On January 26, 2008, a 30-year-old part-time entrepreneur named Mike Merrill decided to sell himself on the open market. He divided himself into 100,000 shares and set an initial public offering price of $1 a share. Each share would earn a potential return on profits he made outside of his day job as a customer service rep at a small Portland, Oregon, software company. Over the next 10 days, 12 of his friends and acquaintances bought 929 shares, and Merrill ended up with a handful of extra cash. He kept the remaining 99.1 percent of himself but promised that his shares would be nonvoting: He’d let his new stockholders decide what he should do with his life.
Initially, shareholders voted on a variety of small projects. On February 15, 2008, for example, Merrill asked whether he should make a short video to market shares in himself. His investors voted that idea down, but a month later they approved an investment of $79.63 in a Rwandan chicken farmer.
The corporate oversight got more complicated in August 2008, when Merrill moved in with shareholder number seven: his girlfriend, Willow McCormick. Though they’d been dating for two and a half years and generally got along great, it wasn’t an easy decision for Merrill. McCormick taught grade school, and her idea of fun was playing Boggle at night with her friends. Merrill couldn’t stand Boggle. He was more interested in things like planning the whiskey-drinking group with his buddies. “His ideal relationship was one in which we lived harmoniously independent lives, and I think mine was a little more traditional,” McCormick says.
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