I walked into a phone booth at my office and cried.
Yesterday, a very dear friend, investor and tech community organizer, David Freschman passed away from pancreatic cancer. David was an amazing man and his memory and legacy will live on in the present and into the future.
David was kind, generous, thoughtful and a great community organizer. He ran one of the very early tech focused venture funds and pioneers fashion technology investing with his FashInvest conferences and advised Shark Tank. David’s impact was great and is already missed.
David loved sharing the story of how we met so in honor of his legacy, I thought I would share it with the world. We met over a lawsuit. To be specific, David sued my ass.
It was a time in the New York tech community, when no one had any money. Sure, there were a couple of venture firms and angel groups though the overall feeling was of need and raising money was very difficult. There really were few people bringing together the venture community. David was one of the those people. However, at the time, I didn’t know that.
I found out via service. A messenger showed up at my doorstep with a thick stack of paper summoning me for an upcoming lawsuit, where I was to be the featured defendant. At the time, I was running Bootstrapper.com, a blog and event business for entrepreneurs. We were about to produce our very first conference. We titled the conference EarlyStageSummit as our goal was to be the main event for early stage east coast companies.
Alas, we didn’t realize until that thicket of paper came in the mail that there was a long-standing conference in Delaware called Early Stage East. In fact, it was the original tech venture conference on the east coast. We found out hard and fast. First, I panicked. We had promoted it to the whole community and had 27 speakers lined up including Kevin Ryan (Gilt, DoubleClick), Alan Meckler (god-father of tech conferences), and many other notable people from the community.
Soon after receiving service, I calmed down and then instead of hiring an attorney, something compelled me to pick up the phone. I dialed and left a voicemail for the man behind the lawsuit, the plaintiff, David Freschman.
Shortly thereafter, I got a call back and the funniest thing happened. He offered to settle on the grounds that we change the name to Bootstrapper Summit (which as David pointed out was much more on brand for us anyway) and that we let him speak at the event about anything he wanted. No money was to change hands. We agreed, a URL was purchased and website changed overnight.
The day of the conference came and I was nervous. It was my first big show and I was about to let a stranger who just a few days ago sued me, take over the floor of the show. My stomach was upset, I was sweating profusely, I was just plain nervous – perfect state of mind to have in front of the most influential people in the community.
Lunchtime came and it was David’s turn to speak. I opened up the floor to the big unknown. A larger than life personality, David Freschman stepped forward. David spoke for the next 10 minutes on how important events like the Bootstrapper Summit are to the community and congratulated us on the event. The classiest move possible. That was David, classy. If you’ve been to one of his conferences, he went all out in the most amazing ways, the best food, iconic venues and usually keynoted by a Senator or Governor for good measure.
We went on to become dear friends and collaborators over the years, attending each others events and helping each other out wherever we could. I was honored to guest lecture where David taught entrepreneurship. He had invited me to teach a class with him before he became ill – which I was very much looking forward to doing together. .Always an idea – always an opportunity with David.
I’m crying as I’m writing this and I don’t cry often. It’s so sad when someone so great passes away at such a young age. With great honor, courage and hustle, David left us in body and will remain ever-present in mind.