The Fortune With a Curse

I was watching American Greed the other night about a con artist ripping people off by showing pop-up ads about computer virus attack and getting victims to buy their trojan horse software. It reminds me a guy (we’ll label him as Mr. X for privacy reason) I ran into back in 2005 during one of those startup meetup events.

To be clear, Mr. X was not committing a crime like the one documented in the TV show, but his way of doing business is definitely in the grey area.

Mr. X ran an online marketing company selling a specific product. Back then I was running a call center business and he would like to form a joint partnership with my call center on a profit sharing basis. The goal is to close more of his online deals via my call center’s facilities.

In terms of making money, I got to admit Mr. X was a genius. He started his business back in 2003 in his one bedroom apartment with a computer and an internet account. By 2005, he already made himself a very sizable fortune where he happily spent on expensive cars and a number of luxurious condo and vacation home.

As part of the “roadshow” in trying to get me onboard, he drove me around with his latest mercedes to one of his celebrity properties. What I saw in front of me was a successful entrepreneur who was looking for the right partner to grow his business. Everything sounds pretty legit so far.

However, as I did my due diligence, my gut was telling me something was not right.

For those who were familiar with the evolution of internet marketing probably know, back in early 2000, the online marketing regulations were not that well developed, so Mr. X managed to take advantage of a few loopholes to gain his company an unfair advantage to exploit a particular market segment very effectively. The end result was that the company made truckloads of money, but also generated a growing number of very unsatisfied customers.

With a few google searches and going through a number of complaints in details, I decided to pass on this tempting joint partnership opportunity.

Since then, I haven’t heard from Mr. X, nor looked him up to find out how his business was doing. It was not until last year I talked to a friend who happened to be one degree apart from Mr. X. It turns out X’s company was shut down. Prior to that, it was also under the investigation of FTC. It was not a total surprise to me, but at that moment, I felt grateful for trusting my gut instinct.

Look around, there are many rich people around us. They all have their very own recipes to generate wealth. However, when we dig deeper into the details of those recipes, some of them are made from toxic ingredients that we definitely want to stay away from. And if we follow through the life of those recipe owners, most of them are probably not what we would like to live by.

The success of a business is measured by the number of satisfied customers it has. Any wealth that is not generated from this basic core principle may very well be cursed at the end.


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