GNR Rocks!

What a week it has been: 12-hour days, no recovery from jet lag (I arrived Monday AM on the red-eye from Houston.), a dev team that seems to be gelling/productive, lots of new orders coming in (We hit 30,000 website hits/month today.), trying to master the present while also planning out the future (a quickly moving target!), doing yoga in the conference room, sleeping in the conference room . . . Awesome!

I'm working on plans right now for our upcoming API that should really help us expand. In the background I'm playing the Guns N' Roses discography--chronologically, of course! I can't believe how strongly they entered the market! Appetite For Destruction is so chock full of awesomeness, it's a wonder that 1987 was able to handle it. I should get to Chinese Democracy sometime this weekend--we'll see how that stacks up!

My "life" outside of Poken was exceptional for two reasons today. 1. I suggessfully procured treatment for athlete's foot at a pharmacy in French, and 2. I discovered that my gym has Wii Sports! Given that my life is already pretty much exclusively Poken + the gym, the Wii shouldn't make too much of a difference in my daily routine.

This Saturday I will be in Basel for a Startup Camp event. I'll have a chance to see the owner of my IMD Startup Project, Sobees, and some classmates. Speaking of IMD, today was the Class of 2009's mini-Integrative Exercise, which I blogged about this time last year. It seems like MUCH longer than a year ago! My heart and support goes out to the IMD MBA Class of 2009!


Happy 1/23/45!

To all of my readers who understand what I mean, happy 1/23/45! Although I spent most of the day working, I did manage to sneak outside for an hour to play catch with a former professional baseball player in sunny, 75-degree weather. I also had a nice dinner with my favorite dining companion (Happy birthday to you too!) so all-in-all it was a great day.

Back in H-Town

Before signing on with Poken in December I had a previous obligation to attend an Association of Rice Alumni board meeting in Houston January 23 - 24. I could have nipped back for just a quick weekend but the airfare was literally an order of magnitude less expensive to come back for the entire week.

The flight over was good and featured stunning views of the snow-capped and fog-enshrouded Alps. I spent most of the flight working and planning out Poken's Web UI refresh, which is coming in February. Once on the ground, my wingman and I had Niko Niko's (the best Greek food around), watched Zoolander, and crashed.

Saturday night was a wonderful time. Four of my best friends in Houston had a guy's night. We ate lots of red meat (buffalo, mmmm), drank some great wine, and played Wii until the wee (no pun intended) hours of the morning. Wii games included tennis, curling, left-handed bowling, and light saber duels, complete with light saber remote accessories!

The week has been an intense march of Poken work. We have so many improvements to the site and new features we want to offer our users that just wrapping my head around all of it is a major task. Plus, with the team back in Europe, communication is more difficult too. Fortunately the team is composed of really smart, highly qualified individuals and I know that they will rise to the challenge, no matter how hard the tasks are that we throw at them.

On Wednesday Larry McMurtry, one of Rice's most accomplished literary alumni, gave a talk on-campus. I wanted to go but opted to focus on Poken work instead. Yesterday I managed to make time for a meeting with another distinguished Rice alum, the CEO of El Paso Energy. We had a good chat about the energy industry, the economy, and Houston's future. While it is clear that dark financial times are ahead of us, it is hard not to feel optimistic after Obama's inauguration on Tuesday.

It also hard not to feel optimistic about Poken as we now have over 20,000 website hits each month. There are challenges and competitors entering the market but I'm confident that, if we keep our focus on serving our users, we really can re-personalize the world of online social networking.


Google Tech Talk

Yesterday, a small group of us from Poken traveled to Google to give a Tech Talk about our product. It was cool to be invited and it was fun to discuss our design and future directions with Googlers. Several of them now have Pokens of their own so we'll see what ideas they come up with!

We hung out at the Zurich office for a little while after the talk and this was notable for two reasons. 

1. I played my first ping pong of 2009. It didn't last very long and it didn't elevate to Smash Ball status, but it was fun just to pick up the paddles again.

2. I played Rock Band for the first time and actually did pretty well. According to our host, I "rocked it like a hurricane," which is appropriate on many levels. It's kind of addictive; I have no idea how people get things done there!

Many thanks to Rupert et al for organizing the talk; we look forward to a tigther relationship with Google as we become more OpenSocial-friendly!


Parlez-vous Francais?

Another day, another milestone. Today was the first day that I conducted over half of my conversations at work in French. Woohoo! Or make that le woohoo! Note that I didn't claim that it was good French. Of course, no Frenchman would claim that any of the French spoken on this side of Lac Leman is "good." C'est la vie!

Today I also started re-reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion as the beginning of a chronological read-through of Middle Earth. Next will be The Book of Lost Tales, The Hobbit, and then The Lord of the Rings. Thanks so much to Lee and Sam for lending me The Hobbit oh so long ago! Of course I should really be spec'ing out the new Poken Web UI, defining our forthcoming API, and putting together the PowerPoint slides for Wednesday's Google Tech Talk. I guess Tolkien will have to wait.


A Bad Week for the NFL

This was a terrible, terrible week for the NFL! It started when Peyton Manning was knocked out of the playoffs. With no Peyton, no Favre, and no Redskins, what possible interest do I have in the postseason? And speaking of the Redskins, they had major layoffs this week and my favorite employee of theirs was among the casualties. Boooooooo! To top it all off, the Texans fired legendary strength coach, Dan Riley

Dan was essentially the originator of modern strength training in the NFL. He supported the Redskins through three Superbowl victories and I first met him at Art Monk Football Camp back in the early 90's. Even then he was way ahead of his time, constantly using science to produce better and more effective strength programs. His goal wasn't to make his players stronger; it was to help them reach the maximum strength allowable by their genetic potential--and time and time again he achieved his goal.

He is simply the best and another team's gain will be the Texans' loss.

My Diet

My daily diet can be summed up in two staple food groups:

1. bread
2. stuff you put on bread

Now before you think my diet is boring, let me clarify that there is a LOT of stuff you can put on bread! In the past few days alone, I have eaten bread topped with the following:

smoked salmon
chicken curry sauce

and pretty much every combination thereof. It's nice living across the street from Globus, which has the most Whole Foods/Central Market-like grocery store that I've found in Lausanne. They have several whole grain selections and the bread is always fresh, crusty, and delicious. Until I'm moved into a more permanent apartment with the means to boil water for pasta, bread will probably remain my main source of complex carbs.

Of course, I don't eat exclusively bread-based meals. I also eat dark chocolate. :-) The Swiss swear that it's good for you and I am happy to accept that as gospel without trying to verify it.

Today was a milestone for me: I successfully responded to a request for directions from a lost couple on the streets of Lausanne--and in French!

This week will mark another milestone: on Wednesday I and some other members of the Poken team are headed to Google's Zurich office to present a Tech Talk. It was just a couple of months ago that I was there interviewing!


What a Week

We are off and running! Poken is really taking off in several key areas. We are now adding ~5 new Poken accounts each hour and our website traffic is growing exponentially. Although our uptake has been mostly in Europe so far, we are receiving phone calls and emails from people around the world interested in distributing and selling, so look out, Poken could be coming soon to a store near you!

However, our philosphy is to focus on getting it right and serving our existing customers before we put too much emphasis on expansion. For example, we have a great group of users in the Netherlands who are providing valuable feedback and ideas every day. The last thing we would do is abandon them.

As product manager, my job is to manage the development of the product so that it becomes more valuable to them and other users. I've spent this week putting a comprehensive development plan in place and will be working all weekend to configure Jira, a system to help us implement it. This will help keep my mind off the fact that I'm in the wrong time zone to watch NFL playoffs!

Speaking of which, I spent an hour on the treadmill this evening. To keep my mind off the cardio, I flipped through the channels on the screen in front of me and settled on . . . ski jumping and biathlon! Winter sports, here I come; I'm becoming more Swiss every day!


Mac Attack

This is my first ever post from a Mac--a MacBook Pro to be more precise. I know of at least one loyal reader who is smirking or even grinning widely right now. That's OK, we'll see who has the last laugh once he enters the heavily Windows-networked world of big business! No, joking aside, the Mac has been great so far, very simple and intuitive to use.

Life here at Poken is very, very hectic. Without warning our product has taken off in, of all places, Holland! Our marketing strategy has been to lay [sic] low, working on making our product serve the needs of our customers and letting our enthusiasts communicate on our behalf. This seems really to be working in the Dutch-speaking world:

Dutch Poken fan video
Dutch Poken location map - just started

We just reached 4,000 website hits/month and have tripled our number of daily website hits (many of which are now coming from Holland) since this time last month. It is so energizing to be part of this kind of momentum! Now we need to buckle down and serve our customers with a better and better product offering.


The Circle Continues

Today I had coffee with four students from IMD's class of 2009. They begin orientation on MONDAY!!!! I can't believe that it's starting all over again already! Part of me wants to do it again--especially since the program will be different under the new program director (who came to us from UVA--Wahoo!)--but most of me is very, very glad to be done.

Before coffee I had my first lifting session of the year, supported by Foreigner on my MP3 player. I used to equate Foreigner with Journey but now it is clear that there is no comparison. Foreigner is good, but Journey is . . . rad. Or boss. Or any number of other 80s words for "cool" and "awesome" at the same time. Foreigner was up in the playlist because I have recently finished the "E" section of my music collection. "E" took a long time mostly because of the prolific works of Eric Clapton. I am NOT complaining, as Clapton is my favorite guitarist of all time.

I've also been listening to "Bruises" by Chairlift recently. I overheard it in a store during the holidays and now I can't get it out of my head.

Thursday I will make my first presentation, a comprehensive product roadmap, to Poken's Board of Directors. The holidays were wonderful, but it actually feels good to be back in an environment with hard, meaningful deliverables!


New Year's Luck Continues

After my last post I was upgraded to first class for the Newark-Geneva flight as well--what a great day! Hopefully my luck will continue throughout 2009.

I've just wrapped up my first day back in Lausanne. It is cold and gray here but I am enjoying living in the corporate apartment until my new place is available. Tomorrow I will have my first workout in my new gym, conveniently right across the street from our office and the apartment where I am staying. A year after my original arrival in Lausanne, the adventure continues!


New Year

Exactly one year ago Katie and I missed our flight from Houston to Newark and had to re-route through Zurich the following day. Today, not only did I not miss my flight from Houston to Newark, I miraculously received a first class upgrade even though I didn't earn enough elite miles last year  to maintain my Continental elite status. 2009 is starting off right! During the flight I watched City of Ember and the beginning of The Rocker, neither of which I recommend.

Now I'm hanging out in Newark airport waiting on my flight to Geneva. There are a couple of total frat boys sitting by me talking about all the "crazy" places in Europe they're "totally gonna do." If this guy butchers "Cinque Terre" one more time, I may stand up and punch him in the face. And it's a wonder that American tourists have such a poor reputation abroad . . . Oh well, at least they're from the University of Delaware, home of the mighty Wing-T offense!

I wish everyone the very best for 2009. I think it's going to be a good one!