could still take legal action against me (and Learnology) during the three month period.

At the time I hadn’t a clue what they were playing at. My initial reaction was one of non-description tinged with slight confusion, further tinged with not giving a shit. Having given the matter further thought and spoken to a few people who actually gave a shit about the whole agreement (a bit more than I), I learnt that this agreement simply amounted to Sean & Co. having their black forest gateau, and also consuming it.

They decided to renege on their original promise of allowing me walk away (without being sued) if I relinquished my shareholding, as they realised that the company couldn’t survive without me. They were now going to try and get another partner to replace me, and if they managed to find somebody within the next 3 months, the option agreement would be triggered, my shares would be transferred, and everybody would live happily ever after. I may go in peace to love and serve the lord, amen. In the case that they weren’t successful in finding somebody to replace me, it wouldn’t be the end of the world for them, as they would still have me (and Learnology) standing in the corner like a stool pigeon for 3 months, waiting to be sued.

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A pigeon. Isn’t he nice?

The 3 month time frame was actually quite a clever move on their part, as it would give them time to see if Learnology was going to be successful or not. A lot can happen in 3 months, especially given that the school year only lasts 9 months. If they had seen that Learnology had done very well over the 3 months, they probably would have sued for damages and tried to claim Learnology profits.

When someone with much more sense than I explained the whole situation to me, I felt as used and abused as Solomon Northup. The kind of behaviour in which Sean & Co. were engaging brought me back to my days in the Merrion Hotel, a five star hotel in Dublin City. In any five star hotel you usually have a very special type of clientele. The type of people who walk around as if they are minted, yet they don’t have a penny to their name. The type of people who comment on the ‘beautiful nose and bouquet’ of a red wine, when it is probably corked. The type of people who eat caviar, yet they can’t spell the word. In other words, total tossers.

The feeling I experienced in relation to the option agreement wasn’t dissimilar to how I used to feel after presenting a bill to a guest in the Merrion Hotel. You would present the bill and then have to stand there like a complete and utter gob shite waiting for the guest to take money from his wallet, put it into the bill folder and hand it back to you. This process could sometimes take a couple of minutes, as the guest would continue to talk (bollox) to the others around the table, distracting him from the act of taking out the €50 note from his heavy-laden-with-other-clearly-visible-€50-notes wallet, and placing it in the bill folder, all the while without making eye contact or acknowledging your presence.

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A waiter standing like a gob shite

If I had one very small request to ask of you, my beloved readers (all 7 or 8 of you): BE NICE TO WAITERS. They are, in fact, human beings. Don’t be an asshole when you are in a restaurant or bar. It’s already a demeaning job. They already feel like gob shites. Please make their work easier by treating them nicely. Before you make fun of a waiter or waitress the next time you are in a restaurant, put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Imagine how much of a twat they feel. Don’t make them want to call you a cunt. Respect them.

I realise that today’s chapter was a little downbeat. So to end on a lighter note, do you remember this video? Can anyone spot a Doberman?


Next Chapter – Chapter 16: OOPS and Buy Me Out Oh Baby Buy Me Out

Chapter 12: Learnology – Say Goodbye to EGGS

Learnology was going to be the first grind school in Ireland to provide grinds at only €10 per class. But just because we were low cost, this did not mean that we would take short cuts in respect of teacher quality. In fact, Learnology was going to bring some of the best teachers and finest book authors in the country to exam students. Not only to Chloe and Greg from the leafy suburbs of D4, but also to Stacey and Jason from crime-filled Coolock. When I say low cost, in actual fact it’s not really low cost at all. It’s normal cost. There is no reason for Expensive Greedy Grinds School (EGGS) to charge any more than €10-15 per student, per class. Well……there is……GREED.

Take a well-known EGGS on Dublin’s Leeson Street. I won’t mention the name for fear of receiving another letter of love and affection from Arthur’s Cock. In fact…… fuck it…… one of my objectives of this blog was to see how many SL’s I could get, and I’m a man who stands by my word, so here goes: THE INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION AKA THE INSTITUTE AKA LEESON STREET AKA GREEDY BASTARDS (SL).

The IOE runs weekly grinds for secondary students who need extra help (and who obviously have cash to burn – must be related to the dwarves) on evenings and weekends. It charges its students approximately €35 per class. If you consider that there could be 60 innocent students sitting in (squashed into) a class, the IOE are pulling in €2,100 for EVERY SINGLE CLASS they do. Let’s assume they run 15 grind classes a week, that’s a whopping €31,500 A WEEK. And this is not their main business; this is simply the evening and weekend grinds I am referring to.

It is common knowledge that the IOE own their premises on Leeson Street. They have no rent to pay like other EGGS who have to pay hotels substantial rental fees for conference rooms to hold their classes. The main cost of running a class for the IOE is the teacher. Let’s assume, and let’s be generous, that they are paying their teachers €300 per class. This leaves them with €1,800 to play with. I realise of course that there will be overheads and tax to pay etc., but once these are deducted, you can be pretty sure that the IOE are making a healthy 4 figure profit on each class they run.

What do they do with all this money? Your guess is as good as mine. But I often have visions of the owners sitting in the basement of the building on Leeson Street, masturbating at the sight of the mounds of cash that surround them in whatever direction they look. Ben Dunne once said that Seanie Fitz was “addicted to money”, in my opinion the IOE have a fetish for cash. My premonition of the email from UPC came true, for all we know this could be true too.

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One of the owners of the IOE playing in their basement. This is a mild form of playing.
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A corner of the basement in the IOE

Considering that our school system in Ireland is so desperately shite that up to 73% of exam students need to do grinds (Student Enrichment Services Survey, 2010), the kind of rip-off strategy currently practiced by the IOE pisses me off no end.

My vision for Learnology was that we were going to charge a maximum of €10 per student to attend a class in our grind school. My strategy was that we would start off small in one centre in Dublin, and in 2 years from the date of inception, we would have centres in all the major cities (Learnology Regional) and towns (Learnology Local) across Ireland. We would start off with a universal charge of €10 per student, per class, and as we expanded across Ireland we would gradually reduce this to €5 per class, and still make a (moderate but by no means greedy) profit due to increase in volume. Learnology would be a national brand that would blow all the EGGS out of the water. Never again would a student, who had to do Irish or Maths grinds through no fault of their own, but as a result of a shite teacher in their own school, be ripped off by an EGGS.

Venue

Rather than locating somewhere in the Range Rover Vogue territory of south county Dublin, we needed to strategically locate ourselves in a venue convenient to all parties. Learnology was going to be accessible as much in terms of location as in terms of price. Having researched a number of venues, the one that seemed most suitable was the Alexander Hotel at Merrion Square. It was a short distance from the DART so that Greg could get to us from Dalkey, and Stacey could come to us from Harmonstown. It was a couple of minute’s walk from the Luas Green Line so Chloe could access us from Milltown, and just across the Liffey from the Luas Red Line so Jason could reach us from Fettercairn. We would also be served by the 46A bus which would bring Rory from Donnyrbook and Micko from Phibsboro.

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Graphic from our website giving directions to Learnology at the Alexander Hotel from Leeson Street.

The room rental fees the hotel was charging were not cheap, but we managed to negotiate a deal. Under no circumstances were we going to increase student’s fees because of expensive conference room rates.

About a week before our official launch, the Alexander Hotel decided to fuck us over. I won’t go into detail here, but it essentially meant that we really didn’t want to locate there anymore. We decided to continue shopping around and contacted several colleges such as the American College Dublin (ACD) on Merrion Square (where I had been lecturing part time), DIT Kevin Street, DIT Aungier Street and finally, DBS on Aungier Street. ACD didn’t work out as I would have inevitably ended up strangling the lady we were dealing with, neither Kevin Street nor Aungier Street were suitable, as the classrooms weren’t good enough to put a pack of dogs into them, but at DBS, we struck it lucky.

We met with a gentleman in DBS called Tony. He resembled a security guard more than a business man, but who was I to judge, as I would have been wearing my usual mix of shorts and t-shirt that day (it was August). He showed us the best classrooms he had, and was willing to drop the price to whatever we said we were willing to pay. I have never done a sweeter or easier deal in my life. Shooting a sitting duck would have been a far greater achievement than doing a deal with security guard Tony. In fact, I was nearly going to ask him to put on my pink lycra tutu to greet students when they arrived on day one, which I am sure he would have done without any hesitation whatsoever. Such were the lengths to which he seemed willing to go to get our deal across the line.

DBS were looking for ways to generate extra revenue in periods of down time, and this seemed to be a perfect option for them.

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The Learnology classroom at DBS

Teachers

During the summer of 2013, anyone who was anyone in the teaching world would have been contacted, if not hounded, by yours truly. Anyone who had written a textbook, who had outstanding ratings on ratemyteacher.ie, who had taught previously in EGGS, was targeted. Noone in the ranks of Ireland’s teaching elite was safe.

Having met and interviewed a long list of teachers, PWD and I arrived at our final line-up of teachers. Below is an image of our teachers, in addition to a short bio on each of them:

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Far left: John Morris, HL Business – 25 years teaching experience. Blackrock College teacher. Former IOE teacher. Contributor to RTE’s “Countdown”.

Second from left: Dervla Murphy, HL French – 7 years teaching in Loreto Beaufort. Lived and worked in Paris for 5 years. Master’s Degree from Sorbonne University. Author of one of the most popular Leaving Cert French textbooks, ‘Tout Va Bien’.

Third from left: Peter Jackson, HL Chemistry & Biology – Head of Science at St. Columba’s College. Former IOE teacher. Over 30 years teaching experience. Corrected Biology papers and appeal papers for the SEC for over 25 years. Author of ‘Essentials Unfolded – Chemistry’. Has written Biology revision notes for mocks.ie. Teaches other teachers how to teach Chemistry in PDST.

Centre: Brendan Guildea, HL Maths – One of Ireland’s Top Maths Teachers. Has written both ‘New Concise Project Maths’ and the new ‘Less Stress More Success’ revision books for Project Maths. Taught maths, applied maths, and physics to both Leaving and Junior Cert students since 1973. Corrected Maths papers for the Dept of Education and various Universities. Appears regularly in the media leading discussions on maths teaching, exams and syllabus.

Third from right: Declan O’Neill, HL English – Examiner at both Junior and Leaving Cert Higher Level English. Chief Advising Examiner in Higher Level English at Leaving Cert Level. Has written and set state exam papers. Education Officer for the NCCA.

Second from right: Richard Barrett, HL Irish – Head of Irish Department in Blackrock College. He is a state examiner in both written and oral Irish.

Far right: Noel Cunningham, HL Physics – 20 years teaching experience. Teacher in Kings Hospital. Owns website http://www.thephysicsteacher.ie. Over 1 million hits on his YouTube videos. Corrects Leaving Certificate Physics Exam Papers. Awarded the Institute of Physics Teacher of the Year award in 2009. One of his students achieved the top mark in the country in Applied Maths in 2010.

RIP Joe Reville

Up until approximately one week before our official launch, the Biology teacher at Learnology was going to be Mr Joe Reville. However, one morning a few days before our launch I received a phone call to say that Joe had sadly passed away. Of all the setbacks we could possibly anticipate, this was never one of them. As I mentioned in a previous chapter, Joe was an absolute gent and a legend when it came to Science.

As you can see from the above, our show had a pretty stellar cast. And now, for once this calibre of teacher was going to be accessible to students of all socio-economic backgrounds.

Pricing

Having originally intended that we would charge €10 per student, per class, MBB managed to pull my arm and convince me that is was still ok to charge €15. After a bit of a scrap, we agreed on the price point of €15. Even at that it was still 60% better value than some of the EGGS.

Below is one of the flyers we sent to homes around Dublin which included our price comparison graphic. Said graphic featured extensively in our marketing campaigns:

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One of our flyers which included our aggressive price comparison table

iNotes

As PWD was a wizard, who had worked in the area of eLearning for quite some time, he came up with the idea to make our class notes interactive. All other EGGS would provide boring, printed A4 notes, but we would be the first grind school to provide notes in a format that could be accessed on a tablet or smartphone. Elements of the notes would be animated, videos could be integrated, the answers to questions could be hidden and then revealed at a click etc.

Marketing

When it came to marketing and advertising, we usually used our price point as a weapon. We launched a full blown attack on EGGS, nearly to the point that we actually threw eggs at the EGGS. For example, one evening when an EGGS in south Dublin was running a free grinds evening, I sent our mascot, a cheeky monkey called Learnology Louis, down to stand outside the school and wave at students as they walked in. Below is a picture of Learnology Louis with his lovely t-shirt, taken right outside the EGGS by another one of our team on the evening of the free grinds:

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Learnology Louis, our cheeky monkey, waving at students as they walked into a free session at an EGGS
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The Co-Founder of the EGGS, trying to block Learnology Louis from students as they walked into their grinds

When the directors of this EGGS saw Louis coming, they rang me and started screaming down the phone. They even threatened to call the Gardai to get our poor little monkey removed. The problem was that the monkey was under strict instructions from me to stand OUTSIDE the hotel on the footpath and not to set foot on the grounds of the hotel itself. However, when the taxi driver was dropping the monkey to the hotel, he naturally dropped him at the hotel drop off point, which is technically on the hotel grounds. That’s where Learnology Louis was spotted.

The abuse that the monkey endured from the owners of the EGGS was traumatising. So much so that the he had to ring me and ask me what to do. When I received his phone call I was furious. I think I actually threw my Café Sol paper cup, half-full with extra strong, hot coffee, against the wall in anger.

The monkey had called me. Did this mean that he had removed his mask to make the call? If so, this would have been disastrous, the element of theatricality would have been completely ruined. But alas, he informed me that he was still wearing the mask and was speaking through the slit in the monkey’s mouth. Phew. Panic averted. What a relief.

The feeling of concern I experienced in relation to the lads from the EGGS abusing the monkey, and threatening to call the Gardaí, was about as significant as the feeling I experienced when BS told me he was resigning. In other words, non-existent. My only actual concern was that the monkey had taken off his fucking mask. That would have ruined my day and made me a very unhappy bunny indeed. So the general gist of my reply to Louis was “whatever you do, under no circumstances do you take off that fucking mask…… and don’t stop waving at the kids”.

The event was so profound that I actually ended up making a little video about it. In the video you can see footage of what actually happened that day.

Incidentally, the gentleman in the white shirt is actually a director of the EGGS in question, not an actor as most people think.

The Big Launch

Learnology launched officially in DBS on Saturday 7th September 2013. With some classes reaching up to 100 students, we were very happy with the turnout. The idea I had back in May, a mere 4 months prior, that I wanted my partners in OnlineGrinds.ie to create with me, which they declined, was now becoming a reality. From what I could see, this idea looked like it was going to work. And guess what? It would all happen without Sean and BS.

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Some students waiting for their class to begin on the first day of Learnology
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Yours truly, minus Sean and BS, on the morning of the launch of Learnology.

Next Chapter – Chapter 13: BS gets mad jeal of my new biz

Chapter 11: Back to Basics

When the deal with UPC didn’t pan out, I contemplated putting out a contract on BS. The quotes were vastly more expensive than I could afford, and represented very bad value for money, so I scrapped the idea and went back to the drawing board. Option B (the deal with a broadband provider) didn’t work, but there was still option D (the traditional grind school idea).

Being acutely aware of the quantum of cash a south Dublin grind school was making, I decided I wanted a slice of this pie. I therefore proposed to the partners in OnlineGrinds.ie that we go back to basics and develop a traditional grinds school where we would hire the best teachers in the country to come into a traditional classroom setting to deliver low cost, high quality grinds.

Online vs. Traditional

Having given one-to-one French grinds for over ten years, it is very easy to distinguish the student who is doing grinds because the mammy wants them to, from the student who is doing the grinds off their own bat. The ratio is approximately 4:1, in my humble opinion. Therefore 4 out of every 5 students doing grinds are doing them because of their mammy. The mammy has never, and will never, be in favour of online grinds. Why? To some extent because of cyber bullying, to a greater extent because of social media, and most importantly, because of internet porn.

There is a lack of control when you send Johnny up to his room to learn. You might think he is getting a lesson from stentorian Dr Clarke, but in actual fact it could just as easily be Miss Johnson:

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Miss Johnson – The New Maths Teacher on OnlineGrinds.ie

The mammy would much prefer to rock up to Leeson Street or the Stillorgan Park Hotel in her SUV and drop off the kids, thereby offloading the control to a professional human (as opposed to computer), for an hour or two. They would be much more prepared to pay for this than they would for an online grind. So, if online grinds are to work, it is only for the 1 in 5 student. Considering grinds are not a necessity, and given the broadband we have in this country (not to mention the technical incapability on our end) (SL), this made for pretty slim pickings when it came to the online grinds business model.

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The Range Rover Vogue. The vehicle of choice for moms dropping their kids to grind schools.

Listen Up

What I am going to say next is exceedingly important. Possibly one of the most important things you will read in this blog. It was my intention that we, i.e. Sean, BS and I, set up the traditional grind school TOGETHER. I gave them every opportunity to embark on this journey with me. I repeat, this time in bold, CAPITALISED and in an odd shade of violet:

I GAVE THEM EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO EMBARK ON THIS JOURNEY WITH ME.

As Sean was the only other director in the company, I sent him a business plan entitled ‘Proposal For Survival’. The basis of this plan was that we would go down the traditional route of human teaching, and broadcast the grinds online. Effectively, the money would come from the humans, and as we didn’t make any money from the online wing before, we probably wouldn’t here either, at least not for the next 80-90 years or so.

If I were to sum up Sean’s reaction in one word, I would use the word ‘meh’. For those of you who don’t know what this word means, here is the urban dictionary definition:

MEH

Given the fact that BS had unilaterally taken the decision to resign as director only a few weeks previously, I decided not to send him the business plan. Business plans are a privilege for directors only, and as BS had resigned, he was undeserving of this privilege.

When he got wind of the idea, he reacted in a similar vein to Sean, although his reaction was a little less indifferent. It veered more towards the negative. He did not want to divert from the business model of live and interactive grinds. He thought that this model worked just fine. But sure, why would he think any differently? If he had actually been present for more than one live grind, and actually in the country every now and then, he might have seen the light. But no, for some reason the Chief Technology Officer does not have to be present in the studio for live broadcasts (SL).

Another obvious reason (in my opinion) for his reluctance to embrace the new model was that it would most probably require extra work on his part.

Despite the fact that he wasn’t a director of the company, he still made his opinion on the traditional grind school be known. As you can see below in another one of his enchanting emails, he tells me I “need to park this offline school plan” and concentrate on “getting more money into the company”. He must have thought that the dwarves were bored shitless and needed something to do. In fact, I was convinced that his motivation for getting in more money was to keep the Ballymun bonfire alight and the dwarves in gainful employment. Surely he couldn’t have been as deluded as to think that there would be any other destination for this money???

Incidentally, he also reiterates that he has no intention of doing any more development work. See below (click to enlarge as usual):

Park

Excuse me for a minute. I just need to pick myself up off the ground and settle into my seat again. Did I just read that he would be able to meet up at some point the week later? I mean, we wouldn’t have to wait a couple of months before we were graced with the presence of one of the most important partners in a company? The tech partner of a tech company?

Anyway, I am now left with a decision. Not an easy one. I founded a website. Took on a loser to develop it. The concept failed. We lost 64 grand. I now needed to start something new and get a return on my investment of nearly 3 years sweat equity as well as a return for our investor Sean, who put in €80k of his own money. A return for BS wasn’t top of my priority list, as a return implies that something was invested in the first place (SL).

So, my partners do not want to go down the road of a tried and tested model and start to actually make money for a change. They want to continue along the path of futility. What do I do? What I do is I truck on with the idea. If I can’t get my own partners to start the school with me because (a) they are not interested and (b) BS has clearly advised he is no longer willing to work, I find other people who are. Please note however that this did not mean for one minute that I was abandoning ship. I was intent on starting a traditional school but was not going to let my partners prevent me from doing so. Just because they didn’t want to join me didn’t mean I wanted to leave them. I had absolutely no intention of leaving OnlineGrinds.ie. Its success was still as important to me then as it was the day I founded it. Even if the lads didn’t buy into the traditional school idea, and despite the fact that BS was no longer willing to work, I was sure there were other avenues to explore with OnlineGrinds.ie, and miracles that could be performed therein.

But let me reiterate one more time, and my sincere apologies for my repetition, but it has to be said:

Regardless of whether Sean thought it was a good idea or not, given the fact that BS was not going to do any more work, there was NO WAY WHATSOEVER that the traditional grind school could be set up by Stenson Institute Ltd., trading as OnlineGrinds.ie. I had NO CHOICE but to look outside the company for help to achieve this goal. 

So, I met with an actual web developer who shall remain nameless. For now let’s call him proper web dude (PWD). There was one main difference between BS and PWD; PWD was actually good. He was the type of guy I should have taken on in the first place. He was a hoody-wearing, idea-generating, beard-inhabiting, intelligent, bright, articulate guy. He was excited about challenges and could always find a way of developing whatever website functionality you wanted, regardless of the technical scope. He relished the challenges I gave him, and the ones he gave himself. He was an owner of the business. Its success was as important to him as it was for me. Whenever I gave BS a task to complete, he would reply with two words, “Phase Two”. Everything we wanted him to do was put on a list called “Phase Two tasks”. He would not work on any of these tasks until we entered Phase Two of development (SL). Needless to say Phase Two never came. With PWD, I would give him a task and it would usually be done sometime that afternoon.

So now that I had a PWD for the traditional grind school, we needed money. We put up a proposal on a number of investment networks and within a week or two we had an investor on board. He was younger than us, but had brains that were literally bursting out of his head. His head was a rather odd shape, but I always put this down to an over presence of neural tissue within his skull (SL). For the purposes of this, let’s call this man Mr Brain Box (MBB).

MBB was relatively square, certainly not the type of bloke you would find off his head at Electric Picnic. But where he lacked in his ability to let loose, he made up in multiple measures in his ability to compute and develop complex spreadsheets. He was an ace when it came to finance, and as tight as a granny’s crack. He would never pay a bill until at least the second demand. Even the money I spent on my lunch would be scrutinised and examined with a fine tooth comb. Gone were the days of going to Canal Bank Café for my usual staple lunch of chicken wings. It was a €3 chicken fillet roll in Spar from here on in. MBB was just what we needed.

A gentleman not dissimilar to MBB
A gentleman not dissimilar in appearance to MBB

This line up of PWD’s technical expertise, MBB’s financial competence and my semi-dangerous marketing skills, made for a pretty stellar team. Having come up with a number of different names for our business, we decided in the end to call it Learnology.


Next Chapter – Chapter 12: Learnology – Say Goodbye to EGGS

Chapter 7: Burn Baby Burn, More Money More Money More Money, €10k Loan

Burn Baby Burn

Broadcasting live and interactive grinds was by no means a cheap affair. In fact, it was fucking expensive. We would pay teachers up to €110 per hour to come in and deliver their grind. Paying this kind of money would be fine if we had 15 or so students tuning in to watch every live broadcast, each paying €10 for the service. The problem was that students rarely purchased the ‘pay-per-grind’ €10 package. Instead, they bought the ‘pay-per-month’ deal where they would get access to all live and archived grinds for the month, all for €50. This was what EVERYONE went for. So, this meant that you could have a teacher delivering his grind, with only 2 students tuning in. This was a common occurrence in our physics grinds. Now, you don’t need to be Einstein or Newton to realise that we weren’t making money with this business model.

The cash burn rate was mega. I have never seen a business burn cash as quickly. It was like taking €80,000 in €5 notes, putting them into a wooden barrel, getting a group of dwarves to do an Irish jig in the barrel, dousing the compressed notes with airline fuel, closing the lid, getting the dwarves to roll the barrel to Ballymun on Halloween night and fuck it into the nearest bonfire. In fact, no, you would be pushed to burn cash as quickly this way as you would by broadcasting live and interactive grinds.

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A bonfire in Ballymun
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Our team of dwarves. Yes they like to strip occasionally. Especially when they are around fire.

More Money More Money More Money

Remember that every grind we broadcast on a live and interactive basis would be put into an archive to be viewed at a later point at a cheaper price (€5 as opposed to €10). It was for this reason that we took the gamble of losing money hand over fist with the live and interactive element, as students could still watch and pay for the archived grinds in their own time. Did this ever happen? No sir.

The archive element never really took off. Although, the most money we ever made was over the Easter holidays, where we packaged all of our archive content up for the attractive sum of €30. This was a big hit. And guess what, no liveness, no interactivity. This was the first time I began to question the live and interactive model. The fact that nobody had ever attempted this before was now beginning to make so much sense to me. I’ll never forget a man called Philip O’Callaghan from the Super Generation (hi Philip if you are reading!) telling me that I would be pissing in the wind if I were to embark on a journey of live and interactive grinds. I should have listened to Philip. Hey Philip, (I KNOW you are reading), pints on me next time!

€10k Loan

Realising that we were (figuratively speaking) walking a short distance down to the River Liffey and fucking about 6 €50 notes into the beautifully clean water on a daily basis, I had to give Sean a ring. Ringing Sean asking him for more money always reminded me of asking my parents for more pocket money. I would have to convince them that I wasn’t simply going to buy sweets, but something much more healthy. Fortunately Sean was a little more forthcoming with the cash than mum or dad. My sweet story seemed to work a lot better for him.

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A kid with his hand out looking for more pocket money. He is using the piggy as a prop to suggest the money will be saved. Smart kid.

So, having convinced Sean that our need for about €10k more was for purposes much more important than Skittles and Moro bars, the money was transferred, along with a very comprehensive loan note (another differentiating factor from my sweet dealings with mum and dad). This brought Sean’s total investment in OnlineGrinds.ie to €50k; the original €40k investment funds, plus the €10k loan. It was only late January, a mere 2 weeks after we had officially launched.

You need to listen up now very attentively and carefully to what I am about to say:

One of the conditions of the loan note was that if, for any reason, the €10k could not be repaid, Sean’s company would have the right to take the assets from our company. A much more sinister condition than any loving mammy or daddy would attach to a sweet deal, says you.

Please don’t forget what you just read in the past 5 seconds. It is imperative that you remember this information.


Next Chapter – Chapter 8: Press Coverage and A Love Letter from Arthur’s Cock

Chapter 3: Our beautiful website

Now the next thing I needed was a website. But hang on, a website of the magnitude and technical scope necessary for a business like this would cost about €50k, no? Realising that this was not the kind of cash I’d have in my back pocket, or under my bed, I decided that the only way forward would be to get a web developer to build the site for free, and I would give him equity in the company. And that’s exactly what happened.

For those of you who know me, you will be aware that I like to act the clown a lot of the time. Sometimes I take my acting to the amateur stage, and it was in these circles that I met the web developer who would become one of my fellow partners in OnlineGrinds.ie.

He was about 15 – 20 years my senior and, as his career hadn’t really quite kicked off, he was looking for a break. He owned his own web development company which appeared to specialise in what I would call ‘vintage’ websites from the early 1990’s era. I presumed that this was a new trend in the website world similar to the way vintage clothes are a new trend in the realm of fashion. The one and only doubt I had about him was the fact that his company Facebook page had only 12 fans. I was a tad unsettled by this but I put it down to the fact that he had probably only launched the page an hour or so prior to my looking at it (SL).

When I initially approached him about Online Grinds, he seemed pretty enthusiastic. After a few meetings in the Westbury, we shook hands on the basis of a 50/50 split of the company. The agreement was that he would develop a website for the company that would have all the functionality necessary to broadcast live and interactive online grinds. In return for this he would get 50% of the share capital of the company. Once an investor came on board, we would then dilute our shareholding equally. Our agreement was verbal. Nothing in writing at all at all (Yes, I hear what you are saying; I am a fuckin eejit). The value he put on his work was in the region of €25k.

While I would love to mention this man’s name, I had better not. However, his name, along with a beautiful shot of his devilishly handsome face and practically perfect smile, is clearly visible on the OnlineGrinds.ie website www.onlinegrinds.ie. Simply go to the ‘About Us’ section and click ‘Our Team’. This man is on the top right. But look, I didn’t name him, so I cannot be sued by him, right? (SL) I was once at the top of this page (sob sob).

For the purposes of this blog post, I will be referring to this man as BS, this is simply because these letters are (kind of) the initials of his name. The fact that these letters are also commonly used to abbreviate the name of a substance which emanates from the arse of a male cow, which some would say (I don’t) is a very apt description of the work ethic of this man, is entirely immaterial to my using these letters. I promise.

So, website – check.

P.S. His company Facebook page today has 26 fans. An increase of 14 fans in 3 years. If that’s not progress I don’t know what is! (SL)


Next Chapter – Chapter 4: Money Money Money, R.O.T. and Studio

Chapter 1: Brief introduction and a note to solicitors.

When you did your Leaving Cert, did you take grinds? Do you remember how much they cost? Did your maths grinds cost you €80 per hour, by any chance? Well that’s what one Dublin-based maths teacher is charging these days. And guess what, the student has to come to his home!

The new project maths syllabus, with the 25 bonus points going for simply asking the invigilator for a pink exam paper (Higher Level) rather than a blue one (Ordinary Level), is making grinds a necessity for 73% of Leaving Cert students these days.

I would like to advise the Leaving and Junior Cert students and parents of Ireland about what was nearly, very nearly, going to be a reality for them – low cost grinds with some of the finest teachers in Ireland. When I say ‘nearly a reality’, I am referring to the two companies I started in a bid to democratise (fancy word meaning ‘make affordable to EVERYONE’) the grinds industry in Ireland, both of which I lost through no fault of my own, but through the greed of others.

If you have made it this far, I thank you. I am not a boring person, and I normally lose interest in reading a piece very early on. So I will try to make this as interesting as I possibly can. Another objective of writing this blog is to see how many solicitor’s letters I can get. I would say I’ll get about 10, but I may be wrong, it could be more like 20? In any case, I will put the letters SL in brackets beside the bits where I think I could potentially get a solicitor’s letter. This will be for the following reasons: (a) so I can keep count of how many letters to expect and (b) to make life easy for the solicitors so they don’t have to waste any highlighter ink. I can’t decide which reason is more important, but at the moment I am leaning towards the latter.

I have one simple request however, solicitors. Can you please make the language of your letters understandable and speak in normal language? Otherwise I won’t have a clue what you are saying, like. Would really appreciate that. I don’t know who you think you are and why you think you are entitled to use such language. It is glaringly obvious from your language that you believe you are somehow better than us laymen. Please take yourselves down a peg or two to our level before you even attempt to write me a love letter. I mean, I have made life easy for you by inserting the letters (SL) everywhere, I would expect you to return the favour. Cheers guys. You are just fab. Besides, nobody wants your letters to end up as paper airplanes in the jaws of a Doberman, do we now?


Next Chapter – Chapter 2: How it all began – January 2011