My Zero-ith Company

In 1983, when I was a senior in high school, I started my first company.  There were six founders – they are the gang below:


John Gruberman, Drew Debelak, Jeff Funkhouser, Steve?, Kent Ellington, and me (the smiling dude holding up the book on the bottom right.)  I can’t remember the name of the company, but it was probably something clever.  I’m 99% sure the book Kent (middle / bottom) is holding up is something about incorporating your business. 

We’d cooked up some idea around Dungeons and Dragons, the game us little nerd boys played while we weren’t eating at Taco Bueno, listening to Rush, playing with our computers (Kent and I programmed a killer Yahtzee game on the TI Personal Computer which “accidentally” got shipped on their “auxiliary program” disk – Kent’s dad was the product manager before joining Compaq at the very beginning), or pretending to chase girls.

At some point, my other five partners decided to kick me out of the business for some reason – I think it was because they were all going to UT Austin and I wasn’t.  I remember not being very happy with most of them (except Kent) for a while.  I went to live in Boston, they went to live in Austin, and we basically went our separate ways. 

I often forget about this being my very first company and often refer to Martingale Software (also a failure) as my first company.  I guess I’ll call this one my Zero-ith company.

  • You did the TI-99/4A Yahtzee game? I *LOVED* that game.

  • It was actually Yahtzee for the TI Personal Computer. This was their first PC clone. It ran MS-DOS, but had proprietary (and killer – at least for the time) graphics. We wrote everything in MS-Basic after messing around with DR CBasic for a while (which sucked rocks.) I did – however – work in a TI store for $3 / hour when I was in 11th grade for a while (until I determined that I could make $30 / hour tutoring high school senior girls for the SAT Math). We didn’t sell many 99/4As in the retail store, but we played a lot of Yahtzee.

  • Brad, I just wanted to write a quick note and tell you how cool I think this is and loved that you posted about this.

    I started two companies way back when I was in high school — it seems like a lifetime ago, and was when online ads just started taking off…wow, brings back some memories…

  • as per hollywood, i think u need to refer to this as a prequel; your “Prequel” Company.

    Not sure who is Darth Vader and Anakin though….

  • Reminds me of my first “company.” I was around 12 years old or so. It was called “The Leather Shop,” and I made custom leather goods (funny now that I’m generally anti-leather, and a vegetarian) for friends and family (mostly friends of my parents). Belts, wallets, bookmarks, and the like. Good times!

  • Where’d you get the cool comment bubbles? I’d been dying for a better comment style.

  • Slice of Lime did them for me.

  • I can totally relate to this Brad. Over the course of last three years I’ve toyed with so many business ideas(from viagra to books on saving gas) isn’t it fun to think back every once in a while and smile at the wierdness of some things you once did:)?


  • Jeff


    The Steve mentioned in the note is Steve Tonneson. And, as for who was Darth Vader and Anakin – I think we all know!


  • McCalpin

    I thought the spelling was “Tonnesen”.