Vivek Wadhwa knew money was tightening over the past few months, but he felt there was nothing to be alarmed about. “I figured I would take a week of vacation then come back and close a round of funding” he says.

So, on March 8th Wadhwa and his family left for a seven-day cruise to Mexico.

“On Tuesday, I worked out in the fitness center with my 18-year-old son, then on Wednesday we climbed Chichen Itza near Cancun. Afterward, and for the next couple of days, I had a lost of chest and back pain but I thought it was just from working out. I thought maybe I was too fat” he says jokingly.

“During our flight home on Friday the 15th I felt terrible and kept feeling worse as the day went on. By the time we arrived home that afternoon my wife said: ‘Enough is enough Vivek,’ and she took me to the hospital.

“As soon as we got there they took an EKG and took me right into the emergency area and cardiologists began working on me. Three and a half hours later I had a been through angioplasty and had a stent in the main artery to my heart. The doctors told me if I had waited two more hours I would not have been checking out — ever”.

Back to work — and cash crisis

As it turned out, Wadhwa had two blockages in two main arteries to his heart: one 98% and one 95%. He spent four days in the hospital, three of which were in the critical care unit. Wadhwa returned to work yesterday for the first time in almost a month.

“I went to the office for about three hours yesterday and am doing the same thing today. The doctors told me at this point I need a real lifestyle change and that I have to slow down. I can’t be actively working. But my company and employees are just not used to this” he says.

According to Wadhwa, his heart attack was not at all caused by his company’s recent cash crunch. Quite the opposite, in fact. The company was profitable in the fourth quarter of 2001 and will be profitable this year, he insists. He says his heart attack led to Relativity’s cash crunch.

“Almost every company has had a hard time in the past year. When things are tough, you work even harder. Our biggest financial challenge in recent months has been as a result of our partners not paying — which is half of our revenue. I knew money was tightening a bit but thought we’d be fine for a couple of months.

“However, our partners are taking longer than expected to pay us money they owe us. One partner owed a half million and one owed a quarter million. Neither of those payments were received when we expected them. My plan was to go away on vacation, the work on closing a round of funding when I got back. In the meantime, we would be fine” Wadhwa says.

Or so he thought.

When neither of those payments were received, things really tightened up. Then, because of his health problems, Wadhwa was out of the loop unexpectedly.

“I am the one who brings in new funding. I’m the face of the business – it’s my baby. While I was away, I had no idea of how serious things were getting. Because of my health, no one at work wanted to bother me. But, when I got back on my feet I found out what was going on and I needed to do something about it right away.”

Looking forward

Relativity closed a $2 million of financing three weeks ago. The company’s management team also put up money last fall as part of the negotiations. But before the financing could be closed, Relativity did have to delay its payroll three days. Wadhwa says employees were told in advance that there would be a delay.

“Now, we are just fine,” he says. “Our strategy is set, we closed on the money we planned to close on and we are over the hiccup.”

Asked about his plans for a lifestyle change, he says with his usual feisty tone: “The world is going to see a leaner, meaner Vivek. I have already lost 15 pounds and am trying to take things at a more even pace. Normally, I am either sleeping or at full capacity — there is no in between.”

That said, can Wadhwa change his usual modus operandi?

“I have to”, he says, “My life depends on it. My wife is keeping a close eye on me and keeping me in line. I told her it was a lack of Internet access that gave me the heart attack in the first place so now I should be just fine.”