February 12, 2011

The Devil and Billy Markham (Redux)

The Devil walked into Starbucks on a rainy Silicon Valley night
While the lost souls sat and sipped their drinks in the compact florescent light.
And the Devil, he looked around the room, then got down on his knees.
He says, "Is there one of you entrepreneurs who'll roll the dice with me?"
Larry, he just taps on his Android, pretending not to see.
And Bill, he just looks away and takes another sip of tea.

Mark, he says, "Not me, I'll pass, I've had my share of Hell,"
And kept typing on his MacBook, some business plan he was sure would sell.
Steve just kept whisperin' to the cute Stanford MBA who clutched at his sleeve,
And somebody coughed -- and the Devil scoffed -- and turned on his heel to leave.
"Hold on," says a voice from the back of the room. "'fore you walk out that door.
If you're lookin' for some action, friend, well, I've rolled some dice before."

And there stood Billy Markham, he'd been on the scene for years,
Creating startups with pitches that investors didn't want to hear.
He'd filed Chapters 7 and 11 countless times, and his eyes were wise and sad,
And all his visions were too far ahead, and all his luck was bad.
"I know you," says Billy Markham, "from many a dark and funky place,
But you always spoke in a different voice and wore a different face.
While me, I've gambled here on Sand Hill Road with hustlers and with whores,
And, Hell, I ain't afraid to roll them devilish dice of yours."

"Well, then, get down," says the Devil, "just as if you was gonna pray,
And take these dice in your luckless hand and I'll tell you how this game is played.
You get one roll -- and you bet your soul -- and if you roll thirteen you win,
And all the MnA's and IPO's are yours to touch and spend.
But if that thirteen don't come up, then kiss your ass goodbye
And will your useless bones to God, 'cause your goddamn soul is mine!"

"Thirteen?" says Billy Markham. "Hell, I've played in tougher games.
I've loved unfunded startups and rode on wheelless trains.
So gimme room, you stinkin' fiend, and let it all unwind.
Nobody's ever rolled a thirteen yet, but this just might be the time."

Then Billy Markham, he takes the dice, and the dice feel as heavy as stones.
"They should, they should" the Devil says, "'they're carved from Steve Jobs' bones."
And Billy Markham turns the dice and the dice, they have no spots.
"I'm sorry," says the Devil, "but they're the only dice I got."

"Well, shit," says Billy Markham. "Now, I really don't mean to bitch,
But I never thought I'd stake my roll in a sucker's game like this."

"Well, then, walk off," says the Devil. "Nobody's tied you down."

"Walk off where?" says Billy Markham. "It's the only term sheet in town.
But I just wanna say 'fore I make my play, that if I should chance to lose,
I will this ultrabook to some entrepreneur who'll start something we all can use,
Who ain't afraid to pitch with terms like damn or shit or fuck
And who ain't afraid to bet on common stock in order to makes his bucks.
But if he starts some hyped-up piece of crap, and pumps it with sugary lies,
I'll haunt him till we meet in Hell -- now, gimme them fuckin' dice."

And Billy Markham shakes the dice and yells, "Come on, thirteen!"
And the dice, they roll -- and they come up blank. "You lose!" the Devil screams.

"But I really must say 'fore we go our way that I really do like your style.
Of all the fools I've played and beat, you're the first one who lost with a smile."

"Well, I'll tell you somethin'," Billy Markham says. "Those odds weren't too damn bad.
In fourteen years of starting companies, that's the best damn chance I've had."

Then, arm in arm, Billy Markham and the Devil walk out through Starbucks door,
Leavin' Billy's beat-up notebook there on the floor.
And if you go into that cafe now, you can see it laying mute
on a shelf, in a corner, the Devil's forgotten loot
Billy Markham's old computer. . .
That nobody dares to boot.

(a parody of Shel Silverstein's most excellent poem, The Devil and Billy Markham. Updated 1/14/12).

Posted by rick at February 12, 2011 11:42 AM