The idea: ion360, my IT firm to provide IT services to KIPP Indianapolis.
The gems: I was awarded a maintenance contract with the school and serviced the school for one year.
The lemon: KIPP did not to renew its contract with ion360 based on cited budget constraints. In connection with the smear campaign from March, KIPP Indianapolis decided to invoke a law suit against almost 18 months after we concluded our relationship. The lawsuit claims ion360 promised “responsive service and rapid resolution” to technology issues and problems, along with 24/7 support, but did not deliver. Yes, they decided I didn’t deliver 24/7 support, almost 18 months after services amicably concluded…
The result: The lawsuit was dismissed. Myself or ion360 were not found guilty of any allegations expressed in the lawsuit.
Lesson learned: You must have tightly constructed contracts and always document everything! Invoke terms and time limits on post termination clauses.
The idea: To create a K-8 charter school with robots, wind turbines, Apple technology and a Common Core spiraling curriculum.
The gem: The school was launched with everything I built it for!
The lemon: Someone I entrusted expressed to the board that I defrauded the school out of funds. The allegation came about whilst I was conveniently out of the country for almost 2 weeks. When I arrived back in the US, I was on the news, and was told never to step foot back on school property. I never had the opportunity to defend myself nor was an unbiased investigation rendered.
The result: Of course, it was established (via arbitration) that no such “fraud” occurred and I further left the proceedings net positive. Even though proof was evident, I was removed from management of the school and essentially “erased” as co-founder. It’s now rolling up on 2015 and this is one still troubles me: falsely accused, no opportunity to defend myself and a falsely tarnished reputation. It’s all good – no one can ever take from me the fact that I built something amazing for the babies!
Lesson learned: Invest in a legal team that will establish a corporate structure to protect founding interests, deeply research the team you build with and create a solid culture. Be clear on revenue allocations, capital expenditures and always use the best fiduciary management practices.
The idea: To create the first web based, cloud hosted, subscription baed SIS (Student Information System) that aggregated student data, educator data and operational data
The gem: I got an investor!
The lemon: I contracted with my long time “friend” to write the software. He never wrote the software and he netted approximately $40k of my investment funds.
The result: I had to pay back the investor to avoid being sued. The software never launched and my “friend” relocated to Costa Rica at the time.
Lesson learned: Even when working with friends, you still need contracts! Establish payment and project milestones as well as build in contingency and exit strategies. Use weighted charges back and incentive clauses for missed/completed deadlines by vendors.
The idea: To open a retail shipping store that offered design services.
The gem: I was able to successfully open two of these stores.
The lemon: I was self funded (no investors) and I didn’t entertain a full fiscal cycle on the first store before I opened the second.
The result: I ran out of money and closed them both.
Lesson learned: Build detailed financial models with contingency and exit strategies. Be patient!