If you are looking for Manuel’s story, you can find it here:
If you are looking for my little OnlineGrinds.ie story, here is the table of cuntents:
If you are looking for Manuel’s story, you can find it here:
If you are looking for my little OnlineGrinds.ie story, here is the table of cuntents:
Tits & Ass
One evening in early March 2013, I was sitting in the office watching a live feed of a maths grind on my laptop which was being streamed from our studio next door. I liked to do this. If I saw that the feed was coming smoothly to my computer, I could assume that it was also running smoothly on the laptops of all 6 or 7 viewers across the country (out of a potential 55,000 approx.), who were tuned in that evening.
I always loved being in the OnlineGrinds office in the evening, as there were life drawing sessions taking place in the Trinity Arts Workshop (TAW) just across the road. The window of the TAW was boarded up so that innocent passers-by wouldn’t be greeted with images of tits and ass (sometimes saggy, other times hairy) as they were walking through Pearse Street. But there was an area at the top of the window that had no boarding. They obviously couldn’t reach that high from the inside. But why would they need to? There were no black NBA players in Dublin and all the offices across the road would be empty in the evening time when the models would bare all. So they thought :).
It was through this gap we could get a bird’s eye view of the models. The trajectory from my chair to the podium was no less than perfect. Pity what we saw wasn’t always as perfect, however. The naked beasts were also in an eyeshot of the teachers as they were presenting to camera. We ended up having to put curtains on the studio window so our male teachers wouldn’t become distracted (and erect) during the grind. We left the office window clear though.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I remind you that if you have an issue with any of the content I am posting, you are more than welcome to follow the complaints procedure which can be found in the Preface section of this blog.
“I QUIT” says BS
So, there I was sitting watching the live feed of Pythagoras theorem on the laptop and the live feed of boobies and balls across the road (in equal measure might I add), when I got a ping on the laptop. It was an email from BS.
It was not unusual to receive an email from BS around this time. It would be incredibly unusual (to the point that I’d fall off the chair I was already sitting on the edge of, lest a tech issue arose) to receive a phone call from him, but not an email. In fact, BS was quite gifted in the art of email writing. I am pretty sure he must have had some form of qualification in the discipline, particularly when it came to punctuation and CAPITALISATION of words. In any case, the email went as follows (click on text to increase size):
So, BS ‘wanted out’ in terms of his capacity as a director, but still wanted to remain a third owner of the business. For all intents and purposes, this did not make a blind bit of difference in practical terms, as he was perpetually absent from the office in any case. But in terms of my motivation levels??? …… Nah, no difference there either. In fact, the feeling of non-description I experienced when I received this email would make me wonder why I am writing about it at all. However, the truth is that there is a very good reason why I am mentioning it here, and this will all become apparent in a later chapter.
Even More Money, Even More Money, Even More Money
We went through the €10k at the same speed it would take a school of piranhas to go through the carcass of a horse. In fact, not a horse, more like a Shetland pony, or a pygmy goat; an animal of that kind of magnitude. Having launched the site officially in mid Jan, it was now March and we had savaged our way through a whopping €50k. So, what was I going to do? There was only one option; I had to go back to Mommy and Daddy (Sean), looking for more bread.
This time I was a little more sheepish, but hey presto, after a lot of persuasive coaxing and genuflection, I got another €30,000. It took a considerable length of time to physically get this cash, however. There were detailed heads of terms sheets (that I didn’t understand at all – it was as if they were written in some obscure dialect of Swahili) which required careful and cautious study. It also meant a dilution in our shareholding at the time, and an increase in Sean’s.
At this point BS had resigned as a dick, I mean, director, and had no desire to continue doing any work for the company free gratis. He wanted to remain a third owner with no more input from his end. Why should he? The slopes of Chamonix and Val d’Isere were of far greater importance to him than a company set to democratise the grinds industry. He had no interest in improving the site, creating any new pages, adding any new logic which would allow us to capture more information on our customers for re-marketing, the list goes on. For example, we asked him to put a live chat widget on the site and he made up some story about how long this would take and how difficult a task it would be. It was obviously never done (SL). The guy who developed my new www.FrenchGrinds.com site was able to put a live chat widget on the homepage within the space of 10-15 minutes. No exaggeration.
The long and the short of it is that BS treated the company as if he were a contractor, rather than an owner, and this pissed me off to the point of wanting to torture him slowly. I didn’t want to throw him to a pack of lions or tigers with razor sharp canines who would rip him to pieces violently and quickly, I wanted to throw him to a flock of man eating sheep or goats with blunt teeth who would gnaw away at him slowly and painfully.
So, realising that BS was not acting like an owner, but more like a contractor (in other words being a complete asshole), Sean recommended that his shareholding be diluted more than mine. I was company founder and I was acting as such. Despite the fact that BS and Sean each had 1/3 of the company, I still owned 1/3. At no point did I ever put a line under my commitment, or even enter a date into the shareholder’s agreement stating when my time was up. This kind of behaviour didn’t enter my thoughts. Why? I’ll tell you why:
OnlineGrinds.ie was mine; I was going to work on it tirelessly until it became a success.
So, when Sean devised a proposed new shareholding structure, meaning BS would have less equity than me, BS hit the roof. World War III had graced the OnlineGrinds.ie offices. Only momentarily however, as BS’s visits lasted a duration of approximately 15-20, every couple of months. The rest of the war was conducted via the medium of email. As I said before, perhaps if BS spent as much time working on the project as he did writing emails, we would have gone somewhere. Then again, no, you can only go places if you are actually a good developer (SL).
Below is an extract from an email where our investor Sean proposed that BS’ shareholding be diluted more than mine on receipt of the further €30k. Sean’s wording is in blue, BS’ is in black:
A close friend of mine said to me yesterday that he wretches every time he reads BS’ emails. Do you wretch too?
Sean eventually backed down (which I was little put out by, if I am being honest) and our shareholding was diluted evenly. I’ll never forget the number of conditions that were set by BS at that point. He was going to do x number of hours on this and y number of hours on that but by no means go over z number of hours on the other. Again, he was supposed to be an owner of this business. What an absolute loser (SL).
Published tomorrow – Chapter 10: New Ideas and a Possible Deal with UPC
I have always contended that the reason OnlineGrinds.ie never took off was due to technical challenges beyond our control. As much as I’d like to, I can’t point the blame fully at BS. There were tech issues at our end for which he was ultimately responsible, but there were some at the user end too. Students don’t get the concept of download speed, contention ratios and all that shite, for example. If a live stream is stalling regularly, they don’t for one minute think that this could have anything to do with brother Johnny hogging the bandwidth by beating off to amateur interracial porn in his bedroom next door.
However, according to BS, it was my entire fault. The finger of blame was pointed most emphatically in my direction. I’ll never forget him using the word ‘failure’ in about 3 separate emails to me over the course of our 6 month’s broadcasting. Here is the exact wording of 2 emails he sent yours truly (I can’t find the third as it was sent to a gmail account that I can no longer access as BS illegally took control of it during the war) which both included the delightful verb ‘to fail’ (click image to increase size):
So in BS’ opinion we didn’t get the word out enough to the public. We failed when it came to marketing. The business side of OnlineGrinds.ie was flawed.
I guess this is the point where I should say how awesome I was when it came to marketing and advertising. I should probably now point you in the direction of the press page on the OnlineGrinds.ie website where it says we featured on Joe Duffy (twice), Ryan Tubridy, Ireland AM, the Irish Indo (twice), Sunday Business Post, Business Plus magazine, reviewed in the Irish Times with an average rating of 8/10, the list goes on. But….nah….that’s not really my style. If you really want to see our media appearances, features and articles, go to the OnlineGrinds.ie website and click ‘Press’ (Under ‘About’). But please note the absence of my holding a revolver to your temple.
Instead, I think you might get a better idea of the impact we had on the grinds industry from the viewpoint of one of our competitors; no less than the Institute of Education (IOE). When the IOE heard about OnlineGrinds.ie and our intention to make grinds affordable to all, they didn’t simply poo in their pants; they had a violent eruption of diarrhea.
A Love Letter From Arthur’s Cock
One of the goals of OnlineGrinds.ie was to provide students with the best teachers in the country at a fraction of the price of traditional grind schools. Each teacher had their individual biography in the ‘staff-room’ section of the website. All teacher bio’s included where the teacher had worked previously (obviously).
One morning in early February 2013, I arrived into the office, 4-shot latte in hand, to find this beaut of a love letter (click image to increase size):
As you can see, this was not a matter for a trainee solicitor called Sandra who was straight out of King’s Inn feeling uncomfortable sitting in a D2 office wearing a mini skirt when she would much rather be snorting horse tranquilizer at the electric picnic. No no, this was a matter for the big boy, big Arthur’s Cock.
Such was the bout of trots the lads in the IOE were enduring. There was NO amount of Arret that could put an end to this so they called on Mr Cock to write me a billet-doux. Sandra would have been too much of a softie, but Mr Cock was as hard as they came.
The truth is that the teacher had actually taught in the IOE for 30 years, but it wasn’t for the past 30 years, it was for 30 years up until a few years ago. But it wasn’t simply an issue of semantics for the IOE, the way they made it out to be. The real issue was that they felt severely threatened. For long enough they were able to charge students exorbitant fees to access excellent teachers, but now OnlineGrinds.ie was going to bring the same quality teachers to the laptop on the student’s kitchen table, for only €10 per grind. This was what struck the fear of Alla into the IOE, causing the eruption of Mount Anus, not the misplaced word or two.
Unlike the other solicitor’s letters I later received (which usually ended up being eaten and excreted by my Doberman), there was no vacillation whatsoever when I received this one. This letter was destined for one place, and one place only. It was going to be framed and placed on my bedroom wall where I could throw sugar at it. It was a letter of pride. I was tremendously proud. I had set out to disrupt the high cost grinds industry, and it was working.
(P.S. The teacher they were referring to in the letter was our biology teacher, Joe Reville. Joe was an absolute gent but sadly passed away last year. He was ‘the dude’ when it came to Science. Some man. RIP Joe).
In the space of our 6 months broadcasting, I think BS might have been present for one full grind from start to finish. Bear in mind that each grind lasted one hour and we did 7 live grinds a week, for 14 weeks (Jan – May 2013). Not wanting to blow my own trumpet or anything, but I was the only team member to be present for all 98 hours of broadcasting. In my opinion this is the kind of commitment to be expected of an owner of a business. However, do remember that I have no technical training and was not well equipped to deal with any tech emergencies (of which there happened to be many).
I can remember one instance where we found ourselves up shit creek without a paddle in the tech department and BS was away in San Francisco. In the space of 6 months, he was skiing TWICE, and in both San Francisco and Mexico for three weeks. There was always a feeling that something had changed whenever you saw BS. This was probably due to the fact that it could have been a number of months since you last saw him (SL).
Notable examples of these changes included: a new shade of just for men in the hair, a beautiful bronze tan that would take at least 2-3 weeks to acquire in Villa Moura (in fairness to BS this could have simply been acquired in 2-3 hours in tanzone.ie), bulging pectorals and biceps, glistening white teeth and pretty much anything else that would suggest that he hadn’t been up to much work. Him simply being alive would suggest that he hadn’t been working that much. A corpse would do much more work than BS (SL).
Anyway, one of the times the shit really hit the fan was when our broadband partners let us down. The feed of broadband was about as consistent as Moana’s heart rate. I was the one who perpetually dealt with the provider. Not BS. This was a combination of wanting to be in control and simply well accustomed to BS at this stage. It was in this 2 week period when the cow pat really hit the fan. There were lots of times when little pieces of dog turd hit the fan. But this time it was a full cow pat.
I’ll never forget one geography grind during this 2 week period where the broadband acted up and the grind simply cut off and never returned. BS was, of course, nowhere to be seen. He was probably on the stage of the gaiety theatre that evening too and had no notion of what was happening. Could you imagine watching a grind that you had paid for, and for the stream to simply cut out half way through the session? Events like this were as commonplace as BS’s absenteeism (SL). Needless to say we lost a lot of customers during this delightful 2 week period.
The software itself was as volatile as BS’s temper. I would conservatively say that it would crash during one in every four grinds broadcast. This did not do my mental health any good (the evidence of which is this blog, says you!). I was sitting on the edge of my seat every evening with no finger nails remaining. The one bit of solace I took was that I could send BS a text message (I couldn’t call him if he was on stage). There is only so much help you can get via the medium of text, however. Rebooting the machine was his usual nugget of savvy tech advice. See text messages:
Of course another issue was that all our grinds would be recorded as well as broadcast live. However, whenever the software crashed, the recording up until the point of the crash did not encode and was rendered unusable. This would mean we would have to get the teacher in again, at our expense of course, to rerecord grinds for the archive.
BS would not accept that this business did not take off as a result of the tech issues. Even the tech issues that were 100% outside of our control he did not accept as reasons for failure, as he didn’t want the word tech to feature anywhere in the list of potential reasons for which the project never took off. That was his department and he would protect it at all costs. Instead, the marketing and advertising department got the blame.
Money Money Money
Having a concept, name, logo, jingle, voice mail and website is one thing, but having money to spend on marketing and advertising is another! So, I set out to get a third party involved who would invest cash. I created a profile on the Irish Investment Network which attracted about 8 investors, one of whom was a fire breathing dragon from a well-known RTE TV show. I met with all 8 investors and 2 of them bit. One gentleman was interested in investing funds subject to me securing matching funding from a government agency with the initials EI. Getting funding from EI is about as easy as catching a fly using chop sticks. This might be an easy task for a hot shot like Mr Myagi, but Mr Myagi I am not.
Just before I thought the exercise of securing investment was futile, I received an email while I was away in Spain. It was from an investor called Sean. We agreed to meet in a coffee shop on Dawson Street when I got back from Spain. Within an hour of our meeting, I managed to convince Sean to invest €40,000 in return for a third of the company. Now Sean, BS and yours truly would own a third of the company each. A magnificent ménage à trois.
Sean was from the Michael O’Leary School of Fashion. He didn’t wear fancy schmancy clothes. He always sported an understated, avant-garde look which I admired and respected much more than I would a pink-tie-wearing BMW salesman type of guy. I’ll never forget one day when we were holding interviews in the salubrious Carr Communications premises in Dublin 4. I presumed it would be necessary to dress up for the occasion. When I say dress up, I don’t mean put on a pink lycra tutu with a bright blue velvet shawl and a pair of tight violet stilettos, carrying two over-sized purple pompoms and wearing a long flowing luminous yellow wig and a monocle (I leave that kind of carry on for Saturday nights), I mean a shirt and trousers. Conversely, Sean rocked in wearing a jumper with brown shoulder patches and a pair of jeans. Respect to him.
I know for a fact Sean is reading this because I have already seen a number of hits on the blog that have originated in the Islington district of Inner London (Sean’s hood). So a quick note to Sean:
Hi Sean, I hope you are well! We must have that game of golf in Grange soon!
Apologies to those of you who are not Sean. I really don’t mean to ignore you. A big shout out and hug to you guys too! 🙂
Money – check.
R.O.T. (Rest Of Team)
Finding the best teachers in Ireland would not be an easy task. I would certainly need an elf or two to help me out. So, out to find an elf I set. However, what I found was far greater than an elf. It was an entrepreneurial, scholarship-earning, Trinners student from craggy island territory. He was a genius, albeit with a slight penchant for being visible in the media. He managed the interview process with me. He was hard working, inventive, full of ideas and a great problem solver. All in all a good guy with whom we all got along (most of the time).
We then needed someone to look after the sales and marketing end of things, and who better than a good friend of mine called Aine. I am not going to say ANYTHING whatsoever about Aine as she is a personal friend and WILL actually kill me if I do. I can safely say that BS would not kill me, but he would do evil things to me, as he is an evil man (I am told) (SL). Aine doesn’t have an evil streak in her body, not even where ants or blue bottles are concerned.
Rest of team – check.
We now needed somewhere to DO the grinds. I viewed about 8 different places, alone might I add. BS did visit one place with me, but it was because the place was in his neighbourhood (Sandyford region – in case anyone wants to knock him off for me, although I wouldn’t be willing to pay you any more than €0.10 for sealing the deal. That’s the fairest price one could possibly put on his existence, I hear) (SL).
I did a deal with a lovely girl called Donna who had a place to rent on Pearse Street. We had a Dublin 2 office address. My life was complete. Needless to say I would always downplay the fact that we had a drug rehabilitation clinic LITERALLY next door that provided us with regular visits from Micko and Moana. I think they called her Moana on purpose. Although I don’t think it was a nickname, I reckon her parents were psychic and could tell that she was going to do a lot of lunchtime moaning around Pearse Street, on a bi daily basis (or so).
Studio – check.
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
Before I set up OnlineGrinds.ie, students had a number of options when it came to doing grinds. They could invite an unwashed, perfect stranger with no garda vetting and questionable qualifications into their home and pay them anything up to 80 lids an hour. Alternatively they could get mommy to drive them to a high cost grind school in her Range Rover Sport (or those who had the means could drive themselves in their VW Polo). The very least a class in a grind school would set them back would be €25. This, of course, would be merely chicken feed to Chloe or Greg whose daddy is a senior partner in Deloitte, but to Stacey or Jason from Coolock, it would be a fair whack.
My idea was to set up an online grind school which would make doing grinds more convenient to Chloe and Greg, and more accessible to Stacey or Jason. Grinds would be broadcast online, in a live and interactive capacity, and would cost no more than €10 per live class. Teachers would come into a studio, deliver their grind which we would stream live to students in their homes across the country. Students would be able to ask the teacher questions via a chat facility which the teacher could answer in real time.
So, now that I had a concept, and notwithstanding the fact that I didn’t yet have a team, I sought to come up with a name for the website. The list was full of very colourful and quirky names, but after much deliberation and painful internal conflict, I decided that the best name for the website would be OnlineGrinds.ie. Simple, to the point, and doing exactly what it said on the tin.
Concept and name under the belt, it was now time for a logo. I have always had a tendency to put the cart before the horse and, until the day I am 6 feet under, I intend to keep it that way.
I got in contact with a graphic designer friend of mine called Dermot Collins. I gave Dermot the brief that I would like a logo that had the name of the website written in chalk on a blackboard that was encased in a laptop screen. In a couple of goes he came up with this gem of a logo:
I still work with Dermot today and would highly recommend him for any of your graphic design needs. Email me for his email and I’ll send it on.
Incidentally, I might mention that I am the registered owner of this logo. Therefore I am the only person who can use it. But I have nothing to worry about. Of course my ex-colleagues will have stopped using it once they got rid of me and it won’t be currently visible in any shape or form whatsoever on the website www.onlinegrinds.ie. I haven’t checked of course as I don’t really like visiting the site I founded and lost. But I don’t need to check. I trust them. They are good guys after all. They surely realise that if they were to use it, this would be a blatant infringement of trademark (not to mention pretty shitty!). Yeah. I guess I’m just being paranoid. How could the thought of them using my logo even enter my head? I can be such a naive gob shite at times!
We then needed a jingle to go at the start of our live grinds. It had to be something school-like but at the same time rebellious. OnlineGrinds.ie was going to disrupt the high cost, cosy grinds industry and this had to be reflected in our jingle.
Under the influence of copious amounts of intoxicating liquor one evening in a friend’s apartment, I had a flashback to a scrap I ‘attended’ in my school days in St Mary’s College, Rathmines. Whenever 2 lads were burying their fists in each other’s faces, we would serenade them with a little song. It went A-G-A-G-R-A-G-R-O……AGRO.
To hear this song and its metamorphosis into our jingle, click below:
Another fundamental ingredient we needed was a voice mail message. Again, because we were an up and coming online company, this couldn’t be a simple boring message. To hear the message, click below:
Below is an info video on OnlineGrinds.ie (listen out for our finished jingle at the end!)
Concept – check.
Name – check.
Logo – check.
Jingle – check
Voice mail – check
Next Chapter: Chapter 3: Our beautiful website