Whether you're a venture capitalist or just a bill-paying Joe, you're probably wishing you were in Eric Martin's shoes right now.
Wal-Mart's $3.3 billion acquisition of e-commerce company Jet.com was potentially a flush exit for early employees and its familiar big-name investors like Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital and Fidelity. But it was also a probably huge windfall for 10 people who — like Pennsylvania's Eric Martin — won significant equity in the company.
Martin won 100,000 insider stock options in Jet.com last year as part of a contest aimed to get users to refer the most family and friends to the membership-based site. That means he'll likely get some sort of slice of Jet's $3.3 billion price tag, along with nine other contest winners, who each got 10,000 insider stock options.
It's a nice surprise for a family man who spent about $18,000 to refer about 8,000 customers to Jet in early 2015, surpassing more than 200,000 other contestants for the prize. Martin said he can't disclose the value of his shares, and he doesn't know how the Wal-Mart deal will pay out for him. (The terms of the deal weren't publicly disclosed.)
"Up until today, it was all just a hope and a wish and a dream," he said. "I don't think I'm some genius person that I thought Jet was going to work out. It was a gut instinct."
Martin, a devout Christian, said he hopes to live a lifestyle that "glorifies God," not money. He doesn't live like a millionaire, except for the occasional crab leg, though some reports have valued his Jet.com shares upward of $20 million.
But Jet.com has changed his life, Martin said, giving him the credibility to pursue a career in digital marketing, and inspiring a "gamefied" approach to his new start-up, Ideadash.
Martin, a self-proclaimed addict to Bloomberg Businessweek, was inspired to sign up for Jet by a January 2015 cover story. He then referred his wife (the main Jet shopper in the household) to sign up.
Martin saw that his rank immediately shot up in the contest. After referring a few close family and friends, he was able to estimate how many referrals the top candidates had, and after talking to another contestant on Facebook, he guessed he needed at least 4,000 referrals to win the whole thing.
"I was working out one night during the contest, I was really thinking about it. I wasn't really questioning at the time whether it would worth something or not," Martin said. "I thought, 'I think I can win. Should I win? Should I do this?' I think I prayed about it a little. If it's going to me or someone else, I thought, why not do it?"
Martin used sites like Swagbucks.com and Facebook ads to get referrals, and was able to pay his way to the top 10 with about $3,000. He figured that if he could win 10,000 shares for $3,000, anything less than $300,000 would be worth it for the top spot — so he went all in until he got a call from Jet.com co-founder Marc Lore.
Since future of his Jet shares remains unclear, Martin is focused on the big picture.
"The overarching theme of my life is 'the great idea,'" Martin said. "Ideadash was born out of frustration on my part, no way to get your ideas out there in a way to get some sort of financial gain or return. ....But even if this Jet thing is worth a lot of money, way down the ladder, I don't want to live in a way where all I care about is money. I hope I never care about money."