I started Platform Management in 2001. October 2001 to be clear. If you’re astute you might realize that it was not a great time in history to be starting a new endeavor. One month after the attacks on 9/11 I was putting out a shingle for a new management company in the Christian Music Industry. It wasn’t that I was especially spiritual and intuited the Lord calling me to launch Platform. To the contrary, the company that I launched a couple years earlier with some friends was flaming out in the most spectacular of forms.
In the late 90’s someone in the high tech space with an idea and even a half-baked resume could score multiple millions of dollars from VC companies. So you now had an idea, a dude, and a lot of cash. Their first obstacle as a newly funded company was building out a leadership team of people with very specific technical skill sets and abilities. The money was flowing in the Bay Area and we had this idea that a head hunting firm focused specifically on that area, and the high salaries that were being handed out, could be very successful. We were almost right.
Along with 3 friends we started just such a company called Shikare. “Shikari” is a Hindi word for big game hunter. In the spirit of cleverness and in celebration of the “new ecommerce economy” we added an e at the end. We were headhunters that focused specifically on wireless application and other software companies in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley area. Our business model was to approach the abundance of recently funded high tech companies and offer to help them build out their leadership teams.
It was our job to find the well guarded, highly valued, uniquely skilled folks in companies like Cisco and Price Waterhouse Coopers and talk them into taking a gig with our client. It is one of the only industries where my skills as a talent agent in the music industry would come in handy. I was trying to sell the talents of a person who thought they were worth more than they were to someone who thought they were worth less than they were.
We had received an interesting amount of cash up front in the form of seed funding as well as 100,000 pre IPO shares in the company that funded us. Our compensation would be somewhere between 20-30% of their first year salaries. We took this in a combination that was usually half cash and half stock options. These were Pre IPO options with no vesting period. We had a very reasonable intention and realistic expectation of becoming wealthy.
I don’t know that I ever articulated it, but part of my motivation, which seemed so noble at the time, was that when I became wealthy, then I could retire and pursue ministry full time; never having to worry about money. I could just imagine what it would be like to be financially secure, and then have the ability to serve God without a care. It’s embarrassing when I look back on it to see how full of crap the idea was. I mean seriously, not a single disciple or early church guy set out with that idea. It’s a perfectly American idea, but not remotely Biblical.
The problem was we were a little late to the party. March of 2000 was when we received our funding. It was also, coincidentally the peak of the Nasdaq run. The air in the dot-com bubble had started to leak. As it is with many bubbles, the majority of us were blissfully unaware of the problems that loomed ahead. A domino effect had begun.
Investors had finally come to their senses. Companies like “Excite@Home” or “Flooz” or “Pets.com” had to be able to make money in order to make money. This “new economy” was not new at all. The companies started folding by the minute. The stupid sock puppet from the pets.com commercial was in hiding.
The hard to find talent for our clients were suddenly in great abundance. The folks that were almost impossible to find, were suddenly looking for jobs. The CEO of a company that we worked with told me, “Darren, I like you, so I’m gonna shoot you straight. It would be a better use of my money to stand on the roof and throw it down to poor people than to retain you guys. I’ve got piles of resumes on my desk.”
And then, 9/11 happened. The preponderance of our customers and clients were of a Middle East descent. In the climate that followed 9/11 the country had changed and with a majority of our business being done with folks who were considered suspect by default, it was the final bloody nail in our coffin.
Those coveted pre IPO stock options were completely worthless. They would have been just as valuable had I used them to paper the walls in my bathroom. We split what money was left and went home.
It was during this time that I realized my only option was going back to the Christian Music business that I had left. So on a wing and a prayer I launched Platform Artist Management. I remember saying at the time. “you know it’s always been pretty easy to know in the past when it was time to move on from a company I started, we were out of money. Watch God let this company be successful and see if I’ll walk away from it then”. Those are words that are ringing in my ears as God is unpacking this vision for Conduit; Church.
Platform Artist Management happens to be successful. In the middle of a down economy, and the music industry as a whole being crushed, our little management firm is doing well. And of course, it’s now that God would ask me to walk away.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking for pity nor am I looking for props. This is no sacrifice. Not that I won’t miss it, not that I won’t miss the financial security. But when I consider all that Jesus has done for me, and when I consider what awaits me and my family in eternity, this isn’t a sacrifice; it’s just obedience. It’s just putting my money where my heart is.
In Ecclesiastes 1 we see the word vanity, which is also translated as vapor in relation to the work and toil done by humans. I learned that money is indeed like vapor. I could see it, I could experience it, but it was ultimately impossible to hold on to, to grasp, it was vapor.
The truth is I still get to pursue ministry full time, and not worry about money. Not because my plan worked and I have an abundance of money, but because I have an abundance of God. I can choose to worry, or I can choose to trust God. I assume I’ll dance with both of those from time to time. Maybe my American dream won’t come true, but dreams aren’t real anyway. They’re ultimately, well, they’re vapor.
Tomorrow night we’re going to dig into Exodus 27. I’m excited to get back to our study of finding Jesus over and over again in this amazing book. We’ll be back at Journey Church at 730pm.
CONDUIT MISSION: thanks to everyone for keeping up with our child sponsorships in Haiti. If God is moving in your heart, please consider signing up at www.conduitmission.org to sponsor one of our kids in Haiti. It’s $32 a month and we can feed, clothe, educate and spiritually mentor a child. And if you want to meet them? Come with me to Haiti in April.