25 Aug Caught in the Quicksand Part 2: Sinking Alone in the Sand
Backward Into Bankruptcy
As 2015 began, I scrambled to keep myself financially viable. [in case you missed part 1] I had to spend most of the money I made in the sale paying lawyers to pursue the lawsuit against the buyers. Not only did it take all the proceeds from the sale, but it occupied two more years of my life. As the year progressed, I found myself caught in the middle of everyone who was demanding money from my buyers. Negri Electronics’ creditors began contacting me incessantly. Since I was the guarantor on most of these accounts, they targeted me instead of the defunct buyers. In total, the company (and therefore I) owed $800,000 to various banks, vendors, and other creditors. The money I made from the sale was gone, no one I knew had this sort of money, so, as embarrassing as it is to admit, my only recourse was to file for personal bankruptcy. Thus, I started what would prove to be a ridiculously detailed and expensive process. At this point, I had several attorneys trying to help me put out all the fires that raged in my financial world — it was miserable.
I was physically and emotionally depleted. I wanted to quit, but I had to find the power within me to continue on. So, in April 2015, I chose to invest my time and what little money I had left into Laicos, the startup studio Kyle Matthews and I founded in 2012. I was excited for the opportunity to move from working part-time to full-time and turn this project into a Startup. Additionally, back in 2014, we got involved in an angel investment into a hot, young startup out of Tampa called Check I’m Here, which made me excited to be a part of the Tampa startup scene. With new apps being built, a steady staff, paying clients, and a Tampa-based office, I felt confident that this could help me catch my breath and regain my footing. In order to facilitate working full-time with Laicos, my wife and I decided to relocate to Tampa. Before I left though, in May 2015, I filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but that wasn’t the end of it!
I loved working at Laicos. We had a great office right downtown in Tampa, with five full-time staff who were all incredibly talented and enjoyable to work with. In hindsight, I should have been more transparent about my financial situation with my team — but I thought we’d be able to raise quickly and start to build (and spin out) most of the apps we were building.
While the team was amazing, and I loved working downtown in the city, trying to raise money for Laicos was fraught with frustration. Anyone in Tampa who invested in startups tended to only write small checks and offer a lot of unsolicited advice. Some of the venture capitalists I approached outside of Tampa, wanted me to relocate the business to San Francisco while other investors felt Laicos was a competing model to theirs. Unfortunately, this move to work with Laicos did not turn out to be the panacea I was hoping for.
All the while I’m working on building Laicos, I’m also going through the bankruptcy process and a lawsuit against the buyers of Negri Electronics. Needless to say, I was not 100% focused, which is never a good thing.
The bankruptcy was all-consuming. Gathering all the paperwork that was necessary was extremely stressful because if I didn’t identify all the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all the creditors, I left myself open to future legal and financial issues. Plus, sifting through how much money was owed took a toll on my self-confidence. It took thousands of emails between my attorney and me to make sure all my bases were covered. The bankruptcy trustee even wanted interest in the case against the buyers. So, even if I won the case, I would have to use a chunk of the recovered money to pay off all the debt that I and the company owed. Even though the hassle of gathering all the information and evidence was exhausting, I was somewhat unprepared for the emotional trauma of sitting in a courtroom in Las Vegas being grilled and humiliated in court by the opposing attorney. And, the courtroom was packed with so many witnesses to my humiliation and frustration. My case was extremely complex, and by the time it was finished, six months had passed and it had cost me more than $50,000.
For Better or Worse?
My hope for financial recovery was beginning to diminish. Around this time, my wife chose to show her disappointment in the move, in me, and in our relationship. She had never confided in me that she didn’t want to move to Florida or that she was unhappy with our relationship. It felt as if she had made it her mission to make my life as miserable as possible. True, life was challenging right then, but usually, couples pull together and support each other through hardships. I think that because she was extremely unhappy with herself, that bled into being upset at our situation, and ultimately she refused to even leave the house. She was unhealthy, as was I, and had a recent emotional setback when her stylist basically burnt off her hair. So, with her self-imposed exile to our home, I had to continue to fight for our financial future while under the shadow of uncertainty about the future of my marriage. Often she would text me: When are you coming home? She tried to guilt me any time I left the house to take care of business or to try and find some relief from the constant stress.
With my financial footing on rocky ground, and no support from my wife, my emotional and mental well-being bottomed out. I was struggling to see a way out of the mess I was in. Death began to seem appealing to me as a way to escape all of it. One morning, after breakfast, I found the courage to confide in my wife that I was feeling suicidal. We had been arguing again and I blurted out, “I want to kill myself!” She looked at me with a flat, unconcerned look on her face. “You won’t,” she said as if taunting me.
It was at that moment that my feelings about my relationship with my wife shifted drastically. I knew with certainty that she wouldn’t support me, nor would she stand by my side and help me weather this storm. I remember that moment so clearly.
I felt alone and hopeless as I drove off to work.