The Rise and Fall of Worldnetpress

This is about you. I have no children. You are my heirs. This we give the World.

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Our story thus far:

Me at Annapolis

Me at Annapolis

In 1974 I went to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis to become an officer and a gentlemen; I left to become a physicist and a civilian. But my undergraduate studies had to be put on hold when we discovered the tesseract resonating chamber and applied for a patent. We got the patent on 11/4/1980, but it appeared it was too far ahead of its time for speaker companies to believe it; their engineers seemed to think that a U.S. Utility Patent was some kind of hoax.
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Prototype

Prototype

After attempting to manufacture the technology ourselves, we decided to go for a review in Stereo Review magazine and made special prototypes and drove them to NY ourselves to make sure they got there undamaged.
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Damaged speaker

Damaged Prototype

But we did not get our review. Stereo Review and Hirsch-Houk Labs were not interested. And when we got the speakers back they were damaged. We had dug ourselves in a hole financially to produce them and set up our little warehouse-factory, but without an audience there was no show happening. We moved out of the warehouse and I resumed my undergraduate studies in Physics and got my B.S. on 12/19/1981.

Many resumes later, I gave up on getting a job as a B.S. physicist and was accepted into a doctoral Physics program at FSU in Tallahassee. You’d think it would have been heaven for a physics nut like me, getting to share an office in the Keen building and meeting P.A.M. Dirac at a department tea. But there was a problem: the Hypercube patent had changed the focus of my life. I still loved Physics, but I was more of a Geometry nut now. Tom Weiss and I had found something important. It’s a shame I didn’t get my PhD first; maybe more ‘experts’ would have listened to a “Dr. Kennedy.” But when we were granted the first patent for applied hypergeometry, I wasn’t even a college graduate. Maybe we were unworthy to deliver this message: hyperspace is real. But the message had to be delivered, and nobody else was doing it.

Hypercube speaker array

Hypercube speaker array

After a year of graduate school I left FSU and reentered the “real” world, traveling north with a new friend of mine, Shirley Malone. More about her later. When she inherited a little money Shirley bought a CAD/CAM 3-axis overhead router system so that we could make better prototypes. We made quite a few prototypes of various sizes and materials; it turned out that the shape was far more important than what it was made out of: a tin satellite dish works just as well as a golden one. So we made hypercube speakers cabinets in many sizes out of wood, metal and plastic. I suppose if we had a kiln we would have tried to bake some ceramic ones. We took them to an AES show in New York, but Audio Engineering has been around 100 years; many experts appear to think all that remains is tweaks and adjustments of known designs.

SO I went back to work, getting a job at Maxim Group as a contract programmer. They sent me to work for Sylvan Learning Systems in Baltimore, where I served on the Internet Team developing and maintaining Active Server Pages on the new test registration website which back then was at educate.com.

I had been wondering whether Sylvan would ever persuade Dave Clayton, the current head of our Internet Team, a contractor, to change his mind and become a regular Sylvan employee as I had elected to do when offered the chance. To be truthful, however, I had accepted partly because of the raise, but also because they seemed serious about reducing their number of contractors and I thought I might be looking for another job if I said no.

Not too long later, my friends Dave Clayton and Adil Asik decided to leave the Internet Team at Sylvan. They had discovered what looked like a better opportunity in Hunt Valley. When Adil asked me if I would like a job there also, I was like “hell yes!”

Walking into the offices of Worldnetpress was positively surreal. I talked to the president, Ken Wahler, and when I walked into his office he had two things waiting for me: a job offer letter…and a box of already-printed personalized company business cards. Worldnetpress was a print-fulfillment company, with their own 5-color print press and a rented printer the size of two BIG refrigerators that could do production quality full-color printing up to poster size from PDF files. So printing up a box of business cards for me before I even accepted the job was “no trouble at all.”

Worldnetpress soon changed its name to Versient and it looked like the good times had finally arrived, even if I was still making little progress in spreading the word about Hypercube resonators. At its heyday Versient had like 12 full-time ASP programmers hammering out new code, and we built some fine things, like custom websites for clients, pages that let users design their own business cards, and even a way to email individualized college brochure PDFs to users with the content customized according to their inputted interests. The company was good to us. We had a *free* soda vending machine and a free snacks vending machine. When we needed to put in extra time on a Saturday occasionally, we were treated to footlong subs and pizza, whatever we wanted. Okay, we didn’t have a Microsoft-sized budget, but we had an owner who loved us and a boss who understood us. The joke around Development on our new second floor was that our boss Dave Clayton was not allowed to do any coding because he was too valuable as a manager. But the truth was that he was one of us, a programmer, and no one could keep him from rolling up his sleeves and programming with us. This was no Dilbert cartoon: we had offices with doors and a boss who could actually program.

Revenues increased, attracting venture capital. As Ken introduced us to his new investors, I could not help remembering my main question to Ken during my hiring interview. I had asked him about how he would manage growth. A time of rapid growth is often a dangerous time for new corporations, when many of them find themselves required to undertake large loans or sell a lot of stock to new investors, both of which expedients can lead to bad craziness. As I recall, his answer was to reassure me that he knew what he was doing.

Soon we began to hear rumors of a merger. It appeared that there was a company in Boston that was similar but had better shipping and storage facilities and more customers. So far, so good. But there was a problem: the other company had programmers, too…and they were working on projects similar to some of ours. When Versient moved Development off the second floor and into a residential brownstone in downtown Baltimore, we told ourselves that it was a good thing; we could get on with our programming without talking to the suits.

Okay, we no longer had offices with doors and had to share rooms. But we thought it was all right, right up to the moment when we were instructed to report to headquarters instead of the brownstone on a Friday.

When I got there, Dave was waiting for me with a severance latter and a box containing my things from the brownstone office. He was sad to inform us that Versient had decided they did not need TWO development teams and 2 competing products….and they had decided to keep the team from Boston instead of us.

What?? Had we done something wrong? Was Ken Wahler mad at us? No, of course not. But Ken was no longer in charge of Versient. He had sold too much of his voting stock to the venture capital investors, and they now controlled the company. With the merger complete, they took control away from Ken and laid us all off.

Versient, formerly Worldnetpress, was no more. Now it was Shamrock Acquisitions, and I was out of a job.

–MRK

Next: Keeping Score at Walter Reed

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