Selling Steve Jobs' Liver: A Story of Startups, Innovation, and Connectivity in the Clouds
Steve Jobs’ Liver Biopsy
In 2003, Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer. By 2009, the cancer had spread to his liver. Near death, Jobs flew to Tennessee, where he underwent an organ transplant. The fate of the discarded liver remains a mystery, one that is revealed in Selling Steve Jobs’ Liver: A Story of Startups, Innovation, and Connectivity in the Clouds.
Selling Steve Jobs’ Liver begins when two serial-failure entrepreneurs, Nate Pennington and Ignacio Loehman, are contacted by a mysterious man who sells them the technology titan’s lost liver.
The opportunity inspires them to ideate, innovate, and finally create a new company, Reliqueree, whose mission is to reposition death and dying in the market’s mind by replacing current 20th century mortuary processes and concepts with fresh thinking and new technology to enable the living to enjoy the benefits of enhanced remembrance and connectivity with those in the post-life.
Determined to change the world, Nate and Ignacio create the uLivv, the first device designed to leverage the IoDT (Internet of Departed Things). As part of their launch strategy, Nate and Ignacio repurpose Steve Jobs’ genome and liver to create a compelling value and promotional proposition for their new family of products and services. Read more…
- Properly position Reliqueree and the uLivv to the market.
- Overcome reactionary thinking and legal gauntlets.
- Solve unique development and content creation challenges.
- Demonstrate to a skeptical media Reliqueree’s ability to disrupt the world.
These are just some of the business and personal challenges that will face the Reliqueree team.The journey will be a hard one, fraught with many obstacles and setbacks as the company growth hacks its way to market acceptance. The lessons you learn as you accompany our entrepreneurs on the path to business success will be invaluable and help inspire you to be “insanely great” in all your future endeavors.
Liver is a must read for entrepreneurs, startups, and high-tech visionaries, as well as the millions of us who remain fascinated by Steve Jobs and technology’s ability to assist us all to “Think Different” about life, death, and marketing technology.
Word count: 82K
Pages: 280 (approx)
Publisher: Aegis Resources
Release date: First week of July 27th, 2016
Formats: Mobi (Kindle), Epub, PDF
Available from: www.softletter.com, Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Apple, Kobo, Google Play
What Readers and the Press are Saying about Selling Steve Jobs’ Liver
“Dark, twisted, and absolutely hilarious”
I’ve been writing about the technology industry for decades, and this book captures the weirder-than-truth moments that I’ve come across so frequently. Yes, it’s entertaining, and yes, you’ll want to keep reading to get onto the next page. But it also gets across essential truths about technology and the people who work in it more than any non-fiction book ever could. Highly recommended.
Don’t miss this book!
Once again, Rick Chapman does a fantastic job melding his jarring sense of irony, deep (but irreverent) knowledge of the industry, and wonderful sense of humor!
Great Idea + Great Characters + Great Writing = Great Novel
Usually when I write reviews, I try to be as detailed as possible, examining the story with a critic’s eye. The author deserves it; the readers deserve it. But I have to be honest here – there really isn’t a whole lot I can write that the title doesn’t already convey. It is indeed a story about a group of tech entrepreneurs led by the, at times, unscrupulous Nate Pennington, who are trying to sell DNA samples of Steve Jobs’s liver as a marketing gimmick for the latest and greatest must-have tech device. Carry the dearly departed on your person and connect with them for all eternity via a very sophisticated Artificial Intelligence app.
Author Chapman presents a story here that I couldn’t have ever imagined. This is probably one of the most unique novels I have read – at least in a very long time – and Chapman’s writing skill supports the story vision. The characters are instantly likeable, yet incredibly flawed. There are definitely a few face-palm moments for these guys, but I never stopped rooting for their success. I could play the whole novel out in my mind like a movie – which it easily could be, or at least join the ranks of the ever-popular technology comedy-dramas on cable.
I always like to be fair in my reviews and give both pros and cons for balance. In this case, though, I really can’t see anything negative that would amount to more than just nitpicking for its own sake. Writers are told early on that there is no magic formula for success, but I disagree, and I think Chapman has found it: Great Idea + Great Characters + Great Writing = Great Novel. It really isn’t any simpler than that.
You’re not likely to find another new book as far out, wickedly funny, and totally unique as this one.
Will Rogers use to say, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” It appears that the same can be said today for the antics that go on in Silicon Valley, and author Merrill R. Chapman would know that as well as anybody.
Chapman writes as a Valley veteran who has been through the spin cycle there more than once. With a keen eye for the absurd, he manages nevertheless to make it all feel deliciously plausible. I have no doubt that somewhere right now a high-tech entrepreneur is reading Chapman’s comic novel about a tech startup repackaging death, and thinking, “That’s not such a bad idea there.”
To be clear, Merrill has done a lot more here than just poke fun at high tech culture–though he’s done that brilliantly. He has managed to concoct a dark fairy tale about unbridled ambition and idol worship in the 21st Century, with Steve Jobs himself stepping in for good measure to make god-like pronouncements from beyond the grave.
Notwithstanding the delightfully twisted story-telling, the novel’s entrepreneurial protagonist, Nate Pennington, might be Merrill’s greatest invention. He’s at once myopic and visionary, insightful and laughably lacking in anything resembling self-awareness. Nate is one of those rare fictional characters—like Ignatius J. Reilly in John Kennedy Tool’s A Confederacy of Dunces—whom you find yourself rooting for despite their numerous personal failings. Although I must say by the end of the book, Nate’s Candide-like optimism and spark of real decency completely won me over.
I recommend reading Selling Steve Jobs’ Liver for a number of reasons. Because its characters are oversized yet real, because it’s a rollicking good story, and because you’re not likely to find another new book as far out, wickedly funny, and totally unique as this one. Not for a long, long time.
Lee Burvine, The Kafir Principle
Menu of Contents
Chapter 1—Not Too Together
Chapter 2—Two Minds as One
Chapter 4—Meeting Mother Cabrini
Chapter 5—Visiting Dad
Chapter 7—Item for Sale
Chapter 8—Innovative Thinking
Chapter 9—Crossing the Yangtze
Chapter 11—The Big Apple Mandate
Chapter 13—To the Land of the King
Chapter 14—The Transaction
Chapter 15—The Toast
Chapter 16—Meeting Miss Fancy
Chapter 17—Business Plan
Chapter 18—Grey Chinese Blob
Chapter 19—Trip to the Middle Kingdom
Chapter 21—Gathering Momentum
Chapter 22—Angie Goes East
Chapter 23—Angie and Boris
Chapter 24—The uLivv Lives
Chapter 25—The Magic of Gruezén
Chapter 27—Advertising Quest
Chapter 28—Boris and May
Chapter 29—Temptation and Desire
Chapter 31— Reaction and Guarantee
Chapter 32—Brilliant Advertising
Chapter 34—Reaction and Legal Strike
Chapter 35—Legal Battle
Chapter 36—The Return of Landon
Chapter 37—Retail Dreams
Chapter 38—Cousin Yuri
Chapter 39—Legal Triumph
Chapter 40—Cathedral of Commerce
Chapter 41—The Sorrows of Boris
Chapter 42—Grand Opening Preparations
Some Wisdom from the Liver
On Being an Effective Startup CEO
Strong startup CEO leadership is marked by the ability to blend effective micromanagement with selective amnesia.
If you’re over 40, don’t come.
The high-tech industry regards the age of 40 with the same affection bestowed on 30 somethings in the old Sci-Fi movie “Logan’s Run.” In the film, 30-plus means “Last Day” and being spun up into the sky on a carousel and vaporized. There are periodic rumors a similar device will be introduced at DEMO, or possibly TechCrunch, which is regarded as the more avant-garde of the two shows.
On Memories of Steve Jobs
“The guy’s a Valley saint. I know people who still won’t sell their iPods and become choked up every time they’re applying scratch polish.”
“A quick market overview. Our new enterprise is built around the inescapable reality that everyone dies. That’s an unpleasant truth people prefer not to dwell on, but we believe it’s that ubiquity that opens the path to major new markets and revenue opportunities.
“The downside of death is, obviously, dying. The upside is that it’s a universally shared experience that creates a huge set of expectations and shared challenges across every country, culture, and market. Steve Jobs himself recognized and spoke to this issue directly at his famous commencement address at Stanford in 2005. You can watch the entire speech on YouTube. It’s extremely moving.”
“Master race?” she said. “China was civilized when you white people were avoiding baths for fear of miasmas while keeping plague rats as pets. Meanwhile, Chinese fleets were exploring the world while our scientists created gunpowder.”
“And yet somehow it all went wrong,” I said. “From those lofty heights, China descended into a nation whose principal interests were foot binding, spitting, and conditioning yourselves to eat increasingly disgusting food. This all culminated in a society where everyone’s favorite pastime was sitting around smoking opium in a vain attempt to forget that you were living in China. Making it worse was the fact that when the Emperor cracked down on the drug trade, everyone was too stoned to put up a decent fight against the British and the French. My God. You people actually lost to the French.”
On Resisting Disruption
When Steve Jobs had released the iPod and created the buck-a-song download model, the music community had fought against the rising tide with disastrous results. Bands and singers had been forced to perform in front of live people to make money and the record companies had seen their revenues plummet. Drug allocations for performers and music executives were slashed to the bone. Both industries were still recovering.
On Resisting Change
“Steve Jobs fought against the dying of the light until the end. There was a reason he was one of the first people to have his genome sequenced. Why he flew from California to Tennessee to move ahead on the transplant waiting lists. Steve understood that there’s a time for everything under heaven. Including fighting change.”
When I look at it, I don’t see the organ,” I said. “I see the beauty of Steve Jobs’ DNA and how it enabled him to achieve so many extraordinary things. And that molecule’s work isn’t done yet. Being dead doesn’t have to mean not being productive.”
The West Side traffic brought the limo to a standstill and I decided to put the wasted time to good use. I pulled out my iPhone and checked our social media dashboard. “uLivv,” “TransLivvient” and “Reliqueree” were all trending on Twitter. The media coverage of the grand opening of our first store opening had generated almost a million more likes on our Facebook page. The CEO of HP had asked to connect with me on LinkedIn yesterday. Traffic on our Pinterest sight was going to explode once video and pictures of the gala event hit the Cloud and the blogs. Next I accessed our accounting system and compared December’s sales against November. I smiled as the numbers displayed onscreen. We’d killed it. And even though the holidays were over, January sales were projected to exceed December’s by 200 percent. Hmm. Could that be a problem? We’d calculated we had enough stock in reserve for years, but even I hadn’t forecast this level of demand. “Call Michael,” I instructed the phone. Angie and her brother had left early so she could show off the store personally. He answered. “Hi,” he said. “Where are you?” “Stuck in traffic just a few blocks away.” I knocked on the Plexiglas window behind the driver. It rolled down. “Yes, Mr. Pennington?” he said. “How long before we clear this? Should we just get out and walk? I’m from New York. I know where I am.” “GPS says we should work through this in about 20 minutes. That enough time?” “Yes.” I’d given us an hour to reach the store and was ready to stop the limo and lead everyone on foot to 14th Street if need be. As I’d told the driver, I was native stock, nobility so far as the rest of the region was concerned. New Yorkers were arguing Thomas Paine when the hillbillies from New Jersey and Connecticut were still making their mark. “Have you seen the sales figures?” I said. “I did. It’s amazing how things are…” I interrupted him. “I’m worried about inventory. Are you sure we’ll be able to meet demand?” “Relax. We have enough material to stretch from the Earth to the Sun two times and back. And that’s factoring in the estimated wastage. Years of reserve.” “Yes, but 25 percent is ‘dark matter.’” “Still more than enough. And aren’t you planning a ‘Plus’ Edition?” “Yes. It should be a killer if it’s positioned and marketed properly.” “Angie says ‘Into the Blue’ orders are flooding in,” Michael said. “The platform is growing. I know I’m not a marketer, but I’ve learned a few things watching you in action. People are accepting Reliqueree’s value proposition. I’m not sure you’ll need the rest of the inventory.” He was right, but I worry a lot. It’s because I care. Steve Jobs cared. If you’re an entrepreneur, your middle name is “Worry.” “What’s the turnout like?” “The store is packed,” he said. “Every press invite was picked up half an hour ago. Pogue, Mossberg and Alison are here.” “Terrific. How about Boris? Has anyone heard more about May?” “Angie spoke to Illarion. He says it appears ICE screwed up. O’Connell is working on it. Should only be a couple more days. She spoke to Boris and he said he’d be there on time. She said he sounded good.” “Excellent.” With May gone, Boris’ stress levels had gone atmospheric, but with everyone’s help, he seemed to be coping. Once she was back, I was sure he’d calm down. “We should be there soon. Talk more then.” “Wait, Angie wants to speak to you. She wants to know…” Another call came in. I looked at the number. Todd Birnbaum. Amazon’s top biz dev guy. I hadn’t thought this day could become any better, but apparently I was wrong. “Tell her I’ll see her in a few minutes. Amazon just called. I’ll fill her in when I get there.” “OK,” he said. I disconnected and took the call. “Nate Pennington. How’s it going Todd.” “Hi, Nate. Look, Jeff wants to discuss purchasing. And I want to clear up any misunderstanding from DEMO.” The last DEMO had been held in September in Phoenix. Both Bezos and Birnbaum walked out on our presentation about a minute after it began. “Tell him not to worry about it. I’m sorry we didn’t communicate our vision to you more effectively. By the way, Forbes just moved Reliqueree into the number 15 spot in their top international brands list. I’ll bet we crack the top 10 within six months.” “What’s wholesale going to look like?” Todd said. I’d been looking forward to this moment for months. “I’m sorry, Todd. We’re not doing straight wholesale. We’re going wholesale plus MAP. We’ll be reasonable on the discounts. No problem with the non-disclosure agreement. But we control our pricing and brand equity.” In the MAP model, the manufacturer controls and set their pricing. In straight wholesale, the retailer. Amazon enjoys controlling pricing models and regards MAP as a tool of Satan. Only companies with strong brands and sky-high demand can insist on MAP. “Amazon doesn’t buy under MAP. You know that, Nate. We buy straight wholesale.” All Apple products are sold to Amazon under strict MAP agreements. The reason is if you can’t buy an iPhone from Amazon, the customer will go somewhere else. And then keep returning to that somewhere else to buy other stuff. “Yes, Todd. You know, there’s an industry rumor going around that your boss and Tim Cook crossed paths at a TED talk in Vancouver and Jeff muttered the words ‘straight wholesale’ where Tim could hear it. The next day, Jeff gets a phone call and after it’s over, leaps on a plane to Cupertino, takes a taxi to One Infinite Loop, changes into a wetsuit, and is escorted up to Tim’s office where he sits in a chair and balances a colored rubber ball on his nose while clapping his hands together going ‘arf,’ ‘arf,’ ‘arf.’ But I’m sure it’s just idle buzz.” There was a long pause on the line, then Birnbaum said, “Uh, yes. Let’s connect tomorrow and resume our talk. We’re going to be looking for 40 points. Good luck with the store opening.” “Thanks, Todd. Talk to you.”
Chapter 1 — Not Too Together
Chapter 1 — Not Too Together
Beth spotted me immediately and watched with dismay as I walked into the nearly empty cafe and strolled up to his table. His iPhone and MacBook Air were set up next to a couple of empty plates which held the remnants of his lunch. I sat down across from him.
Seth had taken over the position of San Francisco’s best-known technology incubator as its “bright sherpa” after he’d cashed out on two startups and moved into the venture community. His first company had created a payment app infrastructure for interactive vending machines. Your Butterfinger could now reach out and ask you to eat it. He’d repeated the play with an IoT (Internet of Things) flexible screen technology that married your kitchen appliances with the Cloud. Your coffee maker could now implore you to buy better beans while your toaster oven nagged you to purchase expensive whole wheat bread instead of cheap white.
As my bright sherpa, Seth had mainly assisted theTogetherHood and the other startups by spending minimal time at brightstart. Instead, he focused on discussing the value of mentoring, collaboration, and providing practical business advice to entrepreneurs at the numerous seminars, conferences, and events running on a 24/7 cycle in the Valley. When he’d first come on board, I’d asked him about the qualifications I should look for in a CFO. Seth hadn’t had time to answer but had suggested I attend a Silicon Valley Meetup Group talk he was giving next month where he’d cover that topic. He had been nice enough to give me one of the “Make Mistakes” T-shirts he sometimes brought to the office.
“Hi, Seth. How are things?” I said.
“Hi, Nate. It’s been a busy morning.” He glanced at his Apple Watch. “I’d like to talk, but I have to run now.”
He smiled at me nervously, closed his laptop, and started to stand up. I smiled back, reached across the table, grabbed him on both sides of his face by his startup-executive-laser-graded-length beard and guided my Sherpa back to his seat. Seth’s 6’3″ and I’m 5’10,” but he’s licorice-stick thin and I bench press 275. He sat back down.
“Ow. Let go of me, Nate. That’s assault!”
“Shh, Seth,” I said in a soothing voice. “I’m not assaulting you. We’re communicating directly without any digital smog cluttering our interaction.” I gave his beard a friendly tug and he winced. “I just want to know what’s going on and hear it from your own mouth. That’s all. Once I’m up to speed, we can resolve this amicably, and you won’t have to go back to brightstart looking like wolverines ate your face.”
His eyes widened, then he relaxed. “OK, OK. Let go and I’ll tell you what’s happening. How did you find me?”
“Seth, for a man who’s managed two app/hardware hybrids to successful monetization events, I’m surprised you don’t know more about the capabilities of that marvelous example of Cupertino technology you own.” I nodded towards the iPhone. “Carrying one of those is like painting a GPS locator beacon on your chest in neon pink glow paint. You can be found anywhere. Even when it’s turned off. And when Ignacio is on the case, I could find you if you’re dead.”
I released his face, cocked my head, and gave him by best friendly-puppy look. “So? What’s going on?”
“Last week one of your beta customers contacted us. They were fuming.”
“About theTogetherHood’s ‘functionality.’”
“Seth, theTogetherHood is a community management and empowerment system.”
“Uh, huh. I remember your original pitch. But you neglected to mention some things.”
“Nothing about the system has changed. theTogetherHood is a risk management system for municipalities that enables them to manage a wide range of potential liabilities while protecting and enhancing revenues.”
“Yes, Nate. I’ve heard the spiel and went to your demo. But you didn’t spend much time showcasing the system’s nuts and bolts. Most community management systems don’t track multiple types of homicides and accidents such as car crashes, domestic abuse, playground fractures, drug overdoses, municipal pool drownings and a couple dozen others I can’t recall. Never mind the municipal incidents database. The first selectman falls in love with the head of the PTA and they fly off to Venezuela with the school fund? The chief of police is caught raiding lobsters from a local seafood restaurant?”
“All ripped from today’s headlines,” I said. “Seth, this is a dangerous world we live in. Your brother’s a lawyer. Wasn’t he the one who filed suit against Sausalito last summer? When those kids boat-jacked a 30-footer, got drunk, and a girl went over the side and drowned? What was the cause of action? Oh, yes. That the boat owner and marina hadn’t ensured the location of the life preservers was properly marked. We added that to the system.”
“That’s not the problem. The ‘Community Risk Heuristics and Hedging’ feature is.”
“What’s the problem with it?” I said “It’s easy to use and set up.”
“It is. The interface is a triumph of responsive design. The problem is what your software does. It runs ghoul pools. Last week, one of your beta customers called us up and threatened to sue brightstart. They weren’t joking. Apparently, some of the town’s IT admins were digging through the theTogetherHood and stumbled across the domestic pet incident tracking feature. The one that enables you to calculate liability ratios in the event Rover is hit by a Ford or Felix lands inside a coyote.”
“I guess you’ve never heard of that famous case in Connecticut?” I said. “A woman’s pet chimp went berserk and ripped off her best friend’s face? I wonder how much the town paid to settle that mess.”
“I don’t know about that. What I do know is that some of your ‘beta testers’ set up a ‘contingency fund’ to pay off in the event Rover or Felix had an accident. The next thing, pets start disappearing all over town. I wonder why.”
Chapter 5 — Visiting Dad
Chapter 5 — Visiting Dad
Dad was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery, about a 15-minute drive from Riverdale. We weren’t visiting an actual grave. Woodlawn is a historic landmark and you need to be wealthy to grab a plot of real dirt in the place. After his funeral, Dad was cremated and interred in a mausoleum niche with his name, date of birth and death, and the inscription “Beloved Husband and Father.” Well, I’d liked him.
Chapter 10 — Presentation
Chapter 10 — Presentation
We called it a night and went to bed in accordance with the EEE/RRR rule. Early to bed, early to rise, early to arrive so that you show up refreshed, relaxed and ready. We were at Illarion’s office a couple of minutes early and a receptionist escorted us into a small conference room where I placed my Mac on the table. At 10:00 am sharp, Illarion stepped through the door.
Chapter 20 — Boris
Chapter 20 — Boris
Back in New York, Ignacio and I met to sign the paperwork necessary to transfer the $3.5 million into the Reliqueree account. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that while I was in Shenzen, he’d advanced us enough to open our offices and begin equipping them. Our new headquarters was located in an older but well-maintained building. As Ignacio and I looked through our suite, Illarion paid us a visit.
“I would like to discuss Boris,” he said. “I have told him about the company and the uLivv and he is excited. When can you talk with him?”
I looked over at Ignacio. “Any reason why not tomorrow?”
“No. If he’s good, we need him yesterday.”
“Send him over at 9 am tomorrow. Ignacio and I are eager to meet him. Have him email his resume to us.”
“I will tell him.”
At 9:45 am the next day, a large, bear-shaped person walked into our place as Ignacio and I were configuring the office network. Boris, we presumed. We were already unimpressed. You don’t arrive 45 minutes late for a job interview and expect to be hired. Even if you are the chief investor’s nephew.
“Excuse me. I am Boris Samsonov. My uncle Illarion sent me here to speak with you.” Our visitor spoke with a thick Russian accent and was carrying what appeared to be a battered laptop case. Late twenties? Early thirties? Hard to tell.
“You’re late,” I said. “You were supposed to be here at nine.”
“The subway train from Brighton was slow.”
“Forty-five minutes slow?”
Boris said nothing and refused to make eye contact with me or Ignacio. After a second, I said, “OK. We’ll let it pass this time. Did you send me or Ignacio your resume? Your CV?”
“I didn’t receive anything yet,” Ignacio said. I hadn’t either.
“Here is resume.” He reached into the pocket of his jacket with his large, furry hand, pulled out a crumpled paper document consisting of three pages stapled together, and handed it to me. “I brought two copies,” he said, reaching back into the same pocket and handing the other document to Ignacio.
I scanned the resume and sighed internally. It was barely English and littered with misspellings. It also sported a yellowish stain I assumed was either tea or coffee. This would not be a long interview.
“Why didn’t you email this?” Ignacio said.
“Uncle Illarion said I should be careful about sending out too much information about myself online. He has asked me to keep a low profile.”
“Boris, I don’t think he meant paper resumes,” I said. “Let’s go into the conference room and find out more about your skills and if you’re a fit to the Reliqueree culture.” We walked into the conference room and seated ourselves around its oblong table. In his chair, Boris began a slow, barely perceptible rocking motion.
“Boris, I’ll assume Illarion provided you with details about Reliqueree?” I said. “About the uLivv and the skillset we need?”
“A few.” He said nothing else.
“Um, OK. Do you mind if I ask why you’re interested in working at Reliqueree?”
“I am not interested in working here. I would like to work at Apple.”
Ignacio snorted. “Yes. Well,” I said. “Why aren’t you working there?”
“I have mailed several resumes. They have not responded.”
“I wonder why.”