Airborne Media Group – 2012

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So, when I accepted the contract for Rock Systems, I was informed that I was a subcontractor, and Airborne Media Group was the main company that Rock Systems was contracting for.

Airborne Media Group was based in Durango, CO. They had designed this system so that one could choose audio from several TVs in a venue like a sports bar and play it back through the headphones on a smart phone. They had one full-fledged customer, a casino operated by the Ute tribe, and they had several others that they were trying to sell.

Rock Systems hired me because the existing IOS app they had was in trouble. It was behind on features and crashed all of the time. I prepared a quality report on the IOS code.

When I flew out to Durango, and presented my findings, I met the CEO and one of the vice-presidents of Airborne. They told that they had been impressed with my work, and quizzed me on my background. They also mentioned that after my contract was up, perhaps I could talk to them about some work?

My boss at Rock Systems was pretty furious; it was bad business to recruit subcontractors out from under contractors. Nevertheless, he admitted that he did not know how long I would have on the contract. He asked me to stay on for another six-eight weeks to work on features for the app; past that, he did not know.

Two to three weeks after I started to work on the new features, the vice-president said that he was coming to Austin, and he wanted me to meet him. He wanted to talk to me about joining them as VP of Software, opening an office in Austin, and hiring a development team of full-time engineers. He asked me if I could spend a whole day with him. I said OK. He also asked if I knew any commercial real estate agents in town. I said I would ask my residential agent, who had been working in this town for 20 years.

I met him at lunch downtown at what people call a “breastaurant”, i.e., the wait staff wore short shorts, pushup bras, and tight tee-shirts, with shiny stockings. It was on 6th Street, the main party street downtown, although in the middle of a weekday, it was just another busy street. During this magnificent meal, he told me that he had had the idea of the AudioAir app running his own bar. He owned the bar caddy-corner from the hotel I had stayed at. He had a couple of entrepreneur buddies, and they had started the company. The decided to contract everything out until they were sure of the proof of concept, but now, they were securing their first round of venture.

Not only would the app play audio back, but the screen could be used for venue-specific ads, and eventually, for bar games and the like. Perhaps a point-of-sale system for the venue?

He wanted to build a software engineering office, and he was not impressed with developers in Durango. Silicon Valley was too expensive, so he wanted to do this in Austin, which he had visited many times.

“How would you setup an office?”, he asked me.

I told him that I would want a staff of 3-4 engineers, 1 each specializing in IOS and Android, and 1 front-end and 1 back-end web engineer, or maybe one full-stack. The site would have TVs all around, and visitors could listen via the app to any of the TVs playing. The TVs would be full of sports. For development purposes, we would need both Time Warner and DirecTV service in the building.

He seemed to like that answer. From there, we walked over to the Bank of America building on 6th Street to meet the real estate agent. Showed us a nice office, but mentioned that it might be tough to get a dish put on the roof. I mentioned that we might have to bolt one next on the wall next to south-facing window, and he said he would talk to management.

The VP and I then parted ways, and he told me he would be in touch.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t getting paid. Rock Systems wasn’t getting paid, so they were having trouble paying me.

And evidently, my boss at Rock Systems was already angry at Airborne, and hit the roof when he found out how far along my discussions with Airborne had gone. There was a lot of angry email flowing, with lots of excuses about having trouble securing funding and the like.

I kept my head down on the coding. Eventually, the first version of the app with my changes in it was released on the App Store, my first published app.

Right after July 4, I got a phone call from the VP.

“Airborne Media Group would like to make you an offer of employment.”

“I am interested. However, until I am paid in full what is owed me, we have nothing to talk about.”

“Oh. How much are you owed?”

I told him to the last penny.

“Yeah, I could see where that would be a problem. Let me see what I can do. We’ll take care of this, and then we can talk some more.”

“Sounds good.”

I never talked to him personally again. The CEO contacted me in email, acting surprised that “Rock Systems would go so far as to withhold payment from you because of a dispute with us”. I told him that Rock Systems hadn’t been paid either, and it sounded like the financial situation of Airborne was pretty dire. Until that was fixed, I was not interested in working for them.

About a week later, Rock Systems told me to stop working on this contract. They eventually paid me, bit it took a while.

As for Airborne Media Group:

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