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Non Sequitur Fridays

The Grand Heist

This post is part of our Non Sequitur Fridays series, which will feature a different Wistia team member's take on a non-Wistia-related topic each week. It's like our "employee of the month" but less "of the month"-y. Brendan Schwartz is co-founder and CTO at Wistia.

One hot summer's day, after my sophomore year of high school, I get a call from a good friend of mine. He's been working at a finance company as an intern this summer, and they need some help building a new website. He asks me if I want a job.

Right now I'm lifeguarding and effectively being paid $7 an hour to do my summer reading. Not a bad gig. This offer needs to be pretty good for me to make the switch.

They'll pay $12 an hour and buy me a brand new computer. Okay, that's amazing. When can I start?

It's my first day of work and the secretary shows me to my office. My own office, and it has a nice view of the Tarrytown Castle. I meet my boss and he lays out the big plan. We are going to turn their full-service brokerage firm into the world's biggest financial management website. This is an internet startup, he tells me, and I am going to be a millionaire by the time I am 18. I believe him. After all, he is an adult, and he drives a Ferrari.

I come home and nonchalantly tell my parents about my first day. My parents are perplexed. What is this company and why are they hiring a kid in high school to build their website? I take this as an affront to my website building skills. What do they know about business? I don't see their Ferraris.

It turns out this company is a bit odd, but I don't realize it at the time. After all, I've never worked in an office before, and I'm only 16.

Fast forward a year and things are in full swing. We're working with a design firm in New Haven to build the web application. Things are going really well.

No, they're not, my boss says. The two women who run the design firm don't get it. They don't have the vision it takes to build a great internet startup. What we need to do is ditch them and hire all the developers from their firm to build the website ourselves.

Now that's a smart business move, I tell myself.

Not so fast though. There's a hitch. The design firm has all the code, and we can't afford to start from scratch. I agree, especially now that I'm 17. How will I become a millionaire by the time I'm 18 if we have to re-write all of that code?

Thankfully, my boss has a plan. We're going to need a U-Haul truck and some extra man power, he explains. We'll drive to New Haven on Saturday, get the servers, and rescue the code. He paid for all the servers, after all, so they belong to us. I wonder if this could be considered stealing, but I don't ask.

My parents drop me off in the U-Haul parking lot, and I'm joined by two friends from high school. I ride with my boss in the truck and my friends follow along behind us in their car.

We pull into the empty parking lot in front of the building. The coast is clear. We all get out and walk up to the front door. My boss takes out a big ring of keys and tries a few with no luck. Eventually he finds the right one, the key turns, and the door opens. I hear that buzzing tone that lets you know you have 30 seconds to enter a security code before the alarm goes off. My boss confidently punches in the code on the keypad and the buzzing stops. We're in.

He tells us to start loading the servers into the truck. Before we begin, the office phone starts ringing. It's the security company. He answers:

"Chipmunk." Long pause. "Really? It's not chipmunk? Come on!" (Wrong rodent, the password is actually squirrel.)

He hangs up the phone. We need to hurry, he says.

I run into the server room and start pulling out cords from the back of the machines. I hand the first one to my friend and repeat the process. After ten minutes, we have them all in the back of the truck. Just as we're pulling down the gate, I look up to see a squad car screeching into the parking lot. Two cops jump out.

My boss explains to them how he forgot the code and that we're just moving some computers from one office to another. The officers seem to buy it, and after a few more questions, they're nearly on their way. That was a close call.

Suddenly, the co-owner of the design firm appears out of nowhere, shouting at the top of her lungs. Tears are streaming down her face.

"I WANT ALL OF THESE MEN ARRESTED FOR TRESPASSING AND GRAND LARCENY!"

One of the officers holds her back because it looks like she might attack my boss.

I'm going to jail. I'm going to jail.

She eventually calms down but is every bit as angry and adamant about us being arrested. We broke into her office and stole her property.

"So you think you can get away with this by bringing a bunch of babyfaces with you, huh?"

The other officer turns to my boss. "So you think you can get away with this by bringing a bunch of babyfaces with you, huh?" He looks at me. "Is that why he brought you along?" I'm far too afraid to speak at this point.

The closest I’ve come to being arrested is sneaking into the computer lab without a hall pass and getting detention. This is serious. I'm going to jail.

It takes the cops a good while to make sense of the whole situation. They're used to dealing with drugs and guns, not computers and high school students. Eventually, they decide to take all of us and the servers down to New Haven Police Department. My friends and I ride in the back of one police car and my boss rides in the other.

On the ride down, I sheepishly ask if we're being arrested. The officer laughs at me and tells me not to worry. When we get to the police department, they let us help them load the servers into the evidence locker. "See that big metal mailbox? That's full of cocaine." I'm frightened and excited by this concept. I've never been in a police station before.

They take down all our information and send us on our way. They keep the servers.

Later that night, as I recount the story to my parents, they wonder why they agreed to let me go in the first place. In typical teenager fashion, I get angry and tell them they don't know anything about business.

I continue working at this company for several years, learning all about how to succeed in business. Unfortunately, my learning is cut short when the FBI raid office one day. My boss and many of my coworkers are sent to prison for investment fraud.

Clearly, this is all part of how a successful business functions.

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