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Time-Travel: Vertical Power

OK I am cleaning old posts out of X-Plane.com but this is one that I never want to forget, or for that matter for anyone else to forget, so that neither I nor anyone else make a mistake like this again! (Well, there is zero chance of THAT, but here’s to trying to learn from previous mistakes!)

Some years ago, I hired a company called Vertical Power (owned, as far as I could tell, by a company called the Verge Fund) to make a product called the VP-400. The job was contracted to be done for a certain amount of time and money to be paid by me.

The contract specified that each of us owned the part of the project that we created, the idea being that each of us would have equal skin in the game, and incentive to get the job done, and taken to market.

I did NOT imagine that Vertical Power would fall years behind schedule, go more than 100% over budget, create only an incomplete and malfunctioning system, sell the incomplete project (but NOT the contract to COMPLETE it!) to another company called Astronics, pocket the money from the sale for itself and/or its investors, rename themselves to “Power-Down Albuquerque”, which contained the CONTRACT to finish the job, but not the ASSETS to finish the job, issue no refund to me, and shut down operations, leaving me with nothing but a malfunctioning, incomplete unit that was not fit for use in a manned airplane, and over a million dollars in payments that I had made to them with no return of that investment to me when they sold off the project to Astronics.

But, that is what they did.

And then Astronics, upon receiving the incomplete VP-400 project, shut it down.
(Astronics owns VerticalPower.com, but claims to have no obligation to make good on the Vertical Power contract with me, telling me that they purchased only the ASSETS of Vertical Power, NOT the obligation to finish the job).

For me, the worst moment was on the eve of the sale of Vertical Power to Astronics, when the VP-400 was in my airplane, malfunctioning and incomplete to the point that it could not possibly be safely used, and Marc Ausman, the president of Vertical Power called me on the phone and said: “I am just telling you what the lawyers are going to tell you tomorrow: If you do not sign a statement saying that we have completed the job, then the Verge Fund will sue you for tortious interference, and take your car and your house.” (Trust me: When you hear that, your mind quickly goes to your wife and 2-year old daughter that live there!)

They also wanted a $50,000 “completion fee”.

Winding up with no useable product, but a threat to take my house and car if I did not sign a statement SAYING that the job was done… THAT was a phone call I will never forget.

The lessons here are:

->When contracting someone to do work, make sure that YOU OWN ALL THE WORK that is being contracted! I did not do that.

->Make sure that the work is really getting done! In an attempt to not blockade progress, I kept paying the cost over-runs even though the job was not being properly finished.

->When contracting to get work done, make sure that you get everything in WRITING! They told me by PHONE that Astronics would acquire the contract to finish the job, when in fact Astronics ignored the contract and just took the assets, leaving the contract to finish the job in the empty shell company left of Vertical Power that they re-named to “Power-Down Albuquerque”.