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 take flight on our very final chapter, I have a little song you might like to hear. My advice is to press play on the video, and let the song play as you read through the chapter. I’m sure the song will end before you finish reading; it’s only 12 minutes long, after all.
Despite all the bullshit I had to put up with, I did enjoy starting OnlineGrinds.ie and working on the project for nearly 3 years, even if I never received a cent payment. However, if I was to do it all again, my approach would be somewhat different, to say the least. If I had a few words of advice for any entrepreneur starting up their own business, it would be the following:
If you are going to take on a team on an equity share basis, research all team members well before you take anybody on. Use a fine tooth comb during this process. Don’t rush into things. Don’t take on a web developer ‘because you know him’. Take a look at projects they have worked on before, check the number of fans they have on social media sites etc. If you see that the large majority of their work falls into the vintage website category, you can assume that this project will follow suit. If the vintage style of website isn’t something you are too keen on, keep looking.
If they say they will develop and design a website from scratch, with all the capability of broadcasting live and interactive online grinds, this does not mean they should simply purchase third party plugins and insert them into their very basic site structure. That’s cheating. All the code should be indigenous. Otherwise the company will have very little IP, which means in the event of sale, it will have very little value. Besides, a blind ape with no arms could develop a website if it was simply based on third party plugins and no indigenous code, and you wouldn’t have to give him any equity at all.
A friend of mine said to me yesterday, “I’m sure it must kill you to wonder how OLG might have taken off with the right team”. She is dead right (thanks again T.).
Never yield too much power. Always retain more control than anybody else. Otherwise they’ll walk all over you like a race horse on a fallen jockey. Never give away more than 49% equity. Always retain 51% for your good self. More power to you.
If your tech partner decides to drop a bomb 2 days before your official launch, stating that the majority of the source code of the site belongs to HIS Company, not your joint company, and that there is no value in the site he was commissioned to develop, tell him to fuck off. Threaten to pull the plug on the project if he doesn’t cop the fuck on. Don’t let your pride stand in the way of bullshit like this. It’s infinitely better to delay your launch, and find a proper developer, than to launch with a cunt like this. In the long run you will be far better off.
If your tech partner starts acting like a contractor, rather than an owner, get rid of him. He is a liability to the company. There is something wrong when your tech partner, who has the same equity stake as you, starts putting time limits on his work output, and spends more time writing emails about how much work he won’t do, rather than actually doing any work on the project itself. He needs to go. Simple as.
For some reason I envisaged BS to be a hoody-wearing, idea-generating, Mark Zuckerberg type who would rock in to me in the office at 7am saying “Paul I was up till 3am working on this new page, I’ve had this awesome new idea”. But no, BS didn’t come up with 1 idea for OnlineGrinds.ie. That was up to the rest of the team. And whenever we brought up an idea, and asked him to implement it, he would reply with 2 words, “Phase 2”.
I firmly believe (and I could be very wrong) that Sean often wonders if I was the right person to go, and that maybe it should have been BS who was ousted. I guess I will never know the answer to that question.
If you receive love letters from Arthur’s Cock and Everyone Shites, choose wisely who you share them with. One of my biggest regrets is showing MBB AKA CUNT the second love letter from Everyone Shites. Who’s to say that Learnology wouldn’t still be still going, if I had kept the letter to myself.
Always employ a group of dwarves, they are indispensable.
If you notice that the amount of cash coming in to the business represents a mere fifth of the amount going out (a ratio of 1:4), take a step back and question your business model. Call a halt to the dwarves; tell them to take a seat and have some tea and cakes, or a round of Jägerbombs and a few lines (whatever they’re into). You need to seriously review what you are doing.
They say that it’s good to locate your desk near a window so that you can take momentary breaks from the computer screen and give your eyes a rest by looking out at the beautiful views in front of you. This principle works particularly well when you have an art workshop across the road with life drawing classes every evening. I wouldn’t recommend locating anywhere else.
Read up on company law. Know your rights. Always be able to distinguish a real threat from a shot across the bow. My rule of thumb: if a love letter is signed with the company name, rather than an individual lawyer’s name, it’s an idle threat.
Be able to differentiate company lawyers from litigators (Daniel O’Donnell vs. Vince Vaughan). This tacit knowledge could save your life, one day.
There are a number of reasons why I decided to write my story:
(a) So many people ask me how OnlineGrinds.ie is going. To spare these people the 3 hour explanation that I usually have to give them (and to spare me the 3 hours each time someone asks), I wrote this blog. Now I can simply point them in the direction of www.paulstenson.com and, if they care enough, they can read it. If they don’t care, they can pretend to read it (and slyly have RedTube open in another window).
(b) To vent my frustration. I am sure you can appreciate that my mental health was pushed to its outer extremities while I was working with BS (note that the verb ‘working’ applies to me, rather than BS). This blog provided an outlet for me to vent my anger and extinguish the fire that has built up inside over the past 3 years. As I said in one chapter, it was far better than any form of conventional therapy.
(c) To try my luck at writing. Writing is something I have always wanted to try, and I actually fucking enjoyed it. It was almost (quite literally) a sexual experience at certain points. Most of the time, I had no preconception of what to write and it simply came to me as I was typing (as it is now).
I did try to get an editor or ten to glance over my work. Most editors took one look at the story and turned it down immediately on the basis that the content was far too risqué. One editor came back saying that she would have no issue working with me, as long as I toned it down slightly. This didn’t happen.
I am much happier to be able to tell my story (vitriolic as it may be) i.e. the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me dog (I’m an atheist), even at the expense of one or two grammatical errors and/or misspellings, than have an editor tone down my words.
Many thanks again to all my friends and family who were worried about me. I couldn’t count on 3 hands the number of people who asked me “are you sure you won’t get into legal hot water with this blog Paul?” to which I generally replied “oh I sincerely hope I do”.
(d) To see how many solicitor’s letters I could get. To date I haven’t received any SL’s which is a little disheartening, if I’m honest. I tried my best to make life easy for the solicitors; I even put the letters (SL) around the blog for their convenience. But alas, no letters at all. I am living in the hope that maybe they are waiting for me to publish my final chapter and then they can send one big letter containing all the offences throughout the blog, as opposed to hundreds of letters each containing one offence. This is not ideally how I would have liked it, but I guess it will have to do.
Please solicitors, I am pleading with you at this stage. Please please please send me at least one letter. You can ignore the instructions I gave you in Chapter 1 and use whatever kind of language you want. I promise I won’t give out. Pretty pretty please???
(e) Legal representation. Believe it or not, I have already received a number of offers of legal representation from blog readers. Having read the blog, they said that I may well have a case against Sean & Co., and that they would be willing to consider representing me on a no foal, no fee basis. My initial reaction to them was that of ‘meh’, but then when I thought about the suit-buying opportunity this would present, my opinion changed completely. I’m a little conflicted now however; if I did go to court and had to breathe the same air as BS in the courtroom, I think I might be traumatised for life. So, let’s just say ‘the jury is out’ on this option.
(f) Investment. One particular man who read the blog wants to have coffee with me about potentially getting Learnology back up and running. He said it “was too much of a great brand to let go”. While seeking investment funds was never an intention of writing the blog, I am going to meet him; for the craic, if nothing else (hi A. if you are reading this!). While this is not at the top of my priority list, it is exceedingly more probable than option (e).
(g) To draw a line under the nightmare that has been the last 3 years. The main objective of writing this blog was to put an end to the horror that was OnlineGrinds.ie. The lads have the company now, and as a matter of fact, I wish them well (even BS). I am not sure what their intentions are, and whether the cancellation of the May revision courses was an admission by Sean & Co. that “this is the end, beautiful friends, the end”. I guess we won’t know until their “full launch next Sept”, if it ever happens.
With the right changes, the company has potential to do well. Ashfield teachers are without a shadow of a doubt the best in the country, and the picture we have painted of OnlineGrinds.ie in the media means it is already a recognised brand (again, good enough to do a deal with Ashfield). If the lads can get the business right by creating a freemium model and tidying up things in the tech department, they could actually do very well for themselves.
They may even still have a chance of getting in there before Alison.com, as Alison are only running free maths grinds at the moment. If OnlineGrinds.ie can roll out all subjects, for free, this September, they may beat Alison to the mark, and have a chance of success.
While I lost both OnlineGrinds.ie and Learnology, this doesn’t mean that I am exiting the grinds industry altogether. Despite the fact that the entire industry is worth only €40m per annum (a very limited pot) I do want to keep one egg in this basket. But I have no intention of devoting 100% of my time to a space where the maximum I could potentially make per year is €40m. You might think I am joking, I’m actually not.
Any website where there is a lot of human involvement upfront (like OnlineGrinds.ie) is costly, as you have to pay these humans. The only way you will make money on a website in the grinds industry (or any industry) is if the website generates passive income. Look at the likes of Adverts.ie, Boards.ie, Daft,ie (pretty much any of the Fallon Bros sites); these are all passive income generators. You don’t have gob shites acting the clown on camera, and being paid €110 per hour to do so, while you have 2 viewers watching them, each paying €10. Look at the likes of Cartell.ie or TripAdvisor.com. These are user generated content, database-driven websites, again with little if not no front-line labour. Again, more classic examples of passive income generators. This is where the money is at folks.
To that end, my next grinds related venture requires little or no front-line labour. It’s called GrindsAdvisor.ie and it’s launching in September. For fear of boring you, here is a quick low down on the new biz.
At the moment, if a student wants to do grinds, there is no independent website that reviews and advises on the grinds options available in their area. Students and parents have to do all the research themselves, which usually (and solely) involves checking out the individual grind provider websites. The mummy and student visit a grind school website where the school blows their own trumpet until the cows come home, saying how amazingly, awesomely, fantastically, outstanding they are. The mummy gives her credit card details and pays for a term of grinds, unaware as to the quality of teachers on offer and whether the exorbitant price being paid actually represents value for money, or not. Ditto for online grinds websites and, to some extent, one to one grinds.
Grindsadvisor.ie is a user generated content site (a bit like Tripadvisor; similar model) that will provide reviews and advice on the grinds options available to secondary students across Ireland in terms of price, teacher quality and convenience. It’s an independent advice platform for students and parents to voice their opinions, concerns and advice on grinds providers, so that students are well informed before they fork out anything between €2,000 and €4,000, which is the average amount a parent will pay on grinds in the exam year (Student Enrichment Services Survey, 2010).
In case the Kearns family from the Institute of Education and Sean & Co. from OnlineGrinds.ie (for example) are pooing their pants at the thought of Paul Stenson slating them on his new website. Please don’t worry guys. Paul won’t be doing any slating whatsoever; the students and parents will. However, if you get your act together guys i.e. stop ripping people off IOE, and get your business model right OLG, you won’t give them any reason to slate you; you may even give them reason to praise you. We know how damaging the likes of Patrick’s Tweets in yesterday’s chapter can be for your business. Don’t give students like Patrick any bait in the first place, and all will be well.
GrindsAdvisor.ie aside for a minute, in any of my future ventures, I am going to exercise extreme care and caution in relation to who I work with. The BS saga has certainly taught me a lesson I will never forget. I am increasingly thinking about working purely with animals going forward. I much prefer animals to humans. Certainly on my list of potential projects for the future is a 5 star hotel for pets. The animals will be treated like royalty; they will have ensuite bedrooms with plasma screens showing pet related movies (not Marley and me), and they will get their meals delivered by room service; sushi for cats, sirloin steak for dogs. If you are an investor and would like a slice of this pie, I am taking inquiries now.
That’s all folks. Thanks for reading my blog. Hope you enjoyed it. Sorry again if some of the language seemed crude, and some of the themes seemed unsophisticated. But that’s me, and I make no apologies for being me.
If you want to contact me for any reason, maybe you are a lawyer who wants to represent me, or an investor who wants to make a massive return, you can get me at my email:
Before I go, I promised you I would revisit the cunt poll to see who has been the biggest cunt in this blog. Here are the updated results as of today 08/07/2014:
As you can see, BS is improving nicely, he has gone from 62.5% to 66%. Both MBB AKA CUNT and Sean are also gaining ground.
Rest assured that the poll will remain open for the foreseeable future. As long as the blog is live, the poll will be live. Also, if there is any movement on the SL front, or any more kind gestures from BS (like yesterday), I will make a point of sharing them here on the blog, so that you are kept in the loop. Just because you won’t have daily chapter updates, doesn’t mean the blog will wither on the vine.
Over and out.
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.
The assets of the business were both tangible and intangible. The tangible assets included computer, camera, sound and lighting equipment (pretty much anything needed to broadcast live grinds). The intangible assets consisted mostly of login details and passwords for various social media and email accounts. I was not going to part with either.
When the dwarves fucked our final barrel of cash into the bonfire, we were no longer able to pay our office and studio rent, so we (I) had to move out. Thank you again to my friend Barry (who had nothing to do with OnlineGrinds.ie) for helping me move the stuff.
In the absence of somewhere more suitable to keep all the equipment, I kept it in my home in Ballsbridge. This was a very privileged location for the equipment, as there was a Doberman guarding it 24/7.
Sean was under pressure to get the assets to BS before he returned back to the UK. He had come over especially for the EGM, and was leaving a day or two later. After several attempts to ring me to arrange a pick up point and time (which I regretfully wasn’t able to answer as I was too busy perming my hair), he ended up calling out to my home one evening unannounced. When he didn’t find me there (I think I was at my flower arranging class), he left a note under my door saying that he would call back later.
In many ways I felt sorry for Sean. He had to do all the dirty work. BS would never have called around to me to get the assets. He wouldn’t have been able to face me. He is probably right though. I don’t think I would have been able to resist the urge to wrap a concrete block around his Florida white smile, if he ever did.
As it happened, I was moving out of my place in Wellington Place at the time in search of greener pastures with larger running space for my pooch. The assets, both tangible and intangible, came with me.
As I was leaving work one day, I received a phone call from a mobile number. Unlike blocked numbers, I tend to answer unknown numbers, particularly mobile numbers. I have a very strict policy with blocked numbers; if you don’t want to identify yourself, I don’t want to answer. Anyway, on the other end was a gentleman by the name of Larry O’Driscoll (LOD). A transcript of the conversation can be found below. If would prefer to hear me act it out, click below:
LOD: Hello is that Paul Stenson
Paul: It sure is! Who is this?
LOD: My name is Larry O’Driscoll. I believe you have some assets belonging to Moreland Investments Ltd.?
Paul: What company are you calling from? You are ringing me from a mobile phone, you know that?
LOD: As I said my name is Larry O’Driscoll. I collect business assets on behalf of my clients.
Paul: Well I am sorry but the assets I have belong to my company, not Moreland Investments. I am still dealing with Sean K*****y in relation to this.
LOD: What is the nature of your dealings with Sean K*****y?
Paul: Take care mate.
Asking me what was the nature of my dealings with Sean? Is he for real? I would have actually kept speaking to this man, but getting personal like that? Fuck that for a game of soldiers.
Needless to say I wrote Sean an email warning him about this dude. See below:
As I had moved out of my house, I guess I had escaped from LOD. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that he probably called around to my ex-home to try to physically strip me of the assets, using extreme force. I’d say he would have been armed with either a crowbar or a baseball bat. Something blunt. A sharp object wouldn’t have been his style. That would have been far too easy. LOD needed a challenge when he was faced with the task of beating the shit out of me.
LOD seemed like the roughest of the rough. I’d say he was associated with Martin Cahill in some way. Certainly from the same school, probably from the same family. I must say I write about him with a large degree of trepidation. You’d think I might be scared about posting love letters from Arthur’s Cock and Everyone Shites? Not a chance. But writing about LOD in my blog; a whole different story altogether. In fact, there are droplets of wee wee coming out of my willy intermittently as I write this section.
I am firmly of the opinion that LOD will try to murder me when he reads this. If you are reading this LOD, please be advised that I have a three year old Doberman who is currently undergoing both defence AND attack training. In addition (and far more impressive in my mind), I hold a Purple belt in Kenpo Karate. Approach me at your peril, with extreme caution.
One morning after I woke up from a nightmare in which I was being kneecapped by LOD, I was eating my breakfast whilst creeping on somebody’s pics on Facebook (as you do). What I saw in my news feed made me nearly choke on the piece of wholemeal toast I was masticating. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Take a look:
It looked like my ex partners had completely changed their approach to delivering grinds. They had introduced topless teachers.
I admit, this was not something I had thought of when I was coming up with ideas for the company. So I thought “fair fucks to them, they may have a chance now”. Even if BS was still at the helm, this kind of semen change……I mean……sea change, would certainly ensure that their business would improve, if not thrive, forevermore. However, when I went over to the actual website to see the new line up of big boobed beauties in action, they were nowhere to be seen. The staff-room was still full of boring, non-descript, lacklustre, glasses-wearing, check shirt sporting, teachers from Ashfield College. No tits. No cocks. No action. No point.
It turned out that someone had hacked into the Facebook account and was bringing the expression ‘taking the piss’ to a whole new level. I wanted to make passionate love to this person, let alone shake their hand. To this day I don’t know who the hacker is. If you are reading this, hacker, please make yourself known to me. I would like to buy you an abundance of pints.
Some time later, I was on the OnlineGrinds.ie website to see how out of date it was. When I say out of date, I am not referring to the general design of the site; we all know that BS was going for the vintage look here (which he pulled off very well). I am talking about the site content itself. I was curious to see whether BS was spending any more time on the project now than he did when I was there. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to find any evidence of this. Indeed, it doesn’t look like he has worked on OnlineGrinds.ie at all since Easter. If you look at the site today, the 6th of July 2014, you will still see the words ‘New’ and ‘Easter’ on the homepage. Brilliant first impression for first time visitors to OnlineGrinds.ie.
Anyway, while I was on the site, I took a trip down memory lane and clicked into the Student Ambassador Program (SAP) page. The SAP was a scheme I set up where students would receive cash for spreading the word about our company. As a Irish Indo journo once said, we were “injecting entrepreneurship into the secondary school system with this innovative scheme”.
We had a video embedded on the SAP page with yours truly explaining how the program worked. For reasons of nostalgia (as opposed to vanity), I clicked in to watched this video that we had recorded nearly 2 years prior. But when the video started playing, a strange empty box appeared in the centre of the screen. I hovered over the box and up popped a very strange, but extremely funny, message. Obviously the hacker had taken control of the YouTube account too. Take a look for yourselves (hover over the box in the centre of the screen – note: this only works on a desktop, you will not see the funny message on a smartphone):
The chances are that this video could have been live on the OnlineGrinds.ie site for weeks if not months, without anybody noticing it. It’s no longer there, however. So I guess a student probably noticed it in the end, in which case it was brought to the attention of BS (who was probably lounging in a hammock in Koh Samui at the time), and it was removed from the page 16 days later. BS wouldn’t have been sharp enough to see something like this himself.
Next Chapter – Breaking News
Results of Cunt Contest
As promised, I am including the results of yesterday’s Cunt Poll in today’s chapter. My sincere thanks to all 32 of you who have voted in the past 24 hours. If you are reading this and didn’t vote at the end of the last chapter, please take a second to go back to cast your vote. The poll will remain open and we will revisit the results at the end of the blog. Remember the poll is set up in such a way that only 1 vote counts per IP address. As much as you’d love to give BS hundreds and thousands of votes, sadly only 1 vote will count per person.
With an astonishing 62% of the votes, BS wins hands down as the biggest cunt in the blog. He received 20 votes. And no, these weren’t all from me. As I said, the poll only allowed 1 vote per person. If I was allowed to vote for BS more than once, his number of votes would have been in 7 figures, at least.
In second place, coming in with a not too shabby 25%, is MBB AKA CUNT. He received 8 votes. This is probably due to the information I ‘elected’ to release about him in yesterday’s episode.
Finally, with 13%, Sean wins the bronze medal. This was the most interesting result for me. There are some of you (4 people) who actually believe that Sean was a bigger cunt than BS and MBB AKA CUNT. I guess some of you think that Sean is a bit like a fart, in that sometimes the silent ones are the most deadly.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to my special friend Sam who has volunteered to bake a cunt cake for BS as a prize for winning the cunt contest. Once the cake is baked and iced I will take a photo and upload it to the blog before we have it couriered over to BS’s apartment. I would also like to congratulate BS on winning this coveted prize and for being the biggest cunt in this blog, and possibly of all time.
Incidentally, somebody viewed the blog yesterday from the Seychelles. If this is you, can you please identify yourself by commenting in the comment box below. Otherwise I will have to assume that BS is off sunning himself (again).
Now, back to the blog.
3K Any Good To Ya?
Weeks pass and still no sign of the legal action I was ‘promised’ in my last paper airplane. I was unsure what was happening. Would I or wouldn’t I have an exciting day in town shopping for a new suit, or would it be business as usual.
On the 21st January 2014, over a month after receiving the Everyone Shites love letter part deux, I received this email from Sean:
So, what the hell did this mean? Sean was obviously willing to give me something, albeit a derisory amount. Otherwise he was going to transfer the assets of OnlineGrinds.ie to his company. Why was this? To what use could these assets be put in his company? The rest of the business; website, goodwill, IP, customer database etc. would still remain the property of Stenson Institute (trading as OnlineGrinds.ie). Why would he separate them? What would he do with the camera and broadcasting equipment ? Was he in cahoots with the dwarves to set up the first dwarf porn website in history? That would be a first, I suppose. Dwarf porn, hmmmmmm. I am becoming sexually aroused even at the thought.
Unsure as to what he was playing at, the insult of offering me €3k overshadowed this question. I replied back saying that I was not prepared to accept this pitiful amount, given the two and a half years work I had put into this company, not to mention the fact that the whole company was my idea in the first place.
EGM – Abrakedabra and Paul Is Gone!
On 27th January 2014, I received the following:
I was confused. Sean & Co. now wanted to transfer the assets AND BUSINESS of OnlineGrinds.ie from Stenson Institute Ltd. to his company Moreland Investments Ltd. But hang on, this is not what he said in his email, nor is it what was outlined in the loan note. He can’t do this? The loan note says his company can have the assets, but it says NOTHING about the business. See relevant section in loan note:
If Sean & Co. were able to take the assets and the business from Stenson Institute and bring it over to Moreland Investments, they could simply pick up from where we left off and run OnlineGrinds.ie without me under the new umbrella of Moreland. It would remove me completely from the equation. I know you are thinking now that I was happy to be removed from the equation completely a few months back, but that was while I still had Learnology! Now Learnology was gone (because of Sean & Co.) and this ‘transfer’ would mean OnlineGrinds.ie would also be ‘taken’ from me.
As you can see in the EGM notice, they were proposing that the sale/transfer would be considered an ordinary resolution of the company. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s simply that the resolution could be passed at the EGM by a simple show of hands. So, Sean, BS and Cillian raise their pinkies and hey presto, Paul vanishes.
This worried me a little. But then I decided to take out the Shareholder’s Agreement to see if I could find any protection for me in here. The Shareholder’s Agreement was a load of legal horse manure. Again a document written in Arabic would be easier to understand. But I managed to pick out a section under which I was protected.
Here was my condom:
I know what you’re thinking and it’s probably along the lines of “What the hell does all that mean?” Well, my understanding is as follows:
In order for the business of the company (never mind the assets, Sean had rightful claim on these) to be sold to Sean’s company, there needed to be approval by the holders of 75% of the issued share capital in the company. As I owned 28.19% of the company, the max they would be able to reach is 71.81% and therefore the sale would not be allowed.
Phew! I was safe! There was no way this could be done.
However, the next day I got another email from Sean with an attachment entitled ‘Termination of the Shareholder’s Agreement’. See below:
The lads were really taking the piss here. How the fuck could they casually decide that the Shareholders Agreement be terminated, in a kind of ‘by the way’ type fashion? Surely this needed approval by me too?
As you can see at the end of the letter, they request my consent to transfer the business over to Moreland Investments. They did not have my consent.
Notwithstanding the fact that they didn’t have my consent, the EGM went ahead and both the assets and business of Stenson Institute Ltd. were transferred to Sean’s company, Moreland Investments Ltd. To this day I don’t believe that the Shareholder’s Agreement was legally terminated and therefore believe that the sale of the business of Stenson Institute, with or without my consent, was also illegal.
The fact of the matter is, the lads knew they were not legally entitled to either (a) transfer the business or (b) cancel the Shareholder’s Agreement. I called my solicitor and asked her could they actually do this. She replied by saying: ‘they can try anything Paul, the question is are you prepared to fight them”. By fighting them, she meant seeking an injunction to prevent them from doing this. I asked her how much this would cost, and she said that I wouldn’t have much change out of €15k.
Sean and BS knew that I didn’t have this kind of money to spare. So, fully aware that what they were doing was against the law, and safe in the knowledge that I didn’t have the financial wherewithal to block them, they went ahead and removed me from the company I founded, and carried on with the company, minus yours truly. I had now lost both Learnology and OnlineGrinds.ie.
Now that they had transferred the assets over to to Moreland Investments (which I admit was legal), they needed to physically get their hands on these assets. But where were they? You guessed right. They were in my gaff.
The tango was a dance I always wanted to learn. Now was a perfect time for me to take up this new hobby.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
This Means War
It was now mid December and I suspected that Sean & Co. were anxious to get into bed with Ashfield, have sexual intercourse (I would call it fornication actually; weren’t they married to me after all) and give birth to their illegitimate baby (launch their business) in January 2014. The knowledge of the Ashfield relationship, and the child they were trying to have out of wedlock, was something I was going to keep as a secret between me and I.
I didn’t send the ‘tell not ask’ email immediately. I decided that there was a lot more time for mischievous hand rubbing and a lot more sweat left in the guys. So, I held my ground, continued to ignore emails and began to mentally formulate the wording of this legendary email I was going to send.
At this point I realised that there were a number of questions I forgot to ask Vito. I think I spent so much time trying not to poo in my pants in his regal office, that I lost sight of these vital questions. In hindsight, there was one question I should have asked after he had given me the nuclear weapon that was his 6 wise words. If I could borrow Marty McFly’s car for a few days and go back in time, I would have followed his 6 words with the reply: “at what price?”.
Was I going to place a value on it or was I going to let them come up with a figure? This was a difficult decision for me. If I aimed too high, I might damage any possibility of a buyout, if I aimed too low, I would be limiting myself if they paid out immediately. So, I decided to leave it wide open.
In reply to an email from Sean saying he needed to make a decision on his next move ASAP, I wrote the ‘tell not ask’ email. I left it open in that I didn’t place a figure on it. Here is the email:
The reply I got marked the first time in two and a half years that I had ever seen any weakness or vulnerability in Sean. You could read in his words that my email had shaken him badly. At least force 7 on the Richter scale. His reply was short, aggressive and full of fire. Here it is:
The thought of going to court excited me. It meant I was going to have to buy a new suit. But I had never really been to court before, so I didn’t know what kind of suit would suit a court appearance. As it wasn’t an everyday occurrence, I wasn’t going to buy a boring black, grey or charcoal suit. This was a special, once off, occasion and it therefore deserved a special, once off suit.
After a bit of research online, I decided I would buy a suit like this for the big day:
Yes, this suit was perfect. Hat and all. Gadaffi was my idle when it came to suit fashion. I was weak at the knees at some of his ensembles. I even considered wearing earphones upside down on the day of my court appearance, just to finish off the look.
But alas, I knew this was just another idle threat on Sean’s part and researching suits online was simply wishful thinking. You can’t blame me though, we all like to fantasise at times, no? When I woke up from my day dream, and the reality of never actually getting the opportunity to sport a getup like this in the High Court hit home, I realised that there was in fact a silver lining to the dark cloud that was reality; I still had another solicitor’s letter to look forward to!
I love a bit of drama. And apart from anything else, the letter would also provide the means to make another paper airplane for my dog to chase. Endless hours of fun…FOR FREE. I was in my element (as was the pooch).
So, a day or two later, the parts for my new paper airplane arrived in the letter box. Here it is:
Here again you can see that the letter was signed ‘Everyone Shites’ rather that the individual solicitor who had written it. Too right though. Could you imagine the strange looks you would get from your pharmacist if you presented a prescription that had been signed by a vet?
Ignore The War
I never had so much fun making a paper airplane in my life. Usually when I play with the dog, I like him to bring me back whatever I have thrown down the garden. In this case, I didn’t want it back. He could eat it, excrete it, dance on it, make a doggy hat out of it, break it up into thousands of pieces and use the pieces as doggy toothpicks over the years, use the letter to taunt the dog next door, and so on and so forth. As long as he was happy, I was happy.
As Sean & Co. were expecting their baby in January, they really needed me gone ASAP. Remember it was mid December, the height of silly season. The last thing they needed was me to fuck around. If I didn’t sign the option agreement, Ashfield would have no comfort in knowing that I “was legally committed to leaving OnlineGrinds.ie” and the deal may fall through. This is why Sean had Daniel O’Donnell send me the second letter. He thought that I would freeze in the head lights and sign the document without hesitation. How wrong was he. But then again, he didn’t know that I was aware of the impending baba.
Despite my serious urge to reply to Everyone Shites saying that the firm of solicitors I was nominating was Saul Goodman and Co., I resisted the urge and ignored the letter completely. I let the 3 days pass to see what would happen. The days soon became weeks and low and behold nothing ever happened. Surprise surprise.
But how long were they willing to wait for me to sign the option agreement before it was too late to launch in January? Would they give in and pay me just before it reached this point? I didn’t have an answer to this question, as no more oops emails were sent. But I was willing to wait and find out.
In any case, it looked like Sean & Co. had no intention whatsoever of taking me to court as (a) it would cost too much and (b) they were much more at fault than I, and being in court would expose their wrongdoings much more than mine (especially because I didn’t have any).
In many ways this is why I have no qualms about writing this blog. The lads are much more guilty than I (you will see why as we get towards the end). This is why I can pretty much push the boat out in terms of what I say, with no fear of legal retribution from their end. Bearing this in mind, allow me to say one thing:
BS, you are, have always been, and will always be, an absolute and utter Bollox.
Writing this blog is far more rewarding than any form of conventional therapy. I recommend it most highly. I only wish I would receive an SL though. I have wagers with my mates that I will receive at least 2, and most probably 63. Whatever I do, I cannot lose this bet.
So guys, can you please get your act together, take out the thumbs that are firmly lodged up your bottoms and send me an SL without delay? Yes I am talking to YOU Arthur’s Cock and YOU Everyone Shites. Please don’t delay now. Good boys. Love you lots.
Before you embark on the journey that is Chapter 16, may I please draw your attention to some of the safety features on board this blog. To hear the safety announcement, click below. If you are in a public place and don’t want people looking at you wondering what the hell you are listening to, you can read the announcement instead. If you want to do both, you can do that too:
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. You are welcome aboard this Steno Airlines flight today from OnlineGrinds.ie to nothing. In advance of this instalment, can I please ask you to ensure that your seat belts are securely fastened for take-off, and that your seat backs and tray tables are in their fully upright and locked position. We may experience some turbulence in today’s chapter, so in order to ensure that you don’t fall off your chair, we recommend that you keep your seatbelt loosely fastened throughout the entire duration of this instalment.
In the highly likely event of your reading something which may make you want to curse out loud, there are two main hands located on your body, one to the left, and the other to your right. Immediately pull your left hand firmly toward your mouth to stop the flow of cursing. Make sure there is some room between each finger on your hand, and breathe normally. If you are travelling with an infant or small child today, secure your hand first then assist your child with your other hand.
Without further ado Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to wish you a very pleasant read, and we hope to see you again on Steno Airlines at some point in the hopefully not too distant future.
Giving no more of a shit than I did before, and pretty much for the craic, I asked Sean if he could send me over the option agreement. I wanted to have a quick goo at it and pass it on to my solicitor to get her take on the situation. Efficiently as ever, Sean emailed me over the agreement. He said he would email me the next day with instructions as to where to sign and how to return the document (if I could simply scan and email, or did I have to physically go in to the offices of Everyone Shites where there would be a grand signing ceremony, followed by a champagne and strawberry reception). I told him I would standby and await further instructions.
When I downloaded the document, I was expecting a one pager; the fucking thing was about ten pages long. The document itself made about as much sense to me as the rationale for creating the agreement in the first place. In fact, if the agreement had been written in (shorthand) Mandarin, I would have probably understood it as much (if not more). So, I emailed the document to my unintelligible drivel interpreter (lawyer) and made paper airplanes out of the hard copy I had printed. I had as much intention of signing the document as I had inviting BS over to mine for tea and cakes.
The next day I got my email of instructions from Sean, which he had just been sent from his lawyer. But here’s where it gets incredibly juicy!
Sean was obviously busy and rushed that day. He didn’t send me a personalised email (which he would normally do), he simply forwarded the email his solicitor had sent him outlining the instructions for me. But what Sean didn’t realise was that he wasn’t only forwarding me one email; he was forwarding me a trail of emails regarding the option agreement and the rationale for drawing up such a malevolent and meaningless document in the first place.
I received the email early in the morning, it was before I had my shower and my Nespresso, and my eyes were still half asleep. The ‘hit’ I got from one piece of information in the email trail was as strong as knocking back ten fortissio lungos (the strongest nespresso available), in one go. Take a look at the following extract from one of the many emails in the trail that Sean sent to his solicitor:
Did one word from the above sentence stand out for you the way it did for me? In fact, to say this word simply stood out and smacked me in the face would be the understatement of the millennium. The word jumped out and head-butted me smack bang in the centre of the nose, with extreme force and ferocity.
It all made sense to me now; this is exactly why they wanted me to sign the agreement. They had started talks long ago (note that Sean says they were in final talks) with Ashfield College, a significant player in the grind school world, and Ashfield needed to know that I was out of the equation before a deal was done. Having me sign the three month agreement would give them this comfort, and if the deal didn’t pan out, the lads could still sue me (and Learnology). I was REALLY going to sign it now.
In all seriousness however, if Sean & Co. were now in final talks with Ashfield, this meant that talks had probably begun many months prior. It was now early November and they still hadn’t accepted my resignation on the 19th October as ‘it didn’t suit them’. So, for all intents and purposes, I was still a director (and obviously a third owner) of the company. Indeed, even if they had accepted my resignation, they had probably been in talks with Ashfield long before I had tendered it.
I had no knowledge of these dealings with Ashfield, let alone being included in them (which was my right as a director and third owner). It’s quite possible that I would have never found out, if Sean hadn’t sent the ‘oops’ email.
Around the time of the option agreement controversy, Sean mentioned that they were in ‘casual talks with a guy who was also called Paul’ about replacing me. He never mentioned anything about being in talks with one of the largest grind schools in Ireland.
This news brought the expression ‘double edged sword’ to a whole new level. If what I had done with Learnology was a sin, the sin they were committing was most certainly of the mortal variety. I did nothing illegal whatsoever, but what the lads were doing was actually against the law. They were excluding me, a third owner, but far more importantly, a director, from their dealings. Maybe the brownies got a hold of both BS and Sean and gave them both sufficient doses of amnesia potion to forget that it was BS who had resigned, not I.
We all know that the letter they sent me amounted to nothing more than a ‘shot across the bow’. These guys didn’t deserve something as nice as that, they deserved a torpedo up their holes. Not one that would simply enter the anal orifice and then make a quick exit through the skull, one that would enter the anus and explode midway through the body. Around the solar plexus region would be perfect, thanks.
If I had a Saul Goodman type of lawyer, I am sure he could take the lads to the cleaners (if he could manage to locate BS, imagine the GPS he would need for that). No doubt he could argue that there are strong grounds for minority oppression here? And that I would have a strong case against the lads under Section 205 of the Companies Act, or something like that? Saul, if you are reading, gimme a call please. Good man, Goodman.
I must admit however, that when I heard about this deal, I did hear the following sound playing somewhere in a teeny weeny area of the deepest recesses of my dark mind. Click play below to hear what I heard:
Buy Me Out Oh Baby Buy Me Out
Having no intention of signing the option agreement (I didn’t anyway) and now equipped with this new piece of information in my back pocket, I decided I would make the lads sweat a bit, while I concocted a plan for my next move. One thing was for sure, they needed me gone.
The longer I waited, the more desperate they got. I started getting bombarded with emails asking when I was going to return the signed agreement, which I duly ignored. In fact, I went to ground completely.
During this period of radio silence, I hadn’t a bull’s notion what to do. So I decided I needed advice. But not legal advice. Business advice. I needed some sound business advice from a savvy businessman (or woman). But not a businessman I went to college with, I needed advice from someone who had been around the block. An aul fella.
On recommendation from a close friend, I met with a wealthy businessman in south Dublin. This man was old school. He had a very grand, old fashioned office with no computer on his large mahogany desk. He wore a rope stripe (not a pin stripe – there is a difference) suit, with a bright red hanky hanging superfluously from his left breast pocket. His hair was slicked back and greasy.
He exuded an aura of ‘you don’t want to mess with me or I’ll sue your fucking ass before you can blink’ tinged with an air of ‘I am so filthy rich I could buy your house with my loose change’. This man meant business. There was no time for fucking about or messing. He wasn’t the kind of guy who did pleasantries so I didn’t dare mention the fine weather. I felt compelled to listen to this man in a similar way to how Fredo Corleone would have listened to Vito. For the purpose of this blog, I am going to refer to this man as Vito.
Vito didn’t talk much. He simply asked me to tell my story. I explained it as best I could, although there was a slight tremor in my voice while doing so. I wasn’t used to dealing with men like this. When I got to the end of the story, Vito replied with six words, and pretty much nothing else. These words were as follows:
(1) Tell (2) Them (3) To (4) Buy (5) You (6) Out.
Note the word ‘tell’. I don’t think the word ‘ask’ actually featured in this man’s vocabulary.
After a deep gulp, a face that would have suggested ‘is that it?’, followed by a nervous smile, I shuffled backwards towards the mahogany office door, never once turning my back on the man (as if he were the queen). He looked at me with an impassive, blank face until I reached the door, without blinking an eyelid or moving a muscle in his leather chair. He then gave me a brief, but confidence-inspiring nod, to which I replied with the words “thanks a million, I really appreciate this”. I then mustered up the strength to open the door (it felt like it was made of lead) with one hand, made a half-hearted attempt at a nervous wave goodbye with the other, and exited the room.
Equipped with these 6 words of supreme wisdom, I left Vito’s stately office premises and headed back to my car. I was going to TELL my colleagues in OnlineGrinds.ie, not ask them, to buy me out. I didn’t have a spring in my step, I had a fucking trampoline.
Next Chapter – Chapter 17: This Means War, Ignore The War
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
Next Chapter – Chapter 13: BS gets mad jeal of my new biz
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