I wrote this a few days after the accident which took Martin’s life, and read it at the Hello Martin gathering.
We first met via email, Kylie Sachs introduced us, and when he came into the office I was expecting an older guy. Instead it was this young kid with a shock of blonde hair and a huge smile. We sat down and exchanged stories. His began, I started my first company at the age of 12. The next day met for breakfast to talk about him advising our company.
He said he didn’t exist on the net, intentionally. Had friends at Google, could pull down mentions of him. He had no residence, was PT, or perpetual traveler, and avoided taxes.
He said there were only 5 people in the world who understood SEO, the ones at it since the beginning. He made these claims and you felt you could bring in a lawyer who could unsubstantiate them, but at the same time, he knew something you didn’t or couldn’t see.
Big tales. But it didn’t matter. He had something unique. A sharpness a lust for life.
After breakfast I told my Sascha I want to bring this guy on as an advisor. I couldn’t remember any of his story except that he started his first company at 12 and something about being one of the first guys in at Skype. But said let’s hire him. Trust me he’s something special.
I called Andy Weissman, an old family friend of Sascha and internet player, who he said he knew and asked, what do you think. Go for it, Andy said, he checks out. Later, Dan Porter, with his big smile, once said he wouldn’t be surprised if we’d find out he was from Long Island.
Had definite ideas, specific goals moreso than older people, more than most anyone.
He had the world’s smallest laptop. Was the first one in the office and the last to leave, and came in weekends with me and Sascha.
When things got tough at Flavorpill he went out to seek partners or acquirers for us. He got a meeting with a major publication, and filled a gilded Midtown boardroom with bankers and the whole magazine management team.
He worked through bus dev deals like no one I’d ever seen. Gave me more insights about our financials than people twice his age.
He discovered a kink in the Priceline algorithm and could get hotel rooms for ridiculously cheap.
He would meet with royalty, heads of state and business titans.
Admitteded he couldn’t stick with anything for too long. It was as if he were in a rush, time was running out.
He said he wasn’t afraid of death.
When he was young he was obsessed with keys. Used to collect them and walk around with them.
Here was a kid who’d been on the Net his whole life started Internet companies, he was online all day, and knew just about everyone in the industry, and there was nothing online about him. Now there’s lots.
I often smiled thinking about the real story that would someday come out. Who was he.
Meanwhile, he could check people out. Had some connection that could get him info quickly, much more than a Google search. He had access to some kind of master database. One of our Canadian board members didn’t take to him and he got on his laptop, hit the keys, then started saying things like, she must be dating someone in LA. Martin, come on man, where are you getting this information…
The last time I saw him, I keyed into my office on a Saturday afternoon and he was alone, lying on my couch, reading How to Win Friends and Influence People. I must have given him a key.
Early on, one day he gave me a wad of cash. How much is that, I asked? I don’t know 5 or 6k. I put it in a plastic bag in a drawer. It was his bank for a few weeks. His only account was in Hong Kong, for tax reasons of course.
He hadn’t drunk Coke in 4 years, he told me once. He loved Coke. You could tell. He was teaching himself discipline always. A constant journey of self mastery.
I invited him to a VC/startups networking event. An old friend in from London offered us tickets. I knew they’d really get on or not so much. He was trying to get things out of Martin, who was sitting there enjoying the salmon lunch, not so pressed to exchange cards like everyone else. Andrew asked him at one point, what do you do? Whatever I want, Martin replied. With that big overbite grin. Andrew was not having it.
I laughed because it wasn’t really a bragging game, it was a bit more existential than that. He really was doing what he wanted.
He always fell for beautful girls. Then he’d go traveling for weeks. He admitted once he’d never gone out with a girl for more than 3 weeks. He was in search of the one. Or maybe the perfect date.
He traveled 150 days a year but always had pressed shirts. He learned to compress all his clothes into a vaccuum sealed pack.
He wanted to get into new media when he got to New York, so he set out to meet everyone.
To some he seemed fake. But the joke was he was one of the most real people I’d ever met. He just was operating on a different plane. He wasn’t of this world. Perhaps it was time for him to leave. And I think he knew it was coming soon.
He said he wanted sell our company and our advisors said we were crazy to listen to this young guy. I almost let them sway me at one point then realized it didn’t matter. Martin was here to help. We could take it or not. It didn’t so much matter to him. It was all part of a larger journey.
He traveled half the year, met amazing people, worked on buying and selling companies (or Facebook shares) and was always connecting.
How did he do it, some wondered, was there a trick. Was he sitting on some inherited fortune?
No, he simply did what most are afraid to do: To live life here and now, to make it happen.
After the accident Dan Porter tweeted, we’ll miss you man, but I don’t think you were of this world anyway.
Here’s to an old soul who showed us how to fly like an eagle.