Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, May 24, 2021
by Neil Senturia
And the winner is Mike Kostelyk.
Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, this guy stumbles onto my column. You may remember that a few weeks ago, I offered an NFT (non-fungible token) of one of my columns. That idea came from Kevin Roose, New York Times technology writer, who sold his own NFT column for $560,000 with the proceeds going to The New York Times’ Neediest Cases Fund. So I wanted to test the crypto/philanthropic waters to see if anyone would bite in San Diego. Caught one.
Kostelyk is an emergency room nurse at Sharp Chula Vista Hospital. He has been reading a newspaper since he was in college. Note carefully here, not an online newspaper, not a digital facsimile of a newspaper, not an NFT, but a real newspaper that is made out of paper. And how did he come to be so captivated by a newspaper?
Kostelyk tells the story that when he was a college student in Chicago, he made money by working as a security guard — checking the dormitory hallways, making sure things were copacetic. And there was always a newspaper lying around in the day room. One day he picks it up, and the first thing he reads is a column by Mike Royko, arguably one of the most famous columnists of all time. During his time at the Chicago Daily News, the Sun-Times and the Tribune, Royko penned 7,500 daily columns. And Mike Kostelyk was grabbed around the throat by Mike Royko and he has been reading a daily newspaper every day since then.
“I love the analog paper,” Kostelyk said. “I love touching it and reading it in the morning with a cup of coffee.”
He has been an ER nurse for the past 22 years. I asked Kostelyk about the last year and COVID. “It has been the hardest year in my entire career,” he said. “Our hospital is the closest one to the border, and we were deeply impacted by the pain and suffering and dying. I am not sure how much longer I can do this. The ER is a young person’s game.”
Kostelyk reads with detail the business pages of the Union-Tribune as well as other financial journals, and he tells me those pages have been good to him. “I have been doing some modest day trading, only equities, no crypto, no Bitcoins. The newspaper gives me some education and I have profited from it. I don’t invest in what I can’t understand.” This guy sounds like Warren Buffett.
I made a side bet with my editor, Ms. McCabe and my wife, Ms. Bry. I was sure that a Senturia/Fake NFT would raise $1,000, to benefit the two named charities, Jewish Family Services and South Bay Community Services.
Kostelyk’s winning bid was $400. But just like every infomercial on television, wait, there’s more! If you call the number at the bottom of your screen, you can meet Paul Jester, the second winner.
You see that all the time at charity auctions where the guy who comes in second gets to buy the same thing at the same price, even though they were told there was only one item. Jester’s bid was $300. Close enough for government work. A winner is a winner.
Jester is an entrepreneur who built a sign company. He recently sold it and is now in the “giving back” mode by joining with SCORE to help mentor startups and small businesses. “The SCORE mentors are people who can honestly say, ‘been there, done that,’ ” Jester said. I admire and applaud the giving of one’s time, talent and expertise, whether in the ER or in the boardroom.
But there is still a bet to win, and to that end, I am contributing $300 personally, and there you have it, an even grand. But since there are two winners, and two identical NFT columns, I suspect I have broken the blockchain rules, but charity trumps digital this time.
Finally, as to my ego and why I fell $559,000 short, well, I will discuss that with my shrink next week.
Neil Senturia and Barbara Bry are married, serial entrepreneurs who invest in early stage technology companies. You can hear their weekly podcast on innovation
and entrepreneurship at imthereforyoubaby.com.
Please email ideas to Neil
I owe it all to Royko.