So You Find a Briefcase Filled With Something of Great Value…

something to ponder… your heart skips a beat as you realize the potential of what you are holding. Being an honest person, you take it to the authorities who find the owner. You’re contacted a few days later and are told that the owner wishes to talk to you. Seems you’ve made quite an impression with your show of character.

The Offer

The owner meets you at a local coffee shop and thanks you for your honesty. She tells you that the documents you saw in the briefcase could potently be worth billions. The ideas and concepts outlined would be the basis for her next venture. She is grateful for you getting them back to her, and not sharing the information. As a gesture of her gratitude, she offers you 2 options:

The First Option

$500,000 cash, free and clear. She’ll cover all the taxes, so the 500 grand is all yours.

The Second Option

To be involved with the project outlined in the briefcase’s contents as a partner. You’ll be working from home, invited to provide input, help make the decisions, and get 25% of the venture and all profits.

What would you do?

The first option, the cash, seems like the sure thing. You can do whatever you want with the cash. Even start your own venture.

Option two, appears more risky. What if it tanks? You read the docs, and know it’s a brilliant idea. But no venture is a sure thing, right?

Before you answer consider…

  • Would you actually use the money to start a venture? If you’re not willing to take the risk on a brilliant idea, would you be willing to go it alone?
  • The entrepreneur in you may not have a choice. If you see the world as an ocean of possibilities, and a big oyster with a potential black pearl washes up to your feet, it may be too good to pass up.
  • A good venture is more like blackjack then roulette. If you have a well thought out plan, you have a good chance of getting paid.

So what would you choose – and which one is really the sure thing?


  1. Tony, I suppose I’d have to answer a very philosophical question first. How much is enough?

    If I can pay off my house and have several hundred thousand dollars left to start a venture, that’s probably the route I’d take. The $500K would be very difficult to pass up because of this.

    I’d feel like those highly excited people on game shows (like Deal or No Deal) who pass up several hundred thousand dollars thinking they just might get more if they keep playing.

    I guess I’m a “bird in the hand” kind of guy.

  2. Dave – That’s a very important point – knowing “how much is enough.” Knowing what it is you really want is essential to being true to yourself, when an opportunity arises.

  3. Do the venture and see where it leads.

    The thrill of the ride is worth so much on so many non-monitary levels that it’s hard to put value on. Sure, the money is king, too, and a great side dish to the main course of discovery.


  4. I’d have to agree with Dave. To me, the whole point is getting what YOU want and starting a venture working for yourself. I guess if you know what you want, then there is a point where enough money would be enough. The question is, would the $500k be enough? I’d take the money and run.

  5. Great question, Tony. I’m torn – part of me wants that cash, and the other part wants to make it grow as part of a team. I guess it would take a lot of thought and come down to what its ultimate potential was as an idea and what the risks/benefits would be of trying out the venture. Certainly feeding one’s family and having some nice things to boot right away would be good incentives to take the money and run, though!

  6. Shane – That’s true. A lot of entrepreneurs collect opportunities like shells on the beach. When you see a rare one, it’s a nice find.

    Anthony – That makes sense. If the opportunity isn’t something you can really get behind, or that is exciting, it may be no better than slaving at a job you hate in the hopes of making enough to retire.

    Easton – I think finding that balance would be the key – weighing the potential against the sure thing. If it’s an interesting venture, and the plans are sound, it makes it much more attractive.

  7. Tony,

    Of course, the quick and easy answer is take the adventure. But as we all know, as adults, its never that easy.

    I suppose the first thing I’d do is assess my current situation. Can I pay the bills? Are we eating ramen noodles?

    Do I like my current job/occupation? Is it worth risking?

    What’s my family situation? Who am I responsible for?

    Then…who’s on the new team? Are they people I want to tie my time and future to? Are we in synch, values and vision-wise?

    Then of course….I’d flip a coin!


  8. There’s no such thing as a sure thing–the venture could fail, or the $500,000 could be stolen, swindled or frittered away.

    So I guess the question is: What am I passionate about? If the venture is in tune with my interests, my expertise and my values, I’d probably go for it. If not, I’d take the 500k and plow it into my own dream venture. If it goes belly up, at least I did it on my own terms…

  9. Kristina has highlighted the crucial point:

    …”If the venture is in tune with my interests, my expertise and my values, I’d probably go for it.”

    The venture has to sit comfortably with one’s values. If it is something you cannot believe in 100% then you are not being true to yourself.

    Secondly, if you cannot get passionate about it, if it does not match your interests then you will always feel like you are in a prison cell with no door.

    Third, if you have no or little expertise in the area, forget it.

    If all these are positives, then I’d go for it. If I was at all doubtful about any one of them, that half million sounds very attractive.

  10. Drew – Those are great questions. It also comes down to how much risk you can take on. As a teen, I would drop into an empty pool from the roof on a skateboard, without even thinking. Now – married 14 years, 3 kids, a couple of businesses – it’s an whole different scenario when it comes to assessing risk.

    Kristina – You’re absolutely right, as Trevor noted too, it has to be in line with your passions. Making money should be only one of the considerations when you’re contemplating a venture.

    Trevor – I’ve seen this happen lots of times. It’s even happened to me – where an entrepreneurial venture becomes a “job.” If there’s no passion or it’s not in line with your values, it’s no better than a regular job. If that’s the case, you’re probably better off taking the $500K and doing your own thing.

  11. Kristina hit it on the head. It would have to be something I’d want to be involved in. If I wanted to be involved in the project then I’d take the opportunity. If not, then the money.

    I have to confess though I’ve never gone it alone, never owned my own business up until two weeks ago. So my standards would be pretty low. As long as it was legal, didn’t take advantage of people, was better than the job I was working at and didn’t involve door to door sales, then I would go with the opportunity out of pure emotional motivation. I would feel better working with someone on a venture (at this point in time anyway) especially if they are more experienced than going alone. Hopefully that makes sense.

  12. Daria – Very well said. The early stages can be both the most exhilarating and the scariest. Sometimes it is helpful to go the joint venture or partnership route, just to have someone along for the ride. BTW – Congrats on 2 weeks in business. The fact that you’re doing it, is farther than most people get.

  13. So true, I would have to be into the idea to want to go that road. I mean with the cash now I can invest in my own pursuits, which I would.

    If your first thought is to take the money and pay off your mortgage, car, etc and have no debt, that answers your question. You are not into risks at all, go the safe way, and nothing wrong with that.

    My first thought, what can I stick the money into to make more.

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