In the end, the MouseDriver finds its way onto the desks of corporate America.
By ROB STOUT
SPECIAL TO THE VINDICATOR
"The MouseDriver Chronicles," by John Lusk and Kyle Harrison (Perseus, $24).
Spring forces upon many soon-to-be graduates the type of decisions that can affect a lifetime. For John Lusk and Kyle Harrison, the spring of 1999 was no exception. Both were about to receive MBAs from the prestigious Wharton School of Business and decide whether to accept one of the many lucrative job offers before them, or devote their talent and energy to an idea scribbled on the back of a coaster one evening in a Dallas bar.
Wary of the predictable career routes chosen by fellow classmates, the two "can-do, all-American capitalists" decided to take their sketch of the MouseDriver -- a computer mouse shaped like the head of a golf club -- and see it through to a successfully marketed specialty product, or something most of us have come to know as one of those pricey gifts found in a Hammacher Schlemmer catalog.
Although not exactly the light bulb, the mouse presented the two budding entrepreneurs with a challenge to the most basic of business skills: how to take a simple idea, some brainstorming, and turn it all into a money-making venture.
They begin by doing what all MBAs do: churn out an endless flow of speculation in the form of strategy summaries, balance sheets, a marketing plan and lots of flow charts. On paper, it all looked like a sure thing, so the two max out their credit cards, borrow from friends and family and move to San Francisco and the bustling Silicon Valley to set up shop as Platinum Concepts, Inc.
Then reality sets in.
The illusions of business world domination succumb to a daily litany of cold call rejections, price overruns and missed deadlines. Sales projections alluded to in the flow charts prove fantastically wrong, and instead of raking in millions over two years as they originally planned, Lusk and Harrison began to pray for one decent paycheck in six months.
After a lean first year, the pair eventually learn to rely on others to get the MouseDriver to its proper market. Along the way, more snafus follow, and the ego-crushing nature of their enterprise forces on them an appreciation of the randomness and dumb luck that ultimately provides the chronicle its quirky, self-effacing tone.
In the end, their risk pays off and the MouseDriver finds its way onto the desks of corporate America. Lusk and Harrison don't make millions, but they do achieve modest financial success. More importantly (or so they say), both find a greater degree of personal satisfaction in their efforts.
Written at a time when just the name "dot-com" alone brought about visions of instant wealth, "The MouseDriver Chronicles" reads like a how-to manual of old-school entrepreneurship, in terms as equally profound as it is mundane, by two people who not only succeed, but finally have fun at what they are doing.