When I think about the massive financial success spawned in Silicon Valley, it really boggles my mind. It’s the American Dream on steroids; even the first round pick in the NBA draft is a pittance compared to the billionaire’s club of this digital fantasyland. While I worked in “Silicone Valley” (really the San Fernando Valley, a pun on Silicon Valley, referring to breast implants for porn stars… get it?), I could never imagine the massive opportunities in the high tech world. At least until my friend, Frederick Patton, invited me to his new gig. At the time, Fred was working for a guy named Tushar Atre, a man with a history of success running tech companies in the Bay Area. After the intro, we got to know each other, and even after Fred left the job, I continued to talk with Tushar.
About a year later, a huge scandal erupted at the Ashley Madison website. Ashley Madison is a platform for online dating and social networking, aimed at people who are married or in a relationship. Unfortunately for them, hackers breached their network and stole their users’ sensitive information. They wanted to blackmail Ashley Madison and threatened to spill customer data to publicly shame and embarrass them. The site refused to cooperate even after some data got released. (The scandal got even bigger when that data showed that almost all their users were men, manipulated by employee-made fake profiles of nonexistent women!)
At the time, I jokingly told Tusher, too bad there wasn’t some kind of sexual digital credit report that would clear men (or women) by affirming they haven’t used any cheater’s dating sites or other sex-related accounts: A service to provide reassurances to insecure partners. Well, Tushar was intrigued by the idea. He wanted me to do more research on it, and see how viable this project would be. The problem for me was that he wanted me to do the initial research without getting paid. I just couldn’t afford to. He’s a high tech millionaire, and I am low tech and a derelict. I told him I couldn’t do it. And he understood. Now, there’s a part of me that regrets not working with him.
Because I am sad to say this: Tusher is no longer with us. In the following months, I’d text and Facebook him, but got no reply. I thought maybe he was angry with me. I didn’t realize the truth until almost a year later, when I found out via Facebook that he was dead. In fact, he had been kidnapped and murdered by four men, two of whom used to work for him. My thoughts went from “It might be awkward meeting him again” to the sad, sad realization that he is no more. This wasn’t just a roadblock to Silicon Valley for me — it was the end of the road for Tusher, who lost his life to four scumbags. R.I.P. Tusher! You are sorely missed!