“Today’s the day I change? No. Today’s the day you change.”

We stared back at him, blinking, waiting for him to speak again.

“I’m the founding member! This entire app was my idea. You guys can’t push me out. If anything, I should be pushing you out. In fact, I will be kicking you out of my business.”

“You don’t own a majority share anymore,” I leveled with him.

“Besides that, none of the board or our shareholders will support you as CEO once it comes out what you’ve done…” Tom added from the chair to my right.

“The three of us started this together. You always depended on my strategic direction. What the hell are you going to do now?” Jonah asked, his voice rising an octave while his eyes frantically searched our faces.

“We’ll hire some consultants,” I said, giving him a patronizing smile. I could see his nostrils flare in rage from across his desk.

“You won’t be able to do this. I’ll go to the press” Jonah countered.

“No, you wont. You’ll go home and make money by selling off your stock and hoping you have an idea that lets you strike gold twice,” I said. “Best of luck, Jonah. HitList legal will be in touch about an NDA.”

“Fuck you, Claire! And fuck you too Tom! You’re both going to regret this. You think I’m too stupid to know what’s going on with you two? I’m going to tell both of your wives all of it.”

I paused before walking out of his office door I just opened. “Security will be up to see you out,” I said, without turning around.

“I know what you two are trying to do with my site and if you do, I’m going to tell everyone who will listen how you’re turning-“

I closed the door before he could finish.

Leaving his office, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. The weight of incompetence. Stupid, impetuous incompetence.

Tom and I walked back into my office down the hall of the 32nd floor our company HitList occupied. This office was one of my great sources of pride, from the floor to ceiling glass paneling down to the monstera and pothos in their chic rectangular planters. It was all tangible, visible proof that I had done something. My concept had made it. Me, Tom, and Jonah’s offices were equally cavernous, flanked on either side by our assistants (or whatever formal title they went by) and their assistants, the ones who managed the rows of cubicles on the other side of the hall.

Tom closed the door behind us and grabbed me by my hips, pulling me flat against him as he ran his lips down my neck.

“I love to see you like that,” he growled, pushing me on top of the desk. “So cold.”

“Not now,” I said, swatting him away. He was grating on me as well. I’d need to figure out what to do about him too, but Jonah was the far more pressing problem. “I’m calling the lawyers to preempt him from doing anything stupid.”

I dialed the extension for our in-house counsel. “Lisa, hi, it’s Claire and Tom. We wanted to fill you in on what happened with Jonah.”

“He’s gone?” she asked.

“Yeah, we told him today he was out.”

“Thank God,” she mumbled. “I’ll start drafting up an NDA to send to him tonight. Is there anything else?”

“Yeah, we’ll need to draft a statement for the board and a more general one for the investors. You can say that his founding partners at HitList discovered, in addition to a series of inappropriate relationships with HitList employees, he had our software engineers modify the review system to prioritize women with fitter rated body types. And in some cases, he was using physical details pulled from their Apple Watch if they had it synched with their HitList account. Add some points about how we found this disgusting and absolutely against HitList’s values, which does not discriminate by any means based on size, shape, ethnicity, or background.”

HitList. What a depressing concept.

Somehow, Jonah had come up with one winning idea, done one thing right in all the time I’d known him, and it happened to be the thing that would make the three of us millionaires many times over. We’d known each other in college and when he approached us with his idea as both our senior year and exciting job prospects were dwindling, we’d jumped at the idea of getting into the “tech” world that was making a lot of people around us very successful.

The premise was simple – a Yelp for hookups. Jonah proposed an app that allowed you to rank people’s—prowess—after being with them. Your review lived on their page in perpetuity for all other interested parties, unless of course you purchased our premium subscription and could curate your reviews.

We balked at the idea at first. We would be featuring people’s most personal details for all to see, and it smelled ripe for a libel lawsuit. But, Jonah was convincing and the smashing success of the app’s beta version on our campus was even more convincing. The women actually rated far more prolifically than the men did. It seemed like they’d been waiting for a forum like this.

Jonah had the idea and me and Tom’s families had enough capital to help us get HitList started. The app soon spread outside our campus to nearby schools, then across the state, before establishing itself as a national fixture. We’ve since grown from essentially digitizing writing on the bathroom stall wall, to an organized display, with top friends and raters, messaging services, and advertisements to keep it free for users. The ads had really helped us get to where we are now. Once big name companies started advertising on HitList, we were able to turn it into a real brand.

“You know, I really think this is for the better. Our personal feelings aside,” Tom said. “He clearly couldn’t be brought along for our next stage of development.”

“Obviously,” I said. “Anyone who would inject a fat shaming prejudice into our public company and our product’s source code is still exactly the same as he was in college. Maybe his old frat house will let him move back in.”

When I had heard what he’d done, I was floored. It was the most shallow, pedantic, ridiculous thing I’d ever heard in the business world. And from a purported CEO, no less.

“He was always going to hold us back,” Tom said. “Some people have ideas but aren’t right to see them forward.”

“Sure, right,” I said, losing interest in his conversation. I woke my computer from its sleep mode and started scanning my emails.

“Let’s talk tomorrow about setting up the meeting next week on the new ad system. We need to strategize the back end of that.”

I nodded in response.

“Alright then,” Tom said, getting up and walking out of the room, finally keyed in to my unspoken dismissal.

The truth was, we’d been looking for a viable reason to push Jonah out for quite some time, no matter what he messed with or how many interns he fooled around with. HitList was on the cusp of changing our business strategy and money making concept. We were ready to move to a higher level, but we had to cut the dead weight first.

It’s one thing to let companies advertise on your site. That’s how you start making money. But once you become popular enough that you can sell the data your users are offering you for free, and in some cases paying you to take? That is when you start printing the money out yourself. And HitList collected some of the most niche, interesting data there is. We could offer sexual preference information, behavioral data, locations, you name it. And data brokers will pay, big time, and that’s even before the targeted ads roll in. You don’t even really have to tell your loyal user base that its up for sale. They’ll agree, implicitly.

So, I guess Jonah was right. Today is the day we change. 

November 06, 2021 02:49

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Karen McDermott
13:57 Nov 08, 2021

This bit made me chuckle: "The women actually rated far more prolifically than the men did. It seemed like they’d been waiting for a forum like this." Nice work!


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Unknown User
20:57 Nov 08, 2021

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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