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This company makes profits through demotivation.

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This story appears in the May 2004 issue of Start Up.

What:Despair Inc., manufacturer of funny spoofs of motivational products, otherwise known as "demotivators"

Who: E.L. Kersten, Justin Sewell and Jef Sewell

Where: Austin, Texas

When Started: 1998

Sick of the trite platitudes and "hang in there, buddy" posters that plaster the office walls of overzealous managers, this trio of entrepreneurs hit comedy gold with Demotivators-their line of calendars, posters and such that parody the motivational set. Meeting when they all worked for an Internet company in the late '90s, E.L. Kersten, 44, and brothers Justin and Jef Sewell, both 32, bonded over the fact that their long-promised stock options didn't turn into the windfall they were expecting. They happened to see a motivational catalog around the office at that time, and, says Kersten, "We picked it up and spontaneously began to parody the posters to relieve our angst. One of [us] suggested we should sell parodies of these since they would be more real."

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