IN DEMAND, AND THEN NOT, PART 2

Off the north shore of Nassau, capital city of the island nation of the Bahamas, sits an island formerly known as Hog Island. Up until 1959, it was a private estate belonging to a Swedish entrepreneur named Axel Wenner-Gren.

Wennergren

Axel.  By http://www.ericssonhistory.com/templates/Ericsson/Article.aspx?id=2068&ArticleID=1336&CatID=366&epslanguage=SV, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4105629Axel’s may not be a recognizable name today, but in his time, he was one of the world’s wealthiest men. Born into humble means in 1881, he was one of six children, of which three had died in childhood. After spinning his wheels as a salesman of agricultural machinery in fin de siecle Germany, he wandered past a storefront in Vienna in 1908 to marvel at a new device called a “vacuum cleaner.”

The sucking machine obviously intrigued him.  Clearly, in this case, he was thinking “outside of the box,” especially when you consider that his past business experiences was in the spice trade or the aforementioned farm equipment. When his attempts to become a distributor were rebuffed, somehow he managed to purchase a 20% stake in the company. A few years later, he made his coup when he persuaded Electrolux to buy the underlying patent in return for shares of the Swedish company’s stock.

That was the winning ticket!

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FIVE SELECTIONS FROM DAD’S IPOD, PART DEUX!

The main point from part one is that Dad’s favorite song, of all time, is…

wait for it…

You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” by Lou Rawls.  It’s a rich piece of music.  There’s a wall of sound and verve that just swirls behind the track.  Love oozing out, dripping on the floor underneath your speaker.  Soaring vocals.  Subtle piano to build up the tension…

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIVING IN NEW YORK AND SAN FRANCISCO

After living in New York for 5 years, ex-Googlester Sarah Cooper recently moved to San Francisco. Neither city is clearly superior, but there are some distinct differences…

Like Attitude…

Attitude

Sarah Cooper is a writer, comedian and creator of satirical blog TheCooperReview.com. Previously the design lead for Google Docs, she now focuses on writing and speaking on corporate and tech humor. Her first book, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, was published in October 2016 by Andrews McMeel.

In the spirit of competing places — see my write-up of New York vs. New Jersey — please visit Sarah’s complete New York vs. San Francisco analysis:

https://thecooperreview.com/difference-between-living-in-new-york-and-san-francisco/

 

LOOKIN’ FOR THE EIFFEL TOWER

When I review my site statistics, I notice which posts are most popular, and where most of the viewers come from.  “LOOKIN’ FOR THE EIFFEL TOWER” is my third most popular post ever and it receives most views from France!  Aside from some of my fans out there, I think most folks who stumbled across my post were probably Americans (and a few dizzy South Africans) looking for a famous monument in the City of Lights.

So while I am busy writing “PANOPLY OF SWAGGER, PART 2,” I repost for your enjoyment my number one hit from France.  I recommend that you read this post while listening to my favorite station over there, TSFJazz (occasionally playing live, raging jazz from nightclubs all over Pair-ee!)

The events in this story are from July 1969, right after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon!

Dad and I boarded our Air France flight to Orly Airport and, as customary, I grabbed the window seat. I was only 11 but still I understood that Dad was looking after his business affairs while we were in Europe. We had visited one of his best English clients – Massey-Ferguson – and he had pushed his joint venture discussions forward with the senior partners from Marks & Clerk while in London. He had scouted out possible locations for the proposed operation in the Channel Islands. His work done, and the Apollo 11 astronauts back home safely, it was time to leave the Anglo-Saxon world behind and see something completely different.

France was an important country to my Dad’s business from an operational point of view. While he did not have any customers there, all of his clients (be they American, British, Italian, or Japanese) did have large portfolios of French patents on which renewal fees had to be paid annually in French Francs. Therefore when he went to the French Patent Office on the rue de Leningrad (later to be renamed rue de St. Petersbourg) earlier that decade to win acceptance for his bulk payment process, it was a real coup when they readily agreed to accept his bulk payment process. In fact, the top 3 countries in Europe for patent registrations – UK, West Germany, and France – all accepted his instructions direct from New York. Even though Dad only studied a little French in high school, he sure loved him some France as his operation there was a huge money maker.

SOMETHING ABOUT DAD, PART 2: FREE PARKING

Part 2 of the “SOMETHING ABOUT DAD” series.  Continues from last week.

During Christmas break in 1979, a trip was planned to the family houseboat, which was permanently moored at the Hurricane Hole Marina, under the Paradise Island Bridge on Paradise Island in glistening Nassau, the Bahamas.  I had never been there before but had heard a lot about it from Gloria and Dad so I was looking forward to going.

A day or two before, Gloria went to the Shop Rite supermarket in less-than-glistening Union City, to shop for groceries to bring on the plane to the Bahamas.

“What?!  Bring groceries on the plane?  Are you sure we need to do this?” I asked.

She assured me that supermarkets in Nassau were both terrible and overpriced.  And this is what they had done on previous trips.  I suspected that this was my Dad’s idea but anyway she seemed to be completely on board.  I tried to imagine what a terrible supermarket looked like and immediately thought of Shop Rite.  Could it be any worse?  Besides, I was weirded out with the idea of lugging brown paper supermarket bags filled with chopped meat and such onto the plane.  This was just about the turning point when airplanes came to be thought of as buses with wings.  And board that flying bus we did, complete with our groceries from Shop Rite!

PANOPLY OF SWAGGER

Pictured above, beautiful Stockholm.

Last week in my post “OF GIANTS AND DWARFS” I took you, the dear reader, back to 1966 to meet Lenny the check-forger.  But Lenny turned out to be a mere piker.  Compare him to Herby Fischer¹ – the stockbroker from American Express who churned Dad for over a million in the late 1980s.  Now that guy had a plunger.  A big one.

Strange thing was, after Dad took him to court and won, inexplicably, seeking no one’s advice but his own, Dad reinvested with Herby!  Everyone can get taken once.  But to go back to the same guy afterwards?

But Herby was ultimately not the biggest plunderer.  More about him later.

Neither gentleman made it to the letterhead of Olcott International, my employer as of 1983.  Based on the amount of cash they carried away, however, they should have — at least as cost centers.

Steven Sites¹, however, did make the letterhead.  He was on the famed pantheon of “Associates” thereon.  That meant he was a BIG, the real deal.

Soon after I started my first job, I mean, not simply a first job but one at the family business with Bernard Olcott as CEO, efficiency expert, attorney at law, certified engineer in three states, computer consultant, construction foreman, automotive engine and air conditioner mastermind, ladies’ man, and unfortunately, easy mark, a pudgy man waddled over to my desk on the lower level.  He extended his hand.  “I’m Stevie Sites,” he said.  I recognized the name immediately and stood up.  A giant had graced my stoop!

I told him that I recognized his name from the letterhead and asked him about his accounts.  I had no idea what he was about to tell me.

FIRST TEST

As I took my seat behind that wooden desk on the lower level in 1982, I began my training at Olcott International.

As discussed in numerous posts, Olcott International operates in a highly specialized field, one that most people do not understand.  My Dad had started his business in 1961 on the back of an advanced (for its time) computer program that could sort patent renewal data.

He offered this service to corporate patent owners that had live dockets of hundreds or thousands of registrations. Most of these required annual payments to maintain their validity. (Patents in the USA follow an extremely odd payment schedule, however).  After the 20th year, the patent would come to term and fall into the public domain, meaning that anyone could read the patent, make the thing (whatever it was), and sell it for a buck.

Generally, whenever I met people socially, and the conversation turned to work, describing this computer and legal-driven business quickly became a problem.  Most people have professions that can be easily pigeon-holed in simple terms, like “banker,” “teacher,” or “forklift driver.” Not I. In fact, it got so tedious for me to explain what I did for a living, I would typically bail and offer up that I was simply the hostess’ psychiatrist. Sometimes, I would even be asked if I was taking on new patients. I always made sure that I was available only on the most unsuitable night.

There are patents for all kinds of things. Some vital, like certain AIDS medications. Many are frivolous, like weird ribbing patterns on a condom. Most are a waste of money, patented by individuals for products with no commercial potential.

On the other hand, successful corporations, eg. Apple Computer, have dockets comprising thousands of valuable, revenue generating patents. Every one of them worth the $2,000 annual cost of renewal (thereabouts) annually in over 100 countries across this beautiful planet.

So what was the essence of my first job with Olcott International? Patents? No!