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:
Before we embark on the penultimate chapter, may I advise that we had some breaking news this afternoon. If you didn’t get this news, you can read it here.
In reply to my ‘heads up’ email to Sean in which I warned him about the Larry O’Driscoll (LOD) scumbag, he sent me an email asking me to make the assets available immediately, stating that LOD had his authorisation to collect them. I advised Sean that I would not be handing over the assets under any circumstances, as the transfer of the business of OnlineGrinds.ie to his company was illegal. He replied saying that if I didn’t hand over the assets, he would purchase new equipment and make me pay the replacement costs. Yet another idle threat. Sean had cried wolf once or twice too many for me to believe him this time.
Whether it happened with the assets I had, or the new ones Sean would purchase, Sean & Co. were adamant to truck on with Ashfield, less little Paulie Waulie. A different shareholding structure was now in place. I am unsure how Ashfield College fitted into this new structure, but I am sure of one thing; my company, in fact, my two companies, were gone. I didn’t receive a cent payment, neither for founding the company, nor for all the hard work I had put in over the past 3 years to bring the company to the position it was in. A position good enough to do a deal with Ashfield College.
Such was the impact OnlineGrinds.ie had on the grinds industry, and on the media in general. Ashfield was one of the most well-known traditional grind schools in Ireland. It was voted the best grind school in the country last year. I have first hand experience of how good it is, as I went to Ashfield myself to repeat my Leaving Cert. Notwithstanding the fact that I got 5 points less second time round (290 in Ashfield 1999, 295 in Mary’s 1998), I still got my second honour which got me into the Shannon College of Hotel Management. For this, Ashfield, I am eternally grateful.
In many ways I feel sorry for Ashfield for getting involved with Sean & Co. Little did they know what they were getting themselves into. I guess the picture we (Aine and I) painted of OnlineGrinds.ie in the media over the past few years would have made them believe that it had real potential to succeed. I am sure they assumed (again given the media coverage) that our tech team was up to it, and that our website was state of the art. They probably even bought into the vintage website look.
Sean & Co. would have backed up this confidence during their talks with the college. I have no doubt that they told Ashfield that the live grinds worked really well, that there were never any tech issues, and that online grinds is a great alternative to traditional grinds. And why would they say anything else? Maybe if they had actually been present for a live broadcast from start to finish, they might have realised otherwise.
A number of weeks went by and there was no movement on the OnlineGrinds.ie site, not even a mention of live grinds. As you can imagine, I kept a very keen eye on its progress. Suddenly, just before Easter, there was an announcement that they would be running Easter Revision Courses. But wait for it, the price would be €75 per subject. Yes, you read correctly, seventy fucking five. This would be a justifiable price to pay if Karla was doing the Biology grinds, but seeing as she was a hoax, this was a laughable price to pay.
One of my objectives of starting OnlineGrinds.ie was to provide a low cost alternative to traditional grinds. Making grinds more accessible for those currently doing them (Chloe and Greg) and more affordable for those who could never afford them in the first place (Stacey and Jason). We were going to charge a maximum of €10 per live class, where you could ask the teacher questions and download and print their excellent quality notes. Opting for a monthly subscription would make the live classes even better value. This model obviously didn’t bear fruit, but it did result in one hell of a bonfire in Ballymun.
As we lost rather than made money with this model, my thinking changed throughout the course of the project. We could not charge for grinds if there were so many tech issues. The only way forward for OnlineGrinds.ie was to provide the grinds for free, and to make money with advertising. But of course when I proposed the idea of a freemium model to the guys, it was duly ignored and the focus was shifted on my involvement with Learnology, rather than on the progression of OnlineGrinds.ie. Coincidentally, a number of months later, an education giant called Alison.com entered the market doing online grinds for free. If only they had listened to me and not acted the prick, says you. I wonder who would win a web development contest between the might of Alison.com vs. the ability of BS? Hmmmmmm. Rhetorical question if there ever was one.
Despite the fact that our €10 model didn’t work, and that I had proposed going down the freemium route, they made the courses €75 per subject. I know I am a fuckin eejit and all, so my opinion probably doesn’t count, but can you see any logic at all in this price? €75 would be eminently acceptable if Karla and her boyfriend were going to demonstrate the ‘ins and outs’ of the human reproductive system on camera, but it would represent very bad value for money if the actual, real-life, questionably average looking Biology teacher was simply going to knock one out (a class that is) on her own.
So, having learnt of the exorbitant Easter Revision courses, I kept a daily, close eye on the number of registrations on the site. You could see this number very easily. Every time a new member joined the site, this person would automatically become a member of the forum, and you could see the number of forum members (rise or fall) at the bottom of the page. Despite the amount of money the lads (the dwarves) seemed to be putting into radio ad campaigns on the likes of 4FM (fucking into the bonfire), registration numbers grew in single figures on a daily basis. Nothing had changed at all.
The Easter revision courses were going to be six hours long (yes, I said six). Doing one hour long classes presented enough technical challenges for me to have no finger nails remaining, never mind six hour classes. But that’s probably because I am not a techie and was left to fend for myself in the tech department during every broadcast we did. I often wondered would BS spend any time in the studio now that they were doing six hour courses with Ashfield. A pig just flew over my head.
The six hour Easter revision courses kicked off and while the messages on their Facebook page were full of hope, the student registration numbers were full of despair. I thought to myself: ‘these guys are never going to learn’.
Easter came and went and I had no idea how the courses went for the guys. There was a small part of me actually wishing them well. That is until mental images of BS came into my mind. Whenever that happened I would wish them a slow and painful death. The thing is that the teachers delivering these courses were probably some of the best in the country. This had the potential to really work. They needed to get the business model right (freemium) and get BS the hell out of there. No point in having the best teachers in the country if BS was in charge of IT. It’s just not right. It’s like having a Ferrari but only being able to drive it down a boreen (not sure if that’s spelled correctly; I mean a tiny country road with grass in the centre and cow shit everywhere).
The Easter Revision courses ended and there was little activity on the website front for weeks. The Easter Revision wording remained on the homepage for weeks, then months. Indeed, it’s still there, and it’s now July. The days are getting shorter; it will soon be Christmas, and the wording remains. I’d say at this stage he’s leaving it there until next Easter, to save him the work of typing the words ‘Easter’ and ‘Revision’ all over again. There’s a multitude of countries that could be explored in the time it would take him to do this.
Sometime in early May there was a rather timid and meek announcement on the OnlineGrinds.ie Facebook page about Leaving and Junior Cert final revision courses. I don’t think the announcement on Facebook got any likes or shares, not even by the OnlineGrinds.ie staff themselves. The website text about the course was nearly as long as this blog. It mentioned how the maths classes would be free to all (HURRAY, SENSE AT LAST!) and that the rest of the courses would only be €30 each. A friend of mine summed it up beautifully in one sentence “they clearly didn’t make a penny over Easter”.
I have never seen website wording as apologetic as I did on the homepage in relation to the final revision courses. It was as if OnlineGrinds.ie were indebted to the students in some strange way. The wording was pretty desperate. It went a bit like “if you are not sure that this will help you, try it for free” whereas it should have read “to see why this is the most awesome alternative to traditional grinds, we are giving you a free sneaky peak”. But then again, all the content was coming from BS, and he is no more a marketer than he is a web developer (SL).
The page told you what you’d get if you paid €30. You’d get so much of this, so much of that and so much of the other “for ONLY €30 – it’s a STEAL!” If this didn’t make you wonder “what’s wrong with this service that they have to give away everything so cheaply?” I don’t know what would.
Despite the fact that the lads were virtually paying the students to register on the site, the uptake didn’t seem significant. Single figures increases on a daily basis.
Low on behold on the 24th May 2014, two days before the course was due to start, and a week before the Leaving and Junior Cert exams began, the following announcement was made on their Facebook page:
Let’s dissect this for a minute. Let’s pretend you’re a Leaving Cert student, doing your Leaving Cert this year. The fact that there is now more time to ‘roll our some server side updates’ MEANS NOTHING to you. Not only because you haven’t a fucking clue what this means, but also because you are doing your Leaving Cert THIS YEAR, not fucking next year.
If you read into things as deeply as I do (I am the world’s worst for that), would you not wonder why they hadn’t said anything about what was going to happen to students who had already paid? Something along the lines of “we will make full refunds to all students who have already signed up for this course”. Could it be because not one person had actually paid?
The guys cancelled the revision course for one of two reasons, both as plausible as each other: (a) nobody at all signed up for the course or (b) the tech issues were too great to warrant running the courses.
Either way, no final revision for students. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
One student vented his frustration on Twitter:
It looked like BS was telling the truth when he said he was very busy all year. So busy that he forgot to change the Twitter wallpaper on the left, which was out of date……….by 16 months.
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:
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.
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:
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):
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.
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
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
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
It’s finally done. Thanks be to fuck. I’ve just spent the last week in sunny Spain finishing it. Now it’s truly time for me to move on and forget about the company I founded nearly three years ago, ran for two and a half years (with no pay whatsoever) and from which I was removed by the very team I took on to help me run it. This company is called OnlineGrinds.ie. It was going to revolutionise the grinds industry in Ireland.
While I am not at all bitter about the whole situation, I do want my story to be known. If you are easily offended, I suggest not reading this blog. If you are one of my friends or family who is reading it simply because you know me, again I would think twice. It’s not very short so to spare you the feeling of ‘Jesus this is way too long for me to read, I have far better things to do with my time’, I suggest you go back to baking your cupcakes or combing your leg hair now.
If you don’t take my advice and do read the blog and become offended, there is a complaints procedure you might want to avail of. You are more than welcome to fax me your complaint. I am not prepared to give you my fax number here, however. If you want it you can send me an email including your fax number and I will send you a fax back with my fax number.
I know this complaints procedure may seem a little laborious, but this is the price to pay for not taking my advice in the first place. I am hereby giving you a second chance not to read this. I guarantee you there will still be some people who will read it and take offence, despite my warning them twice not to. So, third time lucky, please feck off now and don’t read it. Thanks.
If you don’t happen to fall into any of the above categories, I invite you to follow my blog every day. It should make for interesting reading with some laughs and gob smacks along the way.
Here is my story.
Next Chapter: Chapter 1: Brief introduction and a note to solicitors