The Man Who Sold His Fate to Investors at $1 a Share

This is an interesting story in Wired about a 30-year-old part-time entrepreneur named Mike Merrill who decided to sell himself on the open market. He divided himself into 100,000 shares and set an initial public offering price of $1 a share:

But, like many entrepreneurs before him, Merrill soon learned the downside to taking on outside funding. In the ensuing months and years, 128 people bought shares of Merrill, and he fell victim to competing shareholder interests, stock price manipu­lation, and investors looking for short-term gains at the expense of his long-term well-being. He was overwhelmed by paperwork and blindsided by takeover interest. He found himself beholden to his shareholders in ways he had never imagined, ruining personal relationships along the way. Through it all, Merrill clung stubbornly to the belief that since an IPO had worked for Google and Amazon, it should work for an individual too.

Initially, shareholders voted on a variety of small projects. On February 15, 2008, for example, Merrill asked whether he should make a short video to market shares in himself. His investors voted that idea down, but a month later they approved an investment of $79.63 in a Rwandan chicken farmer.

I’ve seen advertisements for www.upstart.com before, but it was good to read the start of this thought process of investing in someone.