For the past couple of days the city’s technology community has been quite animated about the dispute between Jerry Hunter, founder and CEO of US Fleet Tracking, and the founders of the for-profit Oklahoma City Co-working Collaborative.
The collaborative, often referred to as okcCoCo, served as a hub of the downtown tech community – and now the founders say they are closing it because of a lawsuit filed against them by Hunter.
The dispute boils down to this: Hunter argues the collaborative founders broke faith with him when they did not $23,000 he contributed for sponsorship and naming rights of a location they originally hoped to lease at NW 10 and Harvey Avenue. He argues the contribution came with the understanding that he had right to approve to disapprove of replacement locations when the NW 10 site fell through.
The founders of okcCoCo, meanwhile, respond that sponsorship was not tied to site approval. They argue that the deal went south when Hunter insisted they locate to Rockwell Plaza at Northwest Expressway and Rockwell to office with his business accelerator/incubator operation Blueprint for Business, which he co-founded with Guy Madison.
If there is one thing both sides may agree with, it’s that they both regret not getting any of their agreements in writing when the check was written by Hunter. It’s a “he said, he says in court but doesn’t want to say in public” story that I’m trying my best to tell. And because I’m trying to tell this story, some folks are accusing me of being one-sided.
Ah yes. The old “one sided” bit. Here’s the deal: when I have one side talking and telling their side of the story, and the other side refusing to comment on the record, yes, OF COURSE IT’S ONE SIDED!
Folks, please believe me when I say there’s nothing more I’d like to do than to tell Jerry Hunter’s side of this story. I’ve done my best to pull out what I could from his court filings. I’ve also avoided pulling out and posting materials (copies of emails, etc.) from the court papers that could be very misleading without context provided by Hunter.
There are some questions I’m pressing with okcCoCo founder Derrick Parkhurst. Hopefully I’ll get answers to these questions, some of which have been posed by readers and members of the local tech community, fairly soon.
Here’s one out-take I can share from conversations I’ve had with both sides: this is personal for both. In visiting with both sides, they make it clear they do not believe they can sit down and find a way to best achieve their original intent and work together to keep okcCoCo open.
Ironically, all this hits as Brad Feld, the highly respected managing director at Foundry Group, is speaking at this week’s Innotech OKC conference. The Boulder, Colorado executive’s appearance is being sponsored by Hunter and Madison. Feld is a rock star in the tech community, and his investment in software and Internet companies throughout the country comes with a plea that communities do all they can to promote a fertile environment for technology start-ups.
Parkhurst, who told me he has great admiration for Feld, started the week out by saying he’d promote a boycott of Feld’s speech in protest of Hunter and Madison. That boycott fizzled when Hunter obtained a gag order seeking to stop Parkhurst from disparaging Blueprint for Business.
I asked Feld about this dispute, and he politely responded he did not know enough about it to comment.
That said, if you could ask Feld for advice on how these warring parties should proceed, what would you ask?