In an effort to gain marketshare, Initrode quietly built a new product — a network management appliance that out-featured and out-performed the competition's nearest equivalents. The R&D, testing, production, infrastructure, trade shows, demos, trials, last-minute feature additions, sales, and late nights had taken their toll on Chris W. and his colleagues, but they had built something they were genuinely proud of in the end.

The launch went smoothly from a technical perspective, though initial sales were underwhelming. After several months, their sales were paltry.

Then it happened. There was electricity in the air. Chris showed up to work one morning, and it looked like a commercial for an energy drink. Everyone was cheering, high-fiving, back-slapping, and just generally excited. "Chris!" shouted one of his colleagues, "have you heard the news?"

"No..."

"One of the boxes is up on ebay!"

It was early and Chris was barely awake. After a long pause, Chris asked the obvious one-word question. "And...?"

His colleague still had a nauseating smile on his face. "And that means people must know what this product is! It's well known enough that someone knows what it does, thinks it's cool, and that someone else is going to buy it!" Still smiling, and not having blinked for their whole conversation, he added "We've made it big!"

Chris didn't completely buy into the enthusiasm, but he wasn't going to deuce on his colleague's parade, as the saying goes. "Yeah, great."

Another co-worker who apparently hadn't heard the news yet walked up to join in the conversation. "Where did the one on ebay come from?" she asked. "We didn't really sell too many of these." She was curious about other items in the seller's inventory, and wanted to be ready to support the buyer.

As luck would have it, the serial number was clearly visible in one of the listing's pictures. And with that, they could check the customer records to see whose it was. "Wait a minute, does that say..."

TOMBSTONE

"Wait, the serial number is 'tombstone?'" Chris briefly wondered whether it was an amazing coincidence that the random serial number came up "tombstone." "So who owns it?"

No one responded.

The R&D manager, overhearing the conversation jumped in. "Come on, isn't someone going to look it up? Who owns it?"

Without having to look it up, someone timidly replied "...we own it."

One of the boxes had been loaned out as a demo to another company, which was then forgotten by both parties. Apparently the loanee went bankrupt and an asset liquidator picked up their IT gear for a fraction of its actual worth so they could hawk it on ebay.

The cheering, high-fiving, and back-slapping died down pretty quickly after everyone realized that.