Scriptel: How NOT to run a tech startup

Have you signed a little screen when you bought something with a credit card? I invented that.

There’s an old joke from a century ago: “How do you make a small fortune in aviation? Start with a big fortune.” Imagine turning 26 million dollars into $50,000. This is that story.

Warning: This is my experience, as best as I can remember. I didn’t change the names of either the guilty or innocent. I also include deep bits of the technical stuff. If someone wants to make a movie or TV show of this, I’ll be glad to gloss over it when I write the screenplay.

This ever-growing document is dedicated to the many customers and employees that got ripped off by Scriptel.

The End
I was sitting in a small conference room with three other people. No one knew who I was. I was there in the beginning. I would witness the end.

The auctioneer started his weird chant at $50,000. “Going, going, gone!” The successful, and only, bidder handed a cashier’s check to the sheriff, and Scriptel was gone.

None of the other founders were present, having taken their money and run long ago.

I kept the coffee cup.

Chapter 0 – The Beginning
My phone rang. It was Phil Schlosser. Phil had been my adviser at Ohio State University while I was working on my master’s degree. I had no idea why he was calling. I had just started my first job, and thought I had put OSU in the rear view mirror.

Phil said that he had an idea: create some technology, patent it, and sell the whole thing to IBM (this would be Microsoft or Google today). He said that he needed someone who could build hardware and program it.

Chapter 1 – The Three Caballeros
My first job was in Marion, Ohio, about an hour’s drive north of OSU. Being young, I had lots of midnight oil to burn.

Phil had partnered with Nick Venetis, a fraternity brother of his. Nick said he didn’t know anything about technology, but he was going to be our sales and marketing person.

Phil came up with the idea: we would build a wireless fire alarm system. This seemed like a great idea, especially after the MGM Grand hotel burned down the ground in Las Vegas.

So, we went to work. I had played around with power-line lamp control modules, know as the X10 system, later to be marketed by Radio Shack [rest in peace] as “Plug and Power”. It seemed to me that we could connect a smoke detector to an X10 transmitter. There would be a X10 receiver that would display a room number on a screen. We only had three “rooms”.

Our resources were generously provided by parts “borrowed” from OSU. We promised ourselves that we’d repay OSU, but that never happened. That was a foreshadowing of the many broken promises of the future.

One of the Scriptel digitizers is at the Computer History Museum. US patents 4,523,654 and 4,456,787 list me as its co-inventor.

future chapters:
differential comparison
marketing contract
new person, a new product
Katie McEwan
electronic paper
dark gray on light gray lcd displays
digitizers: no transparent
indium/tin oxide

first round financing
big salaries, buy lots of stuff
begin manufacturing

prior art

Exit memo

paycheck first, employees later
digikey parts

dosbuttons, pendos
boston computer museum

color displays in California

Jim France
“slinky” girlfriend

scriptel corp, scriptel holding

vance Holloway

Author: Stan

I was born in Ohio, and have lived most of my life here. I was into technology from an early age: math, chemistry, physics, electronics, amateur radio, flying, scuba diving. My business is an extension of my techological interests. I love what I do.

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