The Man Who Sold Shares of Himself

What drove a man to give 805 investors complete control over his major life decisions?

BY ZACHARY CROCKETT

Ten years ago, Mike Merrill was at a career crossroads. So, the 30-year-old did what any other aspiring entrepreneur would do: He divided himself into 100k shares at $1 apiece and let people on the internet buy a stake in his life.

Since then, he’s sold off 11,823 shares of himself to 805 investors all over the world.

These shareholders — most of whom are complete strangers — get voting power on every major decision Merrill makes: How much sleep he should get each night, who he should date, or whether or not he should get a vasectomy.

He only releases shares in small batches, and allows the market to determine his worth. Over the course of 9 years, one share of Mike Merrill has fluctuated in price from $0.99 to $18, based on demand. Some early investors (including his own brother) chose to cash out big; others have been in it for the long haul.

In return for selling shares of himself, Merrill gets his own “personal board of advisors,” who mitigate his indecisiveness.

But what’s life like as a “publicly-traded” human? And in an era of digital individualism, why would someone willingly auction off his own agency?

The tale begins in the middle of nowhere…

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