The rags-to-riches story of a high tech startup company in Silicon Valley.
Company name: Zyxonix Industrial Technology (ZIT)
A running joke is that no one knows exactly what we're building including the employees, who only know glorified high-tech buzzwords -- it's "microprocessor controlled," "parallel processing," "integrated circuit intensive," etc.
Chapter 1. The Interviews
One company thought I wasn't aggressive enough, even after I lectured them on marketing. Another company liked "how I presented myself" even though I was hung over and didn't say a word.
I interviewed with the President, the Founder, the Texan, the Project Leader, and the VP of Marketing. They fired questions at me. I thought about what I really wanted to say, but I told them what they wanted to hear. For example:
Them: "What is your biggest asset?"
What I wanted to say: "My dick. My tool. My sword, Excalibur! Sixteen glorious inches of raw, hard, meat, the mere sight of which turns the coolest bitch to warm Jell-O."
What I actually said: "My ability to communicate exactly what I am thinking clearly and unambiguously."Them: "Why did you leave your last job?"What I wanted to say: "Lots of fucking assholes..."
What I actually said: "To seek out new life, uhh... new opportunities."
As I got interviewed by the characters in charge of the company, this introduces them to the readers.
The Founder -- he talked the entire time. I said nothing, but nodded seriously. The Texan -- he made bad jokes but I laughed; he liked me.
The Hacker -- he worked in a very cluttered office. I waded through papers, textbooks, printouts, etc. He was playing "Mummy's Lair" on his terminal. I got him out of a tough situation in the game; he liked me.
The Project Leader - asked in-depth questions while smiling. Something about him I didn't like but couldn't place it exactly. I solved a problem in a way he doesn't understand which makes him mad but he covered it up, badly.
The President -- he was in an organized, neat, conservative office. He talked about adjusting to the startup environment. He said he was dressing much more casually as he sat in a 3-piece suit. I was puzzled but said nothing.
I was supposed to meet Steve but he didn't show - he had an important meeting. He remains a phantom throughout the novel -- someone who is both revered and feared, but no one ever sees him.
Chapter 2. Pre-design
There was an unending flow of documents to read and understand. Things to be evaluated. People to be hired. I talked to salesmen who always told me they could lower the prices.
My friend, Mark was interviewed for a position in the company, at my recommendation. Mark was a brilliant engineer, a very cool guy, great with the ladies, and a good friend of mine.
A headhunter recommended "Animal". Animal was a very smart guy, but he had a curiously spotted record of quitting companies on short notice. He was a quiet person.
I got invited to play racquetball with the project leader who had been very chummy. He told me of the time he hit his professor with the ball on purpose. "Ah, those were the days." I began to worry about working for him.
Chapter 3. Design begins
More people were hired. Intense work began. It started slowly. There were lots of meetings at first, and we discovered all of the individual personalities through their interactions. A rift grew between the hardware and software developers. A rift grew between the project leader and me. The Texan called me into his office and asked me my opinions. I told him that moral was suffering badly. He recommended a beer bust.
Chapter 4. The beer bust.
The "beer bust" was very formal and took place at a fancy restaurant. I sat down. The President loosened his tie and unbuttoned his coat in order to show how informal he can be. Afterwards, Mark and I went to the Rustlers nightclub - lots of yuppies "going wild." A nerdy couple on the dance floor. A hippie and his girlfriend in bright red and dark black look out of place. A bald guy in a three-piece suit in his late forties or fifties dancing with all the fat women. I talked about how I didn't want to end up like him but feared that I would. I drank heavily and got lots of funny rejections from women. A strange woman asked me to dance. Mark met some beautiful redhead who tried to pick him up. He figured it's his responsibility to take me home. "Besides," he said, "it would have been too easy."
Chapter 5. Design continues
I went to the bank to an ATM. The machine put me through increasingly bizarre steps of pushing buttons and entering information before it finally said, "In order to receive cash... Stand on your head and cluck like a chicken!" A hacker had obviously screwed up the system. Just a typical day in Sunnyvale.
The pressure increases. Lots of long hours. Animal began showing signs of strangeness and emotional instability. The project leader started becoming more and more of an asshole. Mark and I went to the St. James Infirmary, a dive bar, where we discussed our philosophies of life. The bar was rowdy. The floor was covered with sawdust and peanut shells and beer spills. The people all looked like biker types. Many were actually engineers and technicians and secretaries. A strange girl danced up to me and asked me to dance.
Chapter 6. Pressure
The design work continued. The pressure mounted. Schedules slipped. We were all working lots of hours and sleeping little. There was friction at work between people.
Chapter 7. Debug
Animal went crazy. He brought a gun in one day and started shooting the place up. I was in his office. I got caught in the middle. The President tried to talk him out of it. He almost succeeded. The Texan wrestled him to the ground.
He was taken to a funny farm and never seen again.
Lots of pressure, lots of tension. I began questioning my motives, my life, my goals. Is it worth it? Death at an early age. Mark recommended a trip to "The City," San Francisco. We got "punked out." Mark looked good. I felt like everyone knew I'm just faking it -- trying to look punk. I drank heavily. I met a beautiful Swedish girl and we make a date.
Chapter 8. A Date
I have my date with the Swedish blonde. We went to an expensive restaurant. I spent lots of money. She talked all night about sexual freedom in Sweden vs. repression in America. I got horny. At the end of the evening she said that it's good to have just friends, too. "Just like you and me. Right?" "Right." Shit!
Chapter 9. Alpha Site
The alpha site product was released. This is the product that gets released internally in the company for people to use and find problems. There were lots of problems. Long hours and lots of crazy antics.
Chapter 10 Beta Site
The beta site product was released. This is the product that gets released externally to select customers, for them to use and hopefully not find problems. There were lots of problems. More long hours and more crazy antics.
Chapter 11. Product Release
The product is released to the world. We all held our breaths.
Chapter 12. Going Public -- IPO
It is a couple years later. We are all waiting around. Someone is on the phone to a stockbroker to find out the price of the stock. The company has become larger. Some people have moved into management. We're told the price, but the reader isn't. The reader knows that the price could be low (hardly worth the effort) or high (we're millionaires).
The President goes back to work.
The hacker says, "Hmmm..." and goes back to his terminal.
The punker heads out to a local club for a couple drinks and some heavy thrashing.
I pick up my serious girlfriend and we go back home to make love the rest of the day.
And Steve, the never-seen owner, gets his picture on the cover of Newsweek. Again.