Chamberlin entered the lobby and offered Martin his hand.
"Mr. Dial? It's a pleasure. Is there something troubling you about this painting?"
"Remarkable," said Martin. "Is this an original work?"
"Oh, quite. It's a portrait commissioned by an ancestor of our founder, a nobleman by the name of George Ripley. He was quite a man of note of his time, regarded as the premier alchemist of his generation, I'm told."
"Alchemy you say?" Martin asked. "And what about the woman?"
"Ah yes, not only was his consort a great beauty, she was also quite skilled in the dark science herself. In fact, some say their union foretold a great confluence of the two alchemic disciplines, as it were."
"There were two? I thought alchemists were all about turning things into gold."
"Truly. That cover story is how they gained both their sponsorship from the ruling class and their heretic immunity from the Church. While the gold alchemists tried to cook mercury into gold, the spiritual alchemists were primarily consumed with perfecting the human soul."
"And this woman, she was a spiritual alchemist?"
"Oh yes. In fact her writings were widely published in her husband Nicolas' name in order to boost his standing in the royal court. But when her affair with Ripley came to light, the resulting scandal exposed Nicolas as a Charlatan. He leaped off a cliff, I'm afraid."
Martin regard the painting for a moment. "And what became of her?"
"Well, Jennine Flamel reportedly vanished into her alchemic practice in search of redemption. In fact, her last writings claimed she had discovered the Philosopher's Stone."
Friday, August 25, 2006
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The offices of Ripley Cryogenics were quite modest on the outside, their brushed-aluminum sign not withstanding. As he entered, Martin could hardly help from checking out the goth receptionist. Black clothes, hair, and lipstick was something he was not accustomed to in the financial district.
"Hello." she said in a heavy English accent. "May I help you?"
"Martin Dial. I'm a here to see Mr. Chamberlin."
"Very good, sir. Please have a seat and I'll fetch him straight away."
Martin took a seat on one of the leather chairs in the corner. The room had a glowing fireplace and it occurred to Martin that one could settle in here and read a good book if necessary. He could detect a tinge of cigar smoke and the glass case on the wall was stocked with Scotch.
Then Martin noticed the portrait on the wall. It was an old oil painting of a handsome young couple in noble clothes. He took a step closer and felt his breath escape him. The brass plate beneath read "George Ripley, 1475" and the woman in the picture was the spitting image of the newly resurrected Jennifer Flamel.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
"And all so the stone to quicken the dead
All and some without fable."
-- The Ripley Scroll
Martin hung up the phone and put his head down on the desk. His suspicions had been correct; none of the angels were biting.
"I don't care if you can bring back woolly freakin' mammoths," one surly investor had told him. "Show me paying customers."
He looked at the calendar; There were only 25 days left and this company was little more than the laughable prospectus that was sitting on his desk. Sure, the twins' prospectus had come up with some astounding market data on longevity spending, but this was no wrinkle cream. All those dollars were about postponing the inevitable or just looking a little better on the way down.
Culper rapped on his door and Culper barely looked up as he entered the office.
"That bad, huh?"
"It would seem that way," Martin grumbled. "Ito tells me they depleted their resources with Jennifer. It's a true miracle, but sleeping beauty is not exactly the success story that we need right now."
"And without funding, you're in a bit of a code freeze, aren't you?"
"What's that you just said?"
"Only that your stuck without the money, you know?"
"No, not that. The code freeze. Like cryogenics cold freeze. Maybe I've been talking to the wrong people."
"You lost me, Martin. Where are you going with this?"
"VCs are the kinds of guys who would sell their mothers--not bring them back from the dead. No. If there is any pre-money out there for the New Life process, maybe it's the with people who froze themselves waiting for it to be possible!"
Thursday, August 17, 2006
The twins were uncharacteristically quiet as Martin told them about the remarkable resurrection of Jennifer Flamel. They looked at each other a few times but held their tongues.
"So tell us more about this 'new life' process you mentioned," said Reed.
Martin shifted in his chair. "Mr. Ito is very tight-lipped about the process. Apparently it involves the use of precious metals and rare compounds. The amounts can vary greatly depending on the individual, but that's all I know."
"This is just too much," Ryan remarked. "I mean, can they bring anybody back from the dead?"
"No. But apparently there is some kind of litmus test that they can perform once given a name."
"Can we talk to this Mr. Ito?" Reed asked "It may sound crazy, but I think we need to prepare an FAQ for potential investors. If an answer is proprietary, he can just say so."
Just then the receptionist poked her head in the door. "Mr. Dial, I'm sorry to interrupt, but you have an urgent call. It's Jennifer's mother on line one."
Martin excused himself and hurried down the hall to pick up the call in his office.
"Martin? Oh thank goodness you're there! It's Jennifer, what have they done with her?"
"Whoa, wait, wait, Esther. Slow down. What's going on?"
"I went to put flowers on her grave today, it's gone! Martin, her grave is gone!"
Martin's head was racing. Had Mr. Ito exhumed her grave, perhaps?
"Esther, are you saying someone dug up Jennifer's grave?"
"No! No! You don't understand! This is going to sound crazy but I went there today and everything is rearranged. Martin, there are no graves on that side of the hill anymore."
"Esther, you must have gotten disoriented. How could someone move all the graves on the hillside?"
"I'm telling you right now; Jennifer's graveyard is now a stand of trees. And Martin, they've got to be a hundred years old!"
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
"One hundred million?" Reed asked.
"AS IF I'd pay that for you!" they said to each other simultaneously.
"New Life customers will gladly pay that amount," Martin said indignantly. "We are talking about a miracle here, after all."
"And why are you here explaining this to us, anyway?" asked Ryan. "Where are the principles? Where is this Resurrection Ronco coming from?"
"They wish to remain anonymous, though their reasons for this are unclear." Martin replied. "The firm will be acting on behalf of the New Life Foundation in exchange for an outstanding number of shares."
"So you run the business then?"
"Yes. The NLF will actually render the service as subcontractors and we will run all the fundraising, day-to-day business, and finance. This will, of course, be masked behind a wall of secrecy to protect the New Life process."
"And what is it that you need from us?" asked Ryan.
Martin looked down at the binder in front of him. "I need a prospectus that will get us some angel funds. The prototype did not go quite as planned."
"Prototype? You mean, they've already brought somebody back?"
"Not precisely. But unless I can raise $100 Million of my own in the next 30 days, they won't be able to give her a second try."
Monday, August 14, 2006
Sighing as he entered the office tower, Martin checked his watch with the dread of having to meet with the Beldar twins. Humphreys had insisted on bringing them in to work on Ito's business plan, and he had no doubt they would be a huge pain in the ass for the entire process.
The lobby was forgivingly empty when he stepped off the elevator. Too early for the receptionist he thought. The twins always insisted on starting their meetings at 7:00 in the morning.
He found his mug and grumbled to himself about the task at hand. The least they could do was make the freaking coffee for what we're paying them.
The twins were of course at their places already. Coffee in hand, Martin entered the conference room and sat down at the head of the table without a word. Here it comes.
"You look a little droopy, old boy."
"I hope you're ready, because..."
"...We honestly have a lot of questions for you on this one."
"Look," said Martin. "We're going to do this debriefing in sequence. I'm going to talk and you two are going to shut up and take notes, alright?"
"We have names you know," replied the Baldar on his left. "I'm Reed and he's Ryan."
"Bullshit!" Martin countered. "You're Ryan and he's Reed."
"And you're no fun anymore."
"Whatever. Just keep in mind we need a draft of this prospectus by Tuesday at the latest."
"In that case, how about you let us start with our Q&A?"
Martin relented. He knew they'd never let him get through his first slide otherwise.
"OK, what are we calling this startup?" Reed asked.
"NLF: New Life Foundation."
"Oh that's cute. And who is your target market?"
"All dead people?" Reed asked.
"Certainly not," replied Martin. "In this case, the dead fall into two categories."
"Of course!" said Ryan. "Either you want them to stay dead or you want them back, right?"
"Not precisely, guys," Martin said. "The number we can bring back is small and the cost is correspondingly high." He paused for effect. "We all could think of people we would want to bring back, but how many would be worth the price tag of $100 million dollars?"
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Jennifer looked at Martin with a bit of panic in her eyes. He nodded at her slowly with a look that said he knew what he was doing. Comb-over and his associates just sat there stunned.
"I won't deny that it's great fun to talk about the possibilities of a program that brings all things to all people. However innovative your code might be, you still don't have anything that even resembles a fundable company at this point.
"If we go public we could attract the talent and experience to do just that, could we not?" Comb-over asked incredulously.
"Ah, that's the rub. You can't just do an initial public offering and fill in the details later." Martin stood and walked over to the whiteboard. "Jennifer, if I may?"
"Lead the way, Mr. Dial."
"Right. Well, guys, here are the typical funding stages that a startup moves through over the course of its life. First we have seed financing. At this point, the venture is still in the idea formation stage and its product or service is not fully developed. That would be you guys, I'm thinking. The founder is given a small amount of capital to come up with a working prototype. Do you have a working prototype, by the way?"
"We have several modules of code built." said Comb-over. "So you're saying that we could get venture capital at this point?"
"No, VCs don't generally fund this stage. In most cases, the money has to come from the founder's own pocket or from family and friends. On rare occasions, you might get an angel investor to pony up.
"So if I can scrape up enough to get the prototype built, then what?"
"Then comes startup financing and first-stage financing. When the company is in business for a couple of years, VCs tend to get involved and you move on to second and third-stage financing, then on to bridge financing on finally on to the IPO. Very few companies reach the bridge and IPO stages. It all depends."
"I know this all seems very discouraging," said Jennifer. "But we're in the business of helping the right ventures get through it. If you'd like, my man Culper could take a look at your code and offer up his analysis."
"That would be good," said comb-over. "But without the VC funding, it sounds like we're dead before we even begin."
"VCs are like vampires," Martin replied. "They don't feed on the dead."
Sunday, August 06, 2006
The three men in the conference room looked uncomfortable in their white shirts and ties. The big one with the comb-over was obviously the leader.
"Miss Flamel, thank you for seeing us today."
"My pleasure," Jennifer said, nodding to the others. "I've brought in an analyst from New York to look at your prospectus. This is Martin Dial."
Martin felt his chest tighten as he decided to play along. "I'm afraid I don't have a hard copy with me."
Comb-over slid him a copy and started his pitch. "If I may, I'd like you all to take a breath and think for a moment: What is it, exactly, that people are looking for on the Net?"
Jennifer piped up first. "Information, products, communication, and interaction."
"Yes, of course," replied comb-over, smiling. "All these are new things that people seek. But what about the things we've lost--possessions, pets, or loved ones that can not be replaced? Until now, the Net has only offered us a means to acquire distractions from what we truly miss."
"So you're offering a virtual pet?" Martin asked.
"Not just any pet, Mr. Dial, your pet, complete with it's own unique personality just as you remember it. The Memento software that we've devised can replicate the "posessional" experiences of a lifetime."
"And how is this knowledge acquired?"
"It builds on shared knowledge. That's the beauty of Memento. Say you were fond of your first dog. By answering interview questions, you help the system create a custom animal from our database of common breed characteristics. The more people who subscribe, the more complete and varied our models become."
"We're getting a little ahead of ourselves here, I'm afraid," Jennifer injected. "I mean, why would anyone subscribe just to bring back their dog? It sounds like a one-time transaction to me."
"Oh no," Comb-over smiled. "One's personal possessions or pets are just the bait where we bring back your memories to a much more vivid state. For our subscription business model, we're counting on people wanting to experience the memories of others."
Friday, August 04, 2006
He arrived ten minutes early at the firm, his suit crisp and his shoes shined for the interview. The reception area was modest, but it had some nice touches like marble floors and stunning piece of art signed by someone named Brett Whiteley. What struck Martin about this particular piece was the quote inscribed on the brass plate beneath it: "Art is the thrilling spark that beats death - that's all."
Martin rubbed his chin and felt a chill as the door opened behind him. Maybe it was the room or the painting or just the subtle anxiety of interviewing, but he felt like this moment was a replay of a dream.
When Jennifer walked into a room, men stopped what they doing just to look. But when she spoke with that gravelly voice of hers, men pretty much forgot what they'd been doing.
"Martin Dial? I'm Jennifer Flamel." She offered her hand and gestured towards a glass conference room door. "Please. This way."
Jennifer walked hurriedly down the hall and Martin lengthened his stride to keep up with her. She had to be pushing five foot eleven, he thought. Very nice.
"Follow my lead," she said over her shoulder. "These guys have some hot code, but they don't even know what pre-money is."
She grabbed the door handle and spun to meet his eyes. "Are you ready?"
"What about the interview?"
"This is the interview, Mr. Dial."