The United Kingdom
I spent the last week in the UK on business with meetings in Oxford and Cambridge. Katie had never been to London so we flew over for the preceding weekend just to soak it up a bit. In the security line at the Houston airport we bumped into Mike Unton, another Lovett alum, which was a good way to kick off our trip.
The flight from IAH to LHR was a significant one: for the first time in my life I attained Continental Platinum Elite status! I'm not sure it will change my life much but I have already been upgraded for this week's flight to DC so I'm excited about it. En route I watched Up and GI Joe. The former was pretty good while the latter was about as expected.
We arrived early Saturday morning and met up immediately with Mike Cox, another Rice alum who's currently working on a project in the UK. All last year while I was in Switzerland, Cox and I schemed about what we would do when this project started and we were finally on the same side of the Atlantic again. However, his project was delayed and delayed until it finally started shortly after I returned to the States--doh!
Cox was still recovering from a Christmas party the night before but he rallied quickly and we struck out together for the Texas Embassy. At the Embassy we met up with several IMD alumni, a few of whom are in green businesses--very cool! After lunch we donated a large Rice banner to add to the UT, Texas Tech, TCU, UH, and Baylor banners already present in the Embassy's upstairs bar. The manager humored us with a formal unveiling ceremony--go Rice!
Then we walked around London and Pub crawled a bit. Lisa Piguet, IMD's MBA admissions director, was in town so it was a thrill when she joined us too. Cox, Katie, and I had to duck out early, though, for dinner at a little French restaurant in the theater district. Dinner was delicious and full of fall/winter fare, such as pumpkin risotto, which paired well with the cold London weather.
Such a meal required that we walk around a bit afterward, which was basically an excuse to pub crawl some more. First we set our sights on a place with warm drinks and we found one quickly. There we also bumped into George DeMontrond, another Rice alum, whom I last bumped into at the Jimmy Buffett concert in Paris. Small world!
After our hot drinks it was time to take advantage of our proximity to Ireland so we migrated to an Irish pub for some Guinness. We also tried Guinness Red but quickly returned to our pure roots. Finally the pub closed up so we wound down with cocktails back at our hotel.
Sunday we walked around seeing London's historic sites during the day and then caught up with my IMD classmates, Randy and Ijeoma, for Indian food in the evening. It was great to see those two with whom I shared so much last year and, although they are both facing their own challenges now, it was gratifying to see that they are doing so well.
Katie caught an early Monday morning flight back to the US while I journeyed out to Oxford, where I spent Monday and Tuesday. Our principal supplier is headquartered there and it gave me a great chance to spend time with their CEO. By the end of the trip it was clear that personal relationships matter so much more than spreadsheets, contracts, or technology. We've been working on a deal with this company for months and the in-person time to solidify it was well worth the expense of the trip. Also in Oxford I found something that pairs very well with Guinness: steak, mushroom, and Guinness pie!
Wednesday I departed Oxford early for Cambridge, where I had never been before. One of the world's largest consumer electronics manufacturers was conducting a day-long meeting to determine how best to enter the home energy management market and they asked me to help craft their strategy. I was honored to be invited and excited to participate. After a full day of reviewing data from focus groups, evaluating the existing competitive landscape, and positing possible entry paths, I left feeling extremely energized by the process and excited about their direction. If they can succeed in this market it will do a lot of good--for them, for their consumers, and for the world at large--so I wish them the best with it.
Wednesday evening I returned to London to meet with a new VC--headed by a Rice alum. It was a great meeting and I'm excited about his firm--for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs. This was followed by dinner with Cox and Scotch back at the hotel--where we were joined by another Rice alum living in the area.
At the end of five days I was exhausted and very satisfied with both the professional and personal aspects of this UK trip. What struck me most was that I met up with seven IMD alumni and four Rice alumni during the brief stay. Although the schools are small, I was impressed with the global distribution of their alumni. Next time I'll make sure to hook up with a TJ alum or two as well!
Pics are in my facebook album.