• Posts

    “This Storm Is You” and Other Thoughts After a Year in M&A Limbo

    I spent the last 9 months working on selling my previous startup, Mattermark, and now it’s finally done. This blog is more than 10 years old, and I’ve been blogging for nearly 20 years now… so the break from writing and sharing my life has been strange, but good. Now I’m ready to get back to it, and I find myself transformed by life (this is always happening, but it’s often so gradual you don’t notice it) and having a hard time recognizing my old voice, my old “face” in the digital sense. Writing here again, logging into the WordPress console and skimming hundreds of stubbed out potential posts I haven’t touched in quite awhile, is like looking into a mirror after spending a year shipwrecked.

    I love Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s construction of surreal metaphors for transformation, and in many of his books he builds up real storms to  unleash a metaphor of lasting change in the course of his character’s lives and selves. From his novel Kafka on the Shore, this passage has stuck with me and is a way of conveying what I know about what has happened to me in the past year:

    “Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

    And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

    And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

    I could write a whole book about selling the company and still not convey what is captured in this quote. There are the logistical details on doing a M&A deal, but the more interesting part to me is the psychological journey of spending years of one’s life creating something, and then realizing it is time to let it go.

    In 2017 faced the true finitude of my own life, of my time here to do the things I find personally meaningful. I read everything I could get my hands on to help me make good decisions about what matters, and while I love philosophy there is no single guidebook for effectively bargaining with our finite time on Earth. There is quite a bit of startup mythology to lean on, but when I had been recommended to read The Hard Thing About Hard Things for the tenth time I realized no one really knows what they’re doing, and there is more to it than just how to “do a startup”.

    2017 was about taking control of my story, and I just kept re-learning something I had already figured out in January 2016, when I wrote Overcoming the Tyranny of “Should”:

    “There are a lot of articles telling us what we should do to be good, often formulated to demonstrate how to be more like whoever the hero CEO is. Wake up early. Time block your calendar. Raise now. Get that big valuation so it will be easier to recruit. Everywhere I turn on Medium someone has advice for what I should do, and I tell myself to listen because I want to be open to feedback and I want to learn. But sometimes when I am able to quiet that story down, I catch myself listening because it is just so much easier to have someone else figure out what I should do.

    “I’m tired. Could you bargain with fate for me please? Thanks.”

    What I’d already learned, but had a hard time holding onto, is that you can’t delegate these big decisions to someone else’s checklist of “10 Ways to Know It’s Time to Sell Your Startup”.

    What I’m Doing Now

    While I dearly miss my friends and my City I’ve loved spending time outside the Bay Area, because it is giving me the mental space to quiet a lot of the noise I was letting in before.

    We’ve rented a house in Denver and been here almost 3 months already, we have a 6 month old black Lab puppy named ‘Emo’ who loves to nap and play, we’re working on what our marriage can be now that we’re not running a business together, and also taking much more time for our health and fitness.

    Instead of taking a year off, as I had originally planned to do to write a book, I’m working full-time for a mid-stage startup where I am running Product without having to simultaneously run the entire company (which is what I was doing before). I’m reading at a pace of 1-2 books per week, and you can check out my library on my Goodreads profile.

    I hope to keep writing, both on this blog and possibly to restart that book project I mentioned, but I’m not ready to commit to publishing every day. There’s just so much living to do, and so much more time to do it now that I am forcing myself to work normal 40-50 hour weeks! I have 1,000 square feet of finished basement to set up as an art studio, another 20 pounds to lose, a bunch of tickets to concerts (including Emo Nite, Sam Smith, and Odeza!) and several trips planned in the coming months including Disneyland, the French Riviera, and Kevin’s 40th birthday extravaganza in Vegas.

    I’d love for you to follow along with those adventures on my Instagram.

    To my friends, family, team, and others reading this who showed me love and support through this process in 2017 and throughout this crazy startup life — thank you so much for everything, I love you too. I’m ready to move on now, and start creating things again and sharing my life on the Internet like I always have done. I’m also so ready to hang out again, sorry I’ve been a hermit!

  • Posts

    Checking On Predictions & Fantasy VC Portfolios

    On June 8th, 2017 I made a list of 20 companies that looked ripe for Series A… it has been nearly 4 months and I just checked to see how my predictions are going. 1 out of the 20 has announced their Series A so far: ClearMetal announced a $9M Series A from Innovation Endeavors and Prelude Ventures.

    I love to publish picks and then see what happens, and back in February 2014 I shared my fantasy VC portfolio of 7 companies, and then updated it in February 2015 showing a nearly 9.1x* increase in total funding (*excluding the Uber pick) from my initial selection. This group is now at 14x* total funding since my initial selection date, with 2 exits.

    Ugh, nothing like embedding a Google Docs spreadsheet to make me wish I was still working on GitSheet!

    I’ve made enough different prediction posts at this point, not to mention actual investments, where it seems like a good idea to start wrangling them all into one place. Eventually, one spreadsheet. But for now, let’s continue to time travel…

    In June 2013 I flagged 10 Pre Series A Companies to Watch in New York, which included my initial call for Digital Ocean (who had not yet announced any outside funding). Of these companies, 3 raised a Series A, 3 were acquired, 2 shut down, and 2 are still going strong.

    To be continued… there are definitely more of these posts hanging around.

     

     

     

  • Posts

    What Does It Feel Like to Be Married Cofounders?

    when my light’s burn out
    you’re the only one, you’re the only one
    you’re the only one left
    I will answer to
    when my lights burn out
    you’re the only one, you’re the only one
    you’re the only one here
    who can switch out the dud

    honey you’re a patient man
    living in the moment
    everything I am is not everything you wanted but
    here we are side-by-side in bed every single morning
    I am old

    you can’t keep my pace
    and you can’t see the flash beneath my veins
    but you’ve got time for days
    to watch me drift, and sink and swim in a hundred different ways

    when my lights burn out
    you’re the only one, you’re the only one
    you’re the only one left
    I will answer to
    when my lights burn out
    you’re the only one, you’re the only one
    you’re the only one here
    who can switch out the dud

    honey you’re a patient man
    living in the moment
    everything I am is not everything you wanted but
    here we are side-by-side in bed every single morning
    I am old

    you can’t keep my pace
    and you can’t see the flash beneath my veins
    but you’ve got time for days
    to watch me drift, and sink and swim in a hundred different ways

    when my lights burn out
    you’re the only one, you’re the only one
    you’re the only one left I will answer to

  • Posts

    20 Bay Area Startups Ripe for a Series A Investment

    It’s been a couple years since we shifted our product development focus at Mattermark to supporting sales and marketing deal sourcing, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost my love for speculating on which startups are most likely to raise funding next.

    Living in San Francisco these past 8 years, I’ve noticed there are often companies that appear seemingly out of the blue and then raise a boatload of money. This was part of what inspired me to start Mattermark in the first place. Can we detect these companies earlier if we were paying closer attention to data exhaust they produce? If we were watching the web traffic, social media, mobile app downloads, and other signals around companies climb – even from super small numbers at first – could the slope of that growth tell us something about what a hot emerging company looks like in it’s earliest days.

    I’ve spent over 4 years working on exploring these questions now, and it’s endlessly fascinating. Without further ado, here’s my list of Bay Area startups who haven’t announced a Series A funding round yet but should be on every venture capitalists shortlist:

    This list is influenced by growth signals found in Mattermark (which is how I built my initial screen, as explained below) and then editorialized by me, based on a combination of what I think is interesting, trendy, backed back other investors with a track record of getting their seed investments graduated to the next stage. If you feel like your company should have been on this list just go raise a Series A, and prove me wrong!

    Like this comic? Steve Hanov’s blog has a bunch more!

    How I Built My Initial Screen

    Mattermark has ~3K companies tagged with Bay Area and “Pre Series A”, which means they’ve raised some funding by not a Series A. When we increase this filter to also include all Bay Area companies with no known funding (like unannounced seed rounds) that number jumps to ~40K.

    I wrote a Series A benchmarking analysis in January 2015 that determined the average Series A deal is announced when a company is at ~15 employees. I paid attention to companies approaching this size for my selection criteria, and also made sure the net team size had increased at least 1% over the past 6 months.

    I’ve raised more than $18 million in funding for my company through several rounds, and I can confirm the rule of thumb that a company raises seed funding to last them 18+ months. Knowing this, I focused on companies who had gone at least 9 months since their funding announcement. With all these criteria applied, I’d already whittled the list down to just 477 companies (and yes if you click this link and sign up it is totally free to view it!). Btw, if you save this search with a name like “hot series A opportunities” Mattermark will automatically email you whenever a new company meets this criteria. This is exactly how the most data driven top tier VC firms in the business use us!

    I realized after I wrote this that I had not placed an upper bound on months since last funding, and I didn’t want to get a lot of old dead companies in my list. So I put 24 months since last funding announcement as my maximum. Down to just 167 companies.

     

  • Posts

    A Walk in The Land of Never Was: Lessons That Led to Green-Lighting Our Most Popular Feature

    There are so many reasons not to do a thing. Fear, laziness, lack of skill or resources, and stubbornness all come to mind. But this year, I found a reason more dangerous than all of them, worse because its lackluster sound gives it the camouflage of dullness among a deluge of new shiny things.

    The danger is in finding a great idea, but thinking it doesn’t matter and tossing it aside. “No, obviously we won’t do that,” is the catch phrase. Spoken with enough confidence, especially by someone powerful and respected who uses logic well, and that idea enters the Land of Never Was.

    The Land of Never Was is the place where discarded ideas go to hang out. It’s the bottom of the backlog, the coldest corner of the icebox, the bottom right hand corner of the kanban board. It’s a mostly dull gray place; dusty, creased, redolent with the smell of crumpled and slowly disintegrating notebook pages and post-it notes that long ago lost their stick.

    Around this time of year I like to take a vacation there, and walk along the shore of the Sea of Could Have Been with my little metal detector skimming the dunes for something shiny that I might have missed. Whenever I do this I keep my expectations low, so I’m not necessarily expecting to unearth any treasures, but it gives me an excuse to stare out at the horizon.

    I’ve been working on my startup for nearly 5 years, and on startups overall for 10 years, so the sea has had a lot of time to break down and turn over the remnants. You’d think after all that time, walking the same stretch of beach, I’d find fewer and fewer items of interest, but it isn’t so. I keep finding new ways to circle back on old ideas, as my little detector beeps and I dig up some shiny scrap that I didn’t notice last time I wandered here.

    “No, obviously we won’t do that.”

    Self-help books are abuzz with find the life-changing magic of tidying up, saying ‘no’ more often, giving fewer fucks, and startup culture rewards being stubborn in a “Jobsian” ideal of the creative genius persona. For those of us who already drank all this Kool Aid and are tough stubborn self-directed intensely independent motherfuckers, I have a suggestion: take a walk on the shore of your own imagination, along your Sea of Could Have Been.

    Find something you said “No” to that should have been a yes, and make it right.


    It took us awhile to find this particular treasure, but we’re so happy that Mattermark now offers the ability to look up contact email addresses!

    Also posted on Medium

  • Startups

    Checking In On My Fantasy VC Portfolio From February 2014

    I’ve been doing some updates to the good ol’ blog, and noticed a fun post from 2.5 years ago highlighting my picks at the time.

    • RelateIQ — I ended up investing in their Series C as a result of this post (their founder Steve Loughlin invested in Mattermark, and after 2 years at Salesforce he is now a partner at Accel Partners), and they were acquired by Salesforce 5 months later for $390 million.
    • Instacart — They were my Y Combinator batch-mates, and I still use them for all my grocery shopping. This pick seems super obvious now, but at the time they had only raised their Series A when I picked them.
    • Uber — I picked them because they were an early Twilio customer and I was already spending way too much on the service. This one was probably already obvious, but they had only raised $300M of funding at this point (versus > $15 BILLION now) so my fantasy portfolio definitely benefits!
    • Hired — I picked them because I love the founders, and my company has been a customer from the beginning and the service just gets better and better. They announced their $15M Series A just 6 weeks after this pick.
    • Digital Ocean — I originally picked them in June 2013 because I knew their bootstrap story and how loved they are in the developer community. They would announce their Series A shortly after my February 2014 post as well.
    • Product Hunt — I picked them because they reminded me of Referly and Launchgram, and Ryan Hoover has the X factor. They didn’t have any funding when I made this pick, and would announce their Seed round later that year.
    • Magisto — I picked them because I had recently paid for their mobile app, which I very rarely do. The company hasn’t announced more funding since then but remain among the top 10 grossing apps in the photo and video category in iTunes.

    Funding Summary

    Collectively, the companies in this list have raised $15.2 Billion in funding since this call… but obviously this is totally skewed by Uber. Excluding Uber, the other companies went from $65 million of collective funding to $609 million, and only 1 of them did not raise a follow-on round.

    This is of course a fantasy fund, and if I were really trying to get results things like winning the deal would have to be factored in. But it’s still fun to see how these things play out… and important to remember these were not nearly so obvious (at least to me, maybe VCs disagree) at the time.

    It was fun making this list, and exciting to follow along as these companies have grown and evolved over the past 2+ years. I can’t wait to see what they each do next! I love angel investing, and happily these days I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

    Looking forward to putting out another list soon!

     

     

     

  • Posts

    Overcoming the Tyranny of “Should”

    “Am I doing a good job?”

    “Am I doing everything I should be doing?”

    I ask my cofounders these questions from time to time.They say yes and give me a hug, and my ego is placated. But later on I still wonder am I really doing a good job? Am I leveraging every moment of time the way I should?

    There are a lot of articles telling us what we should do to be good, often formulated to demonstrate how to be more like whoever the hero CEO is.Wake up early. Time block your calendar. Raise now. Get that big valuation so it will be easier to recruit. Everywhere I turn on Medium someone has advice for what I should do, and I tell myself to listen because I want to be open to feedback and I want to learn. But sometimes when I am able to quiet that story down, I catch myself listening because it is just so much easier to have someone else figure out what I should do.

    “I’m tired. Could you bargain with fate for me please? Thanks.”

    As we head into a more difficult funding climate, I expect there will be a lot of founders saying, â€œbut I did everything I should have done… why can’t I raise a round? It’s unfair.” Where did that should came from? How can you justify your sense of justice getting riled up with “it’s unfair” when you didn’t even do the dirty work of picking the should yourself?

    Shortcuts I Took

    Sometimes I needed an answer right now, and seemed like a good idea to short-circuit the hard work of sitting still and figuring out what actually works with the most recent piece of startup productivity porn. It was a quick way to alleviate my angst, it was a self-centered solution that was more about resolving my own cognitive dissonance than getting it right.

    In a hurry I’d implement someone else’s should unexamined, but all borrowing shoulds second-hand got me was second rate results. The worst part was that among the ideas thrown at me, I didn’t consider most of the really crazy ones… I stuck with the plausible shit, without considering the source. Re-arranging my calendar when I could have hired 20 sales reps.Might as well be re-arranging the fucking deck chairs on the Titanic.

    So about half-way into the year I said fuck it. FUCK. IT. I’m gonna do crazy shit. I’m sick of being plausible and how the hell did I get this way anyway.Real self over in the corner flagged down ideal self and said, â€œhey remember me, I’m the college dropout who took a ton of personal and professional risk to have the life we always wanted? Frankly, you’re letting me down lately.”

    Waking Up

    It’s harder to explain this part, and I suppose this is normally where you’d find a step-by-step walkthrough of what I did to change my approach. It would actually be a list of shoulds for you, but thinly veiled as my own story.

    I sat still. I let my inner voice be louder and more trusted than the outside voices. I hung out with myself, wrote and read and drank wine and lit candles and looked at the view and stayed still thinking and stayed in as friends joked I was “getting old” and I didn’t care anymore because fuck you I’m 30. I didn’t assume the answers were anywhere else. I read my old diaries and imagined I was 15. I read books I loved in school and imagined I was 9. I remembered my life so far, and I wrote down things I’ve already learned from it and I didn’t publish them for anyone else to read. I made things just for me, like paintings and really good food.

    None of these activities would necessarily have meaning for another person but I knew they were what I needed. I remembered myself, I apologized to myself, I forgave myself, and gave her permission to let go of should.

    I bowed.

    Bowing In

    Writing this down this morning, I remembered at Founder Bootcamp they would bring us all back together with the pretty sound of the Buddhist singing bowl. Jerry invited us to bow in, and I remember the first time we did I looked around the circle like, â€œOh geez, what crazy hippy shit did I sign us up for?” But I did it anyway and got past the awkwardness, and as we did it over and over again for days it started to take on more meaning, and naturally I got curious about this ritual. There is a great essay from Sojun Mel Weitsman at the Berkeley Zen Center that does a good job explaining it. I pulled the relevant quote but if you have time I highly recommend reading the whole thing:

    How do you bow to yourself? You can’t see your own eyes, you can’t see your own nose, we don’t see our own face. It’s pretty hard to bow in this direction [toward ourselves], we’re always bowing in that direction [away from ourselves]. If you bow in that direction, you meet yourself. So who is this self? That question begs the other. If I bow to myself, then who is this “myself” that I’m bowing to? Therein is the fundamental koan, who is myself, and how do I bow to myself?

    You don’t have to be a Buddhist to appreciate this idea of bowing as a ritual, both to yourself for introspection and also as an offering to others. It’s just a simple acknowledgement. Actually, I’m learning you can bow to anything.

    I wasn’t planning to put this essay into this post, it just kind of came to mind as I was writing and now I’ve re-read it and there is another part that is also very relevant to “the tyranny of should”:

    If you think about all the things that you promised yourself you would do and didn’t do, and look back on that, you’d be amazed at all the intentions you had that you didn’t honor. Sometimes this holds us back. So that’s why we have such a thing as the Bodhisattva Ceremony. We avow all of our ancient karma and unrealized intentions, and renew and honor our intention to continue. This is one of the most important factors of practice, that you have an intention, and honor it. Everything else flows from there. Enlightenment, peace, it’s all there in our intention. We also fall off, but when we fall off, we come back. As a matter-of-fact, we’re always getting sidetracked. That’s the nature of our life: to have this intention, get sidetracked, and come back. One of the obstacles is, “Now that I’ve fallen off, I can’t come back.” Or, “I’ve been bad.” So the nature of practice is to make the effort, that no matter what happens, to keep renewing or returning to our intention.

    With these thoughts, I’m bowing in to 2016 and renewing my intention.


    “Wait, I just read this entire post and you still haven’t come to the point… Intention to what? What are you going to do?” you ask. â€œWhat should I do?”

    I don’t have an answer for you, I can only smile.

  • Posts

    Request For Startup: Personal CRM for Grown-up Friendships

    My life is really full, as a startup founder and CEO there are endless things to do. There are always more meetings I could take (maybe should take?) and by the time Friday evening rolls around I’m usually pretty happy to head home and curl up for the next two days on the couch with a book, a drink, and some good music.

    This is probably not new… but lately, the signals have been getting through.

    “It’s hard to support someone I never see.”

    “You’re really hard to get a hold of.”

    These aren’t coming from business contacts, and they’re not coming to me by email. They’re coming from friends who I have to admit I don’t know when I last saw, and they are texts, Facebook messages, Twitter DMs. I saw friends 2 weekends ago who I met separately, knew as they met, courted, and got married and I was at the wedding… but that was 6 months ago! We are all shocked when we added up the time.

    These are not casual acquaintances, theses are real friendships and the message is coming through loud and clear: invest here or you risk growing apart, losing touch.

    Growing up I was one of those kids who wasn’t really part of any one clique, but had a friend or two in every single one. I was a serial monogamist when it came to best friends, usually those relationships would last a few years at a time and then we’d grow apart and move on. Now as a married career-focused woman, living in a major city, not planning to have kids I am realizing that my friendships are really important to my happiness in life. They are my chosen family, and the aloofness of how I’m acting doesn’t line up at all with how I actually feel.

    Weird.

    Over the years I’ve tried to solve this by building better habits, trying to bring my professional best practices to bear on my personal life. Off and on again I’ve had lists, Excel spreadsheets, even entered people into RelateIQ just so I could skim the list from time to time and make sure we were staying in touch. I always have this fantasy of sending Christmas cards, I even buy them!, and then it never happens because I don’t have the addresses. I’d say we host a party at our house every other month at most… it used to be every couple weeks. Frankly, Kevin and I aren’t even great about proactively scheduling dates — we usually just wing it and I’m pretty happy with that, until suddenly I’m like, “why haven’t we gone on a REAL DATE in 6 months?” and then I’m not happy with it til we do (I know you husbands out there are LOLing).

    I need a CRM for my personal life, but not called a CRM obviously and much more tailored to stuff like birthdays, kids names, anniversaries, food preferences, and other stuff that matters but is just hard to remember. On top of that, I want to know when I last spoke with or hung out with a friend and I want to be reminded to do things like send flowers, write a quick congratulations email, invite them to a wine night or book night or boardgame night or whatever at my house.

    I know this sounds super mercenary, but I bet it would work.

    I think NextDoor could have been this, but won’t be because it’s too gossipy and impersonal. It isn’t Facebook. It isn’t anything I use today, because brand-wise I want it to be private. My Mom had this pretty blue book where she’d record all of this stuff about her friends and family. I remember they each got a page, and it was usually on the desk in our kitchen next to the phone. I want something like that, but for the modern age… preferably on my phone.

    Who will build it?

  • Posts

    How to Network to Startup Investors

    Tonight I hosted an impromptu AMA on Twitter, and I was surprised by how many people asked about how to network to startup investors. The question itself isn’t surprising, but when I responded with “get introductions via their current portfolio founders, or do some good old fashioned networking to get there” the reply was “on what platform?”

    Oh boy.

    Platforms have adverse selection. They say, “I am too lazy to actually network!”

    AngelList and LinkedIn have this problem, and when investors are looking for the top 1% you better believe they don’t have fleshed out profiles on these platform a lot of time. And so what if they are there, they’re already picked over. Is this true? No. But it is how investors think.

    If you are a founder who wants to get in touch with investors I would take two approaches, and do them simulatenously.

    1. Just cold email / call them. I mean, why not? You’re going to have to sell something to someone, someday. Why not start here? And if you are seriously thinking the lack of contact information is the barrier you are one lazy motherfucker and should not be funded.

    2. Network your way there. Draw a map on a piece of paper of each person you want to get to, and identify with your email, alumni network, friends and family, facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc. how to get to them. It might not be just 1 degree of separation. I have people several degrees away from me that I have been working on for 5 years. This is the game, and if you are a founder (and particularly CEOs) get ready to play. At each meeting, your goal is to sell why you should meet with the next person in the chain. Along the way, you need to be charming, interesting, add value for the person you are currently talking to, and maintain that relationship so that when you finally do get to the person who was your target your reputation is impeccable.

    TRUTH: Fundraising is hard because 99% of people are not willing to do #2. This is how we got connected to Brad Feld, who lead our Series A. A warm introduction via Rand Fishkin of Moz. I had tried the cold angle on Brad and kept following up for 6 months until we finally got the warm connection. Remember, do #1 and #2 simultaneously.

    DARE: Drink a whisky right now and email that investor you admire most and have up on some pedestal with the best one liner of your life. That’s what I did when we had just $150K left in the bank, and he came through.

     

     

  • Posts

    Monica for CEO

    A fictional scene from the hours leading up to the emergency board meeting held by Raviga Capital that we weren’t allowed to see, during the HBO Silicon Valley finale.


    Season 3; Episode 1: “Monica for CEO” — with a new look and new found confidence, there are going to be leadership changes at Pied Piper.

    “But how can you do this to Richard? Especially after all he’s just been through!” Monica exploded, leaning back against the jagged brick and taking a long drag from her cigarette.

    “Monica, the choices you are making don’t make sense to me. I propose we go inside and my assistant will get you a bottle of VOSS, and we can talk this through rationally,” sighed Laurie, as she internally categorized and ranked the damage she was doing to her home life and personal sanity by having a conversation like this in such an ugly setting, so late at night.

    Grinding out the half-finished Davidoff under the heel of her flats, Monica ducked her head deferentially and headed inside. As she entered the office again she stopped suddenly, so suddenly that Laurie collided into her back. “Monica!” she gasped.

    “I know what we need to do to make this work,” the associate turned to her boss, eyes determined and a bit glassy with ambition. “I’ll take over as interim CEO and make sure we don’t lose the team. They trust me, and Richard trusts me… we can get through this.”

    The two women stood for a moment in the silence of the empty office, looking at each other without really seeing. Another minute, Laurie mused, and she would have broken the agreement she made with Peter for the first time in 10 years. Well it was too late now she thought, looking her young rival up and down with a mix of disdain and admiration.

    “Okay. We’ll try it for a period of 90 days, during which I will actively recruit a permanent replacement for Richard Hendricks. His leadership is veritably non-existant and I simply can not tolerate his presence, so please keep him out of my sight during the transition.”

    Monica held her tongue, it would be easier to just let things lie for now until she could sneak back into Erlich’s house and do some damage control.

    “Thanks Mom.”